Yasmeen Williams

Daughter of a Baptist preacher, Yasmeen was raised in the African American Baptist Missionary Gospel Music tradition and was recognized as a toddler for her God-given gifts in vocal music. Her cousin, music teacher, gospel recording artist, and now gospel hall of famer, Shirley Ables-Starks formed a gospel group, consisting of Yasmeen, her three sisters and two cousins. Her aunt, Vara Simpson, founder of “The Service Gospel Singers” and director of the first gospel group to sing in New York’s World Fair, toured and featured the Spiritualettes in gospel programs throughout the East Coast singing wherever gospel was allowed. Her cousin and aunt dutifully dragged Yasmeen and her three sisters to WOOK Radio Station in Washington, DC where they were featured live at 6am every Sunday morning.

Her early music experience includes sharing the stage with the famous Caravans, Sally Martin, as well as working side by side with National Baptist Convention choir directors such as the Reverend Cleavant Derricks, author of “Just A Little Talk With Jesus” and then pianist for the convention, Richard Smallwood, author of “Center of My Joy” and more.

Purpose:  The up-building of the people of the e-Malaleni community.

Yasmeen’s musical career spans several decades and includes a variety of types of music but never without her humble gospel beginnings as her base. In 1973, Yasmeen became a two-decade member of the Grammy Award winning internationally acclaimed a cappella sextet, Sweet Honey in the Rock. Yasmeen brought her African American Baptist Missionary gospel music tradition and song writing skills to this union.

According to Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, oral historian, gospel music scholar, and founder of Sweet Honey In The Rock, Yasmeen is a prolific gospel artist who has permanently affected the music of the group Sweet Honey In The Rock. Dr. Reagaon included Yasmeen’s original lines to one of her songs entitled “My Way” (Compositions, p.23) as a salute to Yasmeen’s virtuosity. Mike Joyce of The Washington Post wrote “…there was no mistaking the power and beauty of Yasmeen’s voice – a strong, soulful alto that could be called lusty if it didn’t reveal its gospel roots so readily. Her phrasing too was a treat to hear, wonderfully pliable and often streaked with melisma flourishes…the singing transcended the songs and left one wishing to hear more of it.” Richard Harrington from the Washington Post said this of Yasmeen’s genius as a lyricist and vocal arranger: “The readings of the church standards are excellent, but the most memorable moments come in Sweet Honey’s introduction of two stunning West African songs “When I Die Tomorrow,” uncovered at a Baptist church in Liberia and re-arranged by Williams, is a compulsive swirl of polyrhythms and congregational communion.”

Yasmeen has recorded three solo cds, consisting mostly of songs penned by her and is currently completing her fourth cd out of the bowels of her experience with pancreatic cancer. She has has also released four singles, all of which may be heard on Spotify, ITunes, etc. She has written and recorded approximately 32 gospel songs. Her third and most recent finished original cd features 10 song of Christmas and Easter themes. These two themes were combined because she believes it is impossible to write about Christmas without writing about the Resurrection. When asked why, she replies “Because Jesus was born to die.” The one song, which is not an original, “We Three Kings” includes a sermonette of her father (now deceased) the Reverend Dr. Edgar L. Williams, Sr., former Pastor of Yasmeen’s home church, Second New St. Paul Baptist Church located in Washington, DC.