SENSES Exclusive Interview With YahZarah
August 14th, 2011 by Khorry Lewis
Neo-soul is one of the most refreshing sounds that express a style of music in which can be described as soulful, acoustic, and contemporary R&B. This form of music brings jazz, funk and hip hop to pop and African music. There are many neo-soul artists that elevate the musical art form to new heights such as singer-songwriter YahZarah (The Purple St. James) who adds soulful rock to assist with her beautiful voice and wide vocal ranges.
YahZarah stepped foot in the music industry as a back up singer for Erykah Badu where she contributed background vocals on the platinum selling “Mamas Gun” LP and tour in 2000. YahZarah then stopped touring with Badu and released solo projects “Hear Me” in 2001 and “Blackstar” in 2003 which reached #44 on Billboards Top R&B/ Hip Hop albums chart. In 2004 YahZarah joined Foreign Exchange music and The Foreign Exchange; from there she has had 2 more solo projects “The Prelude” in 2008 followed by “The Ballad of Purple St. James” in 2010, which is a must have addition to any neo-soul lovers collection with tracks such as “Love Come Save The Day” and “All My Days”.
After blessing the world with newly born son Miles, YahZarah was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to chat with Senses Magazine.
Senses: What were your first memories of music?
YahZarah: My mother played old school music such as Marvin Gaye and Minnie Ripperton when I was a child and she would sing to me as a baby, I thought my mother had a beautiful voice, the voice of an angel.
Senses: It is said that life has a music soundtrack to every person, if you could choose 5 albums that have influenced who you are and in a sense contributed as the soundtracks to your life, what would they be?
YahZarah: I can’t only pick one, that would be unfair (giggles) but I would definitely have to say “The Secret Life Of Plants” by Stevie Wonder, What’s Goin On by Marvin Gaye, he had a song on that album called “God is Love” the title speaks for itself. “Midnight Marauders” by A Tribe Called Quest, “My Life” by Mary J. Blige, and Miles Davis as a musician.
Senses: Most of the music we hear has a story behind it rather it is true or just entertainment to the listener. How do you come up with the concepts of your songs, are they mainly past experiences?
YahZarah: I come up with the ideas for my songs based off of things that I have seen or heard, and sometimes something that I want to be while writing the lyrics. When I heard the track “Starship” I felt as if I wanted to be free so I wrote the lyrics within 15 minutes, I wrote that song for me. “Starship” to me is the story of my life this song had a more of a personal feel to it. Sometimes I can do that and sometimes songs take more work.
Senses: How was your experience with The Foreign Exchange?
YahZarah: I enjoyed the experience; we all went to school together at North Carolina Central University, there I met Phonte, Darien Brockington, 9th Wonder, Big Pooh, and The Justus League. In college we all took a music class together and it all started when I met Darien the first day of school, he was like the quiet choir boy with his sweater vest on. We would all sit around the cafeteria and talk about music and doing what we are all doing today, there was a natural chemistry between us. Phonte worked with Nicolay over the internet before Nicolay moved to the states and from there everything came together. I fell in love with Nicolay’s production and music instantly and the group was formed. It was a blessing to work with people that I grew with musically. Nicolay is a very good producer hopefully I can work with him again on my next project.
Senses: The last time we spoke you were wrapping up the video shoot for your single “Love Come Save The Day” off the ‘Ballad of the Purple St. James’ album, what is the concept behind the video?
YahZarah: The concept behind the video is the celebration of new life. Being that I was pregnant and going through a dark time in my life I wanted to show how God saved me through new life of my son Miles. A lot of times in music videos when an African American woman is pregnant she is going through turmoil and drama I wanted to display the opposite, showing that you can be joyful and pregnant. In the video I am 6 months pregnant and just enjoying life and the beauty of life itself.
Senses: What direction can you see music going in the future?
YahZarah: The direction I see music going is great, music today is more sincere and balanced being that music lovers can follow specific artists by media and internet, this makes it more authentic.
You can find out more about YahZarah on: http://whoisyahzarah.com
YahZarah’s music can be purchased on: Amazon & Itunes