You make me feel like i came back from heaven! This is an amazing feeling. You can do this with your voice! I heard your voice and you gave me the sign to believe in me, to dream a better world and now I am not afraid of who I am. My feelings found a voice, my soul found an angel! Your music is a medicine, a touch to my heart, an inspiration! This is Amazing! I feel your power through my skin, I call a friend to spread the feeling! It’s always beautiful to share your feelings with your loved ones, to share your power with the world! I was wondering what music is…. It is a friend! Yes! Music is your friend, music is your heart, music is your lover! Music is you! It’s so Amazing to listen to new beautiful songs! It’s so Amazing to listen Yewande! She is a really special, unique artist and I am so proud because I had the chance to talk with her, I had a chance to discover who she is! Now she is here! You can read, you can feel, you can dream through her words! And then turn off the lights and listen to her music! She is Amazing! (Interview: John Vlachogiannis)
Who is Yewande?
I guess the easy answer is that I’m a lot of things – an artist, an activist, an ambassador – and I’m proud of all of those things. But at my core, I’m a woman that’s just fulfilling the dream she’s had since she was a little girl – a dream to change the world.
Your voice touched my soul. I felt that your voice was my voice, my soul. Your music is amazing! How important is for you to know that your voice can express our feelings? What inspires you to create music?
That’s one of the greatest compliments that you could give me as an artist…truly! When I first started off in the industry, all of the music executives told me pretty much the same thing – you’ve got the voice, the looks, the talent. Now just do what we tell you to do (translation: sing the mindless, booty-thumpin’ tunes we give you) and we’ll make you a star! I’m as flawed as the next person, but I couldn’t do it. I just didn’t want to be another Black woman gyrating in nothing across a stage. I had a bigger message in my heart that I wanted to sing.
I don’t want to put down anyone’s artistic choices. There’s plenty of room in this industry for an artist to be whatever he/she wants to be – the peacemaker, the seductress, the militant, the mogul. But I wanted to be the one to inspire people with my music. Clearly there are some great success stories of Black women who’ve protected their artistic integrity, i.e. Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, Corine Bailey Rae, Chrisette Michele, but the window of opportunity is very small. While the media and listeners really supported me internationally, major label executives didn’t embrace it. So I came to a point where I really had to decide whether I wanted fame doing something I was ashamed of or to build a legacy that I could be proud of. I chose to walk away from it all.
Your new album is “Rebirth” and it’s full of Amazing songs! Why did you call it “Rebirth” and how can you describe it? Do you feel that music can change the way we feel?
“Rebirth” has two different meanings for me. First it’s in honor of the Yoruba birth name that my Egyptian Godfather gave me….it means “reincarnation of mother”. It’s a tribal name traditionally given to the first born female after the death of a female elder. It may not be familiar to many people but there are thousands of “Yewande’s” out there. Musicians, doctors, lawyers, scientists, mothers, teachers…I’m Facebook friends with at least 300 of them…LOL!
The second meaning of “Rebirth” is a nod at my return to the music industry. When I walked away from the business about 5 years ago, I had zero intention of coming back. I’ve given concerts on occasion while producing my humanitarian initiatives or lecturing on college campuses, but my love for the “business of music” had completely died. It had become a game I just didn’t want to play anymore. But in 2010, a long time friend, Chris Elliott, told me he that he was launching Phoenix Records and wanted me to be the first artist on his label. I trusted his instinct but was hesitant because of my previous experiences in the industry. But when I asked what his vision was for the project? He said “I want you to do what you do best…be yourself.” That was music to my ears. If I was getting back into the industry I had to write music and messages that I could be proud of. Phoenix Records gave me the chance to produce the album I’d always dreamed of putting out into the world.
I love to write songs that tell stories about the human spirit. Certainly I write about love, because that’s a part of our humanity right? My Single, “Amazing”, is a rock/soul ballad about the agape kind of love that’s so powerful it seems almost like a dream (www.youtube.com/yewandemusic). And I’m grateful that listeners like that song, but I’m also really drawn to writing songs that find beauty in some of the very things that we often avoid – war, discrimination, poverty, sexuality, religion. I wanted “Rebirth” to be a human soundtrack, one that spoke of the darkness and the light. I wrote and produced 6 songs and co-wrote/produced the other 6 with my guitarist Marc Baldwin. His fearless musical sensibilities really meshed well with my vision. We co-wrote “War” – a Hip-Hop track about societal chaos, “Reborn” – a soulful Spoken Word track about my personal journey, “Woman” – a hardcore Rock anthem for women, just to name a few. At the end of the day, Marc and I used whatever musical style we thought would best convey the message…and they all worked together. Like some my urban contemporaries, i.e. Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Seal, Meshell N’degeocello, Kina, I never want my music to be boxed in by musical or racial boundaries. It’s music for everyone. I don’t know…I guess in the words of Lady Gaga, “I was born this way”!
As a little girl your only dream was to change the world! Do you feel that you can change the world now? What you expect from the future?
Absolutely…I’m changing the world every day! Most of us are but we don’t recognize the massive impact that often comes from small actions. Some days changing the world just means I brought a smile to someone’s face because they needed it. Other days like very recently, two young women who were once orphans in my empowerment programs (which use music to empower vulnerable children throughout the developing world) in Malawi, Africa back in 2006 contacted me on Facebook to tell me that they were now in college. That was already amazing news, considering the growing rate of AIDS and AIDS orphans in Malawi at that time. But when they said that my program had given them the courage to pursue their education? That just reaffirmed the way that I’ve chosen to use my voice – to be a voice for others.
How important is for you to perform live? What you expect from the audience every time? Do you want to travel with your music all around the world, to meet new people and their culture?
Live performances are important to all artists, but especially critical to an independent artist like me. I’m also blessed with some pretty strong pipes (so I’ve been told…lol) and love to create a memorable live experience and not all artists can do that. Besides, I’m not singing traditional love songs or dance cuts that listeners can jam to in a club, so it’s important that fans have a chance to connect to me on a more intimate level….not only to hear what I’m singing but feel it. I had a show the other night and one particular fan literally gasped when I announced that my next song would be “Amazing” (Single from “Rebirth”). As I proceeded to sing he closed his eyes and sang along with me. He came up for an autograph after the show and said he felt “like I was singing that song just to him” – hands down one of the most endearing moments in my career. That’s how I want every single listener to feel when I’m performing.
I’m definitely excited about getting back on the road, domestically and abroad. Music affords me so many incredible opportunities to not only entertain and inspire, but educate and empower different people all around the world. Nearly wherever I travel nowadays, most clients want me to present live concerts (www.yewande.com), multicultural programs (www.globalinstituteforchange.com), and my youth empowerment programs (www.changerocksfoundation.com) …and I do all of those things through music. When I was in Botswana and Namibia with the U. S. State Department this past summer I produced my youth empowerment programs, capacity building workshops and both U. S. Embassies also featured me in live concerts so I got a chance to unveil some of “Rebirth”. Now everyone from rural children to college students and government officials are requesting those songs, so that really feels good. As far as other travels go, my first true fan base originally developed across Europe and the UK so I’m also really excited to get back over there. And I would love to come to Greece!
Do you have a message for Popping Cherry? Do you have something you want to share with us? A dream? An expectation? A promise for the future?
First of all I want to thank John and Popping Cherry for supporting my music. Your enthusiasm about my project has been yet another important affirmation that I’m doing the right thing with my gifts, whether 1 thousand or 10 million people buy my album (of course I’d love for the later to happen…lol)! I love the fact that you use this blog to support independent artists like me as much as you promote major label artists, because the truth is you don’t have to do that. Giving indie artists a platform to share their work in an industry that is often dominated by cookie cutter artistry is such a critical part of the movement. I know, because that’s exactly what I want to do – be a voice for others. Thank you Popping Cherry for helping to make this little girl’s dream come true!
Visit Yewande @ http://www.yewande.com/
(Photos: Derek Blanks – Songwriting/ Production: Yewande)
Thank you SO much for everything (You are an Angel) Yewande!!!!!