Born with an unusual name that is eclipsed only by her talent, Yewande (pronounced E-wán-day) has been recognized as one of the most sought after independent artists in the world.
When she first exploded onto the music scene in 2004, her socially charged brand of Alternative Soul won over a legion of fans and critics alike. The release of her debut EP “Evolution” (Lotus Records, 2005) quickly led to appearances on MTV, BET and a highly coveted Rock and Roll Hall of Fame debut.
Performances with the likes of the Black Eyed Peas, Enrique Iglesias, Maroon 5 and Sean Paul followed soon after as she earned countless international songwriting awards, head- lined concerts from the college circuit to Europe and Africa, and walked red carpets with the “who’s who” of Hollywood.
As a little girl her only dream was to change the world, but in an industry that doesn’t always celebrate “different”, Yewande began to question whether that wish had simply become a dream deferred and the music virtually stopped.
Fans demanded more of her unique songs on blogs while critics awaited the follow-up to “Evolution”, but it never came until now. Was it faith, ambition, the fans, the music? Or perhaps its Yewande’s Yoruba birth name, which means “reincarnation of mother”, that foretold this story long before her journey ever began.
During a nearly 5 year hiatus from the recording industry, Yewande not only set out to claim her dream, she ignited a one woman movement across the globe and she’s back to tell us stories of that journey on her highly anticipated LP recording, “Rebirth” (PhoenixRecords/Lotus Records, Winter 2011).
As the “First Lady of Alternative Soul” on the Phoenix Records imprint, her songs still speak unapologetic truths about issues that many artists shy away from but with powerhouse vocals that hearken back to the days of Tina Turner and Pat Benatar, she’ll make you a believer!
Much like her progressive contemporaries Prince, Lenny Kravitz, BOB, Black Eyed Peas, Seal, Kina, Yewande’s music continues to defy genre. “Life is colored with so many emotions, joy, loss, struggle, triumph,” she explains.
Yewande: The “Rebirth”
One part storyteller, one part live band with the angst of Rock, a dash of Hip-Hop and a whole lot of Soul, “Rebirth” is a refreshing departure from formula driven artistry that so often trumps innovation. Her bold, lush new sound is like a carefully scored movie soundtrack with lyrics that reflect the journey of a lioness reborn. The target is aimed squarely at your heart and based on early response, will undoubtedly land in heavy rotation on your mP3.
“My music is just a reflection of that raw connection we all share. It’s not about Black or White emotion, not Heterosexual emotion, religious beliefs or where you’re from. I want to write songs about the human experience!”
Yewande – “Amazing”
The world has come to know Yewande as far more than a singer-songwriter but an award-winning lecturer, passionate social activist and an honorary U. S. Cultural Ambassador for her commitment to using music for social change.
With classical voice and piano training at Howard University and the prestigious Carnegie Mellon Conservatory of Music, most listeners would be surprised to know that Yewande was once poised for the Metropolitan Opera, but somehow corsets and high E’s didn’t fit into her master plan.
As a child, she was awestruck by artists like Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Hendrix, and John Lennon whose music brought people of all backgrounds together at the height of social conflict in America and that’s just what she wanted to do.
Yewande Austin at Ikago Molepolole
So you might be wondering, how does one set out to change the world? While touring the U. S. college circuit early in her music career, Yewande was overwhelmed with questions from young fans about identity, discrimination and other deeply personal issues.
“They really just needed someone to listen to them, to tell them their dreams were possible to rock their individuality!” she shares. “I was that kid the one that never fit, so I understand. Those are the types of songs I’m drawn to write about.”
Youth Leadership with Yewande Austin
In 2004, the budding activist responded to this outpouring by launching a series of lectures (http://www.globalinstituteforchange.com) that led to such national recognition as “Best Solo Artist”, “Best Diversity Event”, “Top 20 Campus Programs”, “Top 10 Hot New Acts” and a movement was born.
When Yewande isn’t rocking the stage or addressing lecture halls, her humanitarian organization (http://www.changerocksfoundation.com) uses music to empower some of the world’s most vulnerable children from Africa to the Americas. Still haven’t figured out what inspires Yewande to do everything she does? Her name says it all.
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“Yewande is not just talented as a singer with a smooth rustic voice, but giving back 2 the youth in the world today, makes her an awesome exception.U know that I’m all about the mentoring & coaching so this type of work excites me.
GOD is moving, onward & upward.Keep pressing on Yewande; may GOD continue 2 richly bless, guide, & keep u through his mighty work. An extra ordinary voice, with an extra ordinary talent”
(lifestyle, mentor & coach of NormaKnowz)
PHOTOS BY: Derek Blanks