Have you ever taken a close look at the term "transgendered musician"? Ever notice that "transgendered musicians" tend to fall into two categories? They are either : A) playing mindlessly insipid, techno dance material, with the unending 4/4 beat even a paraplegic in a wheelchair could dance to; or B) they've raided the bondage clothing rack, learned 3, maybe 4, guitar chords, and formed a thrash/speed etal/glam rock band?
The entertainer known as Yolanda defines these categories. Born Roger Anthony Mapes 45 years ago, he became well known in Burlington, Vermont, but moved to New York City. His debut CD, Yolanda And The Plastic Family (Viva Records, July 1999, original release date), covers a wide spectrum of musical styles from funk, ("Let Me Love You"), to an almost-parody of Frank Zappa doing a parody of hip jazz lounge music ("Breathe"), to beautiful acoustic guitar arrangements ("Angels").
In fact, the song "Angels" was first released as a single in 1998. Billboard magazine said in a review at the time: "The drag musical community spawns its most intriguing performer since Rupaul in the form of wildly charismatic Vermont based tunesmith Yolanda, one of the strongest ac/pop (acoustic pop) compositions offered in months."
Yolanda's live shows are a mixture of campy drag and left leaning politics, and the music can cover everything from danceable pop to soul, to the above mentioned funk and eclectic material. Yolanda changes costumes to match the mood of the songs, often including 6 and even 8 inch heels. All of this doesn't not take away from the person who created Yolanda. In the liner notes for the CD, Yolanda is described as: "...a radical fairie, drag queen, singer/songwriter.storyteller, HIV positive, gay white male, transgender warrior, tarot reader, legal Christian minister, visual and performance artist..."
This is a mouthful of a description that reads more like a resume than anything else. So how does one begin to get a handle on the character of Yolanda? For starters, Yolanda does not care what pronoun people use, and often uses the masculine when talking of himself. He isn't trying to impersonate a woman when he dresses. He first wore drag at a party in New York City several years ago, and the name Yolanda was sort of born spontaneously out of the sheer joy of the moment.
As Billboard's Larry Flick states, " Yolanda-the button pressing creation of delightfully eccentric singer/tunesmith Roger Anthony Mapes-displays none of the dark tragedy inherent in Hedwig. Rather he radiates joy and warm spirituality. But Yolanda is also a shrewd political animal who lures listeners in with wild, over the top drag and energetic pop/soul music, and then konks them over the head with a well phrased, thought provoking bit of material on issues ranging from racism and homophobia to religion and misogyny. All one needs for proof is to witness one of the New York based live shows, which are akin to riding a rollercoaster without the strap to hold you in place. Yolanda takes you on a raucous journey that you're not likely to forget, but its one that you're certain you want to experience again and again.
" Best new artist: Yolanda. A drag-queen rocker who has exploded out of
the Vermont club community. With his self-made Welcome To Yolanda World,
the artist firmly proved that there's more to the drag community than
Hedwig by serving up a thought-provoking blend of confessional prose
and societal observations .
" Let me tell you that I'm one of those who "gets" Yolanda... her talents are big. The combination of her winning personality, fierce drag and attitude is simply a bonus to her amazing vocal cords and ability to wrap them around a tune and belt out a soulful number that will make your mouth drop to the floor.