Yasmeen Betty Williams’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. WATC is pleased to have Yasmeen on Atlanta Live Encore on Wednesday, April 12 at 7 p.m. on WATC.
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.”