Fierce. Soulful. Powerful. Sultry… she is… Ms. Purple St. James! Some people live for the music, some people love the music, some people chase after the music, this woman… she is… the music. There’s something quite special about a person who cultivates their talent and submits to their gift. Today’s Woman to Watch uses her God-given talent to share her own experiences and connect with those of her listeners. This soul-stirring Indie artist is proof that you don’t need the establishment to achieve success.
Please Introduce Yourself…
My name is YahZarah, a name I took as a memorial to my grandmothers; Nana Yaa who was a Queen in Ghana west Africa, raised 21 children and died at the age of 103 years old, and my Grandmother who helped raise me and was the most brave courageous woman I have ever known.
I am a mother first. After that, I am a singer/songwriter/ performer. In my career I have been blessed to share the stage with India Arie, The Roots, Common, Chaka Khan, Prince, Earth Wind and Fire, Choklate, Dwele, Big Daddy Kane the Foreign Exchange, and a host of other amazing folks I feel blessed to call colleagues. I got my start in the business of music singing backing vocals for Erykah Badu, and gained some of my first credits on an international artist project as both a background singer and arranger. I also was the featured artist on the Anthony Hamilton House of Blues Playing it Cool Tour.
Then, I went on to put out four projects of my own, sell fifty thousand copies as an Indie artist, chart Billboard twice and be considered for a Grammy in 6 categories. I’ve performed in England, Paris, Senegal and South Africa. Looking forward to adding Japan, India, Tobago, and Ghana to my list this year. Been very blessed as an unsigned performer.
Tell us about your music…
YahZarah: I love to make colors with my voice and tell stories. I know that I’ve been given a very special gift and I’ve got to share it and be careful with it. I love arranging my own projects, but also love working on Records with other artists Collaborating. I like to make music that uplifts and is truthful… No matter what or who it might offend sometimes truth can do that….
Why did you decide to make this type of music and why do you think it is important?
YahZarah: I believe it started in church for me. Watching how music heals and affected people hooked me. Music is a powerful thinking/healing tool it opens the heart and transforms the mind if allowed and can also do the opposite which is why it’s so important.
What impact, if any, does your music have on women?
YahZarah: I am a mother, a daughter, I have been a girlfriend and a wife. As well as a victim of molestation. And now a divorcee. I believe that women and girls are strong beautiful resilient creatures and I believe that my various experiences as a young girl fighting to be heard and find myself, as an adult woman, reclaiming “me” and my power put me in a unique position as a healer to tell stories to that empower us. And my sisters send me emails often telling me how they connect to my truth, how it gives them courage or helps heal… It’s humbling.
What has been the most rewarding part of your work and what are you most proud of?
YahZarah: Meeting other artists inspired by my music. Because of my age I sometimes forget how long I’ve been in this. And when I meet artists; signed, Indie, whatever… and they tell me I’ve influenced their art… It amazes me. Helping to shape the next generation of singers and songwriters is awesome. And being the owner of my art and how the world sees it is rewarding. There was a time when all I had was my voice but didn’t own my product. I now have my own production company Opal blue music and own three catalogs of my own. It’s a great feeling to be the woman in charge of my career.
What has been most challenging about your work?
YahZarah: Doing it without the big media backing. But it’s also that much more rewarding when big things happen without it. Which is why I’m still standing after 15 years.
What is your favorite quote and why?
“What I have learned for myself is I don’t have to be anybody else, that myself is good enough. And when I avail myself of that I can do extraordinary things. I think that’s the thing. You have to allow for the impossible to be possible.” -Lupita Nyong’O
Who are your greatest influences?
YahZarah: My mother, Diana Ross, Diamonds, water (which no matter what remains fluid and able) and fashion and fine art.
What would you like for your legacy to be?
YahZarah: To be remembered as a great mother first and also a woman, not just known for what I have given this world through song but what I gave of myself to the world around me.
What’s next for you?
YahZarah: Producing some projects for others, doing some film, and releasing my upcoming project late summer.
Is there someplace online where readers can connect with you and follow your work?
YahZarah: Sure, catch me at www.WhoisYahZarah.com. Instagram: @YahZarah. Twitter: @YahZarah. Facebook: YahZarah Ms. Purple St. James