Based in Alexandria, VA, Yasmin Williams is an acoustic fingerstyle guitarist with an unorthodox, modern style of playing. She utilizes various techniques including alternate tunings, percussive hits, and lap tapping in her music to great effect. Her “radiant sound and adventitious origins have made her a key figure in a diverse dawn for the solo guitar” (The New York Times). Williams’s music has been described as rich, harmonious, and “in a lot of ways, the joy and possibility she brings to the guitar reminds me more of Eddie Van Halen than any of the other fingerstyle guitarists to whom she’s compared” (NPR Music).
She grew up in northern Virginia where various genres of music from smooth jazz to hip-hop were played in her household. She was introduced to the guitar after playing the video game Guitar Hero 2 and became interested in playing the guitar in 2009. She begged her parents to buy her a real electric guitar and once she received her first guitar and amplifier, she taught herself how to play the guitar by ear. After a few years of playing the electric guitar, she taught herself how to play the bass guitar, 12 string guitar, and classical guitar before eventually deciding to switch her focus to the acoustic guitar because of the instrument’s versatility. While in high school, she released her first EP Serendipity in 2012, which she recorded and mixed herself.
She graduated from New York University with a BM in Music Theory and Composition in December 2017. Her first album, Unwind, was released on May 4, 2018. It charted highly on several Amazon and iTunes charts including top paid albums, including charting at #7 on Amazon’s top paid albums and #1 on iTunes‘s Folk chart, and charted at #15 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. Her latest album, Urban Driftwood, was released on January 29, 2021 and has received critical acclaim from numerous major publications including The New York Times, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, NPR Music, The Fader, Wallstreet Journal, AllMusic, Paste Magazine, No Depression, and several other outlets.
“Williams, 25, is one of the country’s most imaginative young solo guitarists. Released in January, her second album, Urban Driftwood, represents a clear break with the form’s stoic, folk-rooted mores.” -Grayson Haver Currin, The New York Times
“Above all, ‘Urban Driftwood’ is her challenge to widespread preconceptions about the music made by young Black people or acoustic guitarists. It’s Williams’s achievement that she makes that challenge sound so calming and beautiful.” -John Lingan, The Washington Post
“When 24-year-old instrumentalist Yasmin Williams plays guitar, she conjures new possibilities and stories from the instrument.” -Jonathan Bernstein, Rolling Stone
“Part of the thrill of Urban Driftwood is how untethered Williams sounds to any tradition whatsoever: She has a gift for penning melodies that feel as catchy as pop songs, as in the lightly descending refrain of ‘Juvenescence,’ but her approach to the instrument also allows her to confound expectations, making you question the source of each overtone and rhythm.” -Sam Sodomsky, Pitchfork
“Williams is all the things that finger-picked guitar usually isn’t – young, female, Black, digitally native, unabashed by tradition and open to all sorts of multicultural influences. She’s a fresh breeze blowing through a sometimes musty corner of music, and let’s just say it again, a little bit of sunshine, too.” ️ -Jennifer Kelly, Dusted