YahZarah (born Dana Nicole Williams) is a classically trained R&B singer-songwriter based out of Durham, NC. Her stage name, a dedication to her grandmothers Yah and Sarah, roughly translates to “Queen Mother is the brightest star” in Arabic.
Born and raised in Washington, DC, YahZarah started singing at the age of 7 in her church choir. Her love for performance began after winning a youth talent search at the Kennedy Center at age 10. That was the beginning of her becoming one of the premiere go to voices for the DC area. After years of honing her talent in churches, talent shows and local concerts, she entered high school at
DC’s prestigious Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Upon graduation in 1997, she was accepted to North Carolina Central University in Durham on a full scholarship to the school’s jazz program.
In 1998, she left NC Central and began touring as a background singer for Erykah Badu. While touring, YahZarah contributed background vocals and vocal arrangements to Badu’s platinum selling “Mama’s Gun” LP, and was featured in the video for the album’s lead single, ‘Bag Lady.’ In 2001, she left the Mama’s Gun tour and released her debut album “Hear Me” on the KEO Music label. A follow up LP, 2003’s “Blackstar,” was issued on the Three Keys label and
reached #44 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart.
2004 found YahZarah reuniting with longtime collaborator and fellow NC Central classmate Phonte Coleman (Little Brother, The Foreign Exchange) for a series of crucial guest appearances. With the release of The Foreign Exchange’s debut album “Connected,” YahZarah was featured on the lead single “Sincere.” The following year she appeared on Little Brother’s controversial “Minstrel Show” LP (Atlantic Records), and was featured on the debut single “Lovin It.” She later contributed three vocal performances to The Foreign Exchange’s GRAMMY-nominated “Leave It All Behind” LP in 2008. That same year, she released an EP of new material entitled “The Prelude.”
Purple St. James has been called upon to bless the stage with outstanding artists such as India Arie, Jaguar Wright, Floetry, Musiq Soul Child, Chaka Kahn, Amel Larrieux, Goapele, Talib Kweli, Rahsaan Paterson, Jazmine Sullivan, Raheem Davaughn, R Kelly, J. Davey, Common, Bilal Oliver, The Roots, Erykah Badu and others. She has an international following that seems to get
bigger as she progresses as an artist, while maintaining her North American fan base waiting for more.
YahZarah’s latest album “The Ballad Of Purple Saint James,” is scheduled for release in May 2010 on the Foreign Exchange Music label. It includes production from TheRealFocus…(Marsha Ambrosius, Raphael Saddiq),Nate Smith (Michael Jackson), Steve Mckie & Tone Whitfield (Bilal, Jill Scott) , Zo!, Nicolay and Phonte of The Foreign Exchange, and guest appearances from Darien Brockington, Jaspects, and Lil’ John Roberts