Brother Yahya

A History

 

Brother Yahya (born Edwin McBean, son of Mat McBean) was born in St Elizabeth, Jamaica in 1949. He came to England in 1960, aged 11 where he lived with his aunt in Peckham. He went to the local school, The Samuel Pepys School. It was at this age that he started to develop his strong interests in both music and the marshal arts, concentrating on the guitar, piano and singing

 

Throughout his younger years, Brother Yahya had many influences. Living three doors up the road from him was Livingstone Wright, son of a banjo player and himself an aspiring guitarist. Livi’ was to become a life long friend and the guitarist for the legendary Bonny M. Another school friend from those days was Tony Austin, who went on to become a foremost music producer.

 

In 1964 Yahya left school then aged 15 and within a year started his first band, a five piece called The Kodaks. Considering how young they were, The Kodaks did some prominent gigs at clubs such as The Pink Flamingo, The Burton Club and upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s. The Kodaks only lasted just over a year and they split in 1967.

 

Yahya did not kick his heals for long and joined The Beans when they returned from their Spanish Tour. It was a good band, with Mick, on the Alto Sax, a former member of the Sally Army Band backing Edwin Star. A year later Yahya went to Beirut with The Beans and stayed for a year. The band broke-up on arrival back in England in 1969.

 

Back in England Yahya concentrated mainly on his session work. This session work included such artists as; The Greyhound Band, Jimmy Lindsey, Freddie North and The Rudi’s, Wilford Edwards, Owen Grey, Nikki Thomas, Donny Ray, Jimmy Cliff, and Toots and The Maytals. He also briefly worked with a band called Noel and The Fireball.

 

Aged 20/21, Yahya joined The Bedrocks, which again lasted about a year, taking him to Israel where he also worked with The Cocktails. From Israel Yahya went and lived in Milan, Italy, where he stayed for two years. He would fly daily to Rome where again he would play in gigs and partake in session work, playing sets with Wess Johnson and The Airdales. Wess, who was prominent on the circuit at that time, came second in the 1970 European Song Contest. Dora Getsy, a prominent Italian singer was also touring with them at that time.

Due to other commitments Yahya returned to England where he met Desmond Decker doing mainly session work and producing.

 

In 1970 he did more travelling, this time to Japan where he joined the band Pitiful Soul, after having me most of the band in Beirut. For two years after this they travelled around Asia. It was in The East that he expanded his appreciation of Marshall arts.

 

Back in England in about 1973, Yahya started doing session work with The Chosen Few whose band members included; Errol Brown, Frankie Spence, Bonnie Brown and Buster Brown. Producing The Chosen Few was Toni Ashfield who had previously worked for John Holt.

Yahya worked with The Chosen Few for about two years after which co-produced an album with Peter Nelson from The Chosen Few and Donny Campbell, the drummer from The Greyhound Band. It was at this time that they were associated with Donny McFarlane who sold the rites and credits to CBS.

 

In 1979, living in Dulwich with his old school friend and producer Tony Austin, they recorded music, much of it with the backing of a fifty piece orchestra at the TMC studios in Streatham.

After this Yahya did yet more travelling, this time ending up back in Jamaica where he recorded ‘No False Prophet’ in 1983. Accredited to this album were The Scatalites, Tommy Macook, Ozzie Scott with Roots Roddick backing and Dean Frazer as ‘world solo’ singer.

In 1984 whilst having involvement with Matoumbi, Yahya formed a long association with Running Water. In 1989 he recorded an album with Califer Dean and Earnest Ranglin on the guitar.

 

Yahya was the executive producer for the Granneries Show in 1992, which was hosted by Tessa Sanderson. During this time he was working, unaided by managerial support, on his first solo album ‘Am Going To The Desert’ which came out in 1993.

 

In 1999, Yahya produced an album and brought it out on a limited run. Called "I Don't Mind" the album started to set the mould for a true Jazz composer. Since that time he has spent much of his time in Jamaica, writing and recording a list of works.

 

Over the years Yahya has worked with most of the greats including Boney M, Desmond Decka, The Upsetters, Toots and the Maytals, Caren Wheeler to name but a few. An outstanding Jazz musician writer and producer, his work is respected by all those who surround him.