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'Giving birth made me realise how real God is'

Becoming a mum has strengthened her faith, award-winning sax player YolanDa Brown tells RUSS BRAVO …

Becoming a mum has strengthened her faith, award-winning sax player YolanDa Brown tells RUSS BRAVO …

YolanDa Brown is bubbling – and no wonder. Since we last met in 2012 she’s had a baby daughter, toured the US and is now hitting the road in the UK on the Reggae Love Songs tour.

“Yes, I’m one of those ambassadors for ‘life doesn’t stop when you have a child’” she laughs. “Jemima is coming up to two, and has been an absolute blessing – she’s been on the road with me since she was three months old!”

The 33-year-old self-taught saxophonist has really blazed a trail with her music and philanthropy over the last 10 years or so, winning MOBO (Music of Black Origin) awards in 2008 and 2009, playing with a host of top names in jazz, urban, R&B and gospel, as well as being a Prince’s Trust ambassador and patron of the Mayor of London’s Fund for Young Musicians.

Her first album April Showers, May Flowers was listed as album of the year on the UK iTunes Best Jazz Album of 2012 list, and her tours that year ended with two concerts at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo backed by her full band and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.

“As we toured the album it became more alive and we had to go back and record again. We had great feedback, particularly for the track TokYo Sunset, and so we’ve chosen a reggae, jazz and soul direction, which we’re exploring on the new tour.”

So the 2016 Reggae Love Songs tour, explains YolanDa “captures everything that I wanted to express: love of family, love of friends I’ve lost, love of God …” and the new album (as yet unnamed, and for release this year) will incorporate that.

Guest singers lined up for the tour include Lemar, Mica Paris, Michelle Williams (Destiny’s Child) and Shingai Shoniwa (The Noisettes).

Pregnancy and giving birth have had a profound impact on YolanDa’s faith.

“It has made me realise how real God is. I’d done a lot of research about giving birth and scared myself, but I did a lot of yoga and Pilates breathing and despite a 26-hour labour my husband says I didn’t scream once. All I remember is feeling a thin line between me and God and thinking ‘God gave me this body to have this beautiful baby’.

“If you have any doubts – which I didn’t – just think this is what God made you to do. It did bring me much closer to Him in my faith and understanding. I’ve got my trust in Him.”

All this was helped by the experience YolanDa and her husband T had in choosing their daughter’s name.

“A few years ago, going through hard times, my husband and I prayed with friends and were reading the book of Job as things got really tough. Things began to turn around and we got to the end of Job and found he had three daughters: Jemima, Keziah and Keren. I wasn’t sure about Jemima at first because I grew up with Beatrix Potter and didn’t want my daughter to be called Jemima Puddleduck!

“But God spoke to me and we decided on the name. We didn’t tell anybody what we had decided until I went into hospital, and the midwife pulled back the curtain and said ‘Hello, I’m midwife Jemima and I’ll be inducing you today’! She looked at our faces and said, ‘Is everything OK?!’ We said ‘We haven’t told anybody but that’s what we’re going to be calling our baby’ and she started crying.

“She’d been going through such a hard time in her life and to hear someone using her name let her know that God still remembered her. All of that in the whole hullabaloo of labour pain and the rest of it just let me know that God is always in control.”

YolanDa’s band members are Christians (“We always pray before going on stage, as our way of giving back to God”) and she seeks out churches to worship at while on tour. She continues to forge an independent path in music, that enables her to stay true to her values, while also working with large distributors like Universal.

“It’s lovely to have a team that believe in what you do rather than try to make you into somebody else. I continue to thank God who continues to bring these people around me.”

+ Find out more about YolanDa’s music at

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