Gants Hill-born saxophonist YolanDa Brown happy to remember her roots

PUBLISHED: 09:00 08 June 2014

YolanDa Brown

YolanDa Brown


Our interview with saxophonist star YolanDa Brown, born in Barking but raised in Redbridge, begins on a light-hearted note.

YolanDa BrownYolanDa Brown

Brown’s PR team had approached the Recorder with the offer of an interview ahead of her appearance at this month’s Iford Arts Festival in Wiltshire.

A failure to realise Iford is not Ilford, though, is certainly the Recorder’s gain.

Brown is gracious enough to laugh off the error when we begin our interview, she is only too happy to talk about her upbringing in Gants Hill.

“Growing up in Redbridge was fantastic,” says the 31-year-old. “I lived in the borough most of my life – there were lovely parks where I lived and the people were lovely.”

YolanDa BrownYolanDa Brown

Brown started playing a series of instruments before finally settling on the saxophone aged 13, but she admits skateboarding was another love growing up.

She explains: “I remember skateboarding as a kid – I was a bit of tomboy. That is what grabbed my attention.”

But Brown was surrounded by music for as long as she can remember - her father “played a mean record player”, she says jokingly referring to the fact he did not play an instrument at all.

“I’m not sure why the saxophone of all instruments appealed to me the most but I just felt at home with it. I love the music it made,” she says.

“The greatest thing about my parents was they invested in any interest I had,” beams Brown, who played the piano, the drums, the oboe and the recorder plus several others before the sax.

“My parents could have rolled their eyes when I said I wanted to learn the sax but they didn’t. I was proud when they bought me the sax.”

Brown’s career has known no bounds as she has become this country’s leading saxophonist. Although, it could hardly be said it has followed a conventional route.

Her first concert was in 2007 in Blackfriars when she was 25 – more than 12 years after taking up the saxophone. Her first album April Showers, May Flowers came out in 2012.

Not that taking her time has hindered Brown whatsoever. Back-to-back MOBOs in the Best Jazz category quickly followed her debut gig in 2008 and 2009.

She has played sax with everyone from Alexander O’Neal to Mica Paris, Soweto Kinch to The Temptations.

While doing so, she released two EPs, a feat she is keen to talk about.

“The thing about music is you can release music any time,” she explains. “My first concert was in 2007 and I have released EPs all along the way – I was doing market research. It helped being able to do that.”

This she feels is where the young musicians of today need to focus their attention – “building their fan base” - as opposed to being tempted by other luxuries the music industry has to offer.

“These days we have social networking – that is how you build your fan base,” says the former pupil of Beal High School in Woodford Bridge Road. “For the younger musicians you need to record and let people hear your music.

“It is about letting people know about you and make sure you let people know where you are from too.”

Yolanda Brown is currently on a nationwide tour until 2015

For tour dates vist:

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