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Durham's Yazarah takes the stage in Charlotte 

Before India.Arie, who's damned-near a household name, hits town in May, Charlotte audiences will have a chance to see a soulful artist on the rise: Yazarah.

The Durham-based singer will play the Double Door Inn on April 19, performing alongside the music collective known as The Foreign Exchange -- which is fronted by Phonte (of the N.C. hip-hop group Little Brother) and Dutch producer Nicolay.

But while she's singing with the band, let it be known that she's a solo artist in her own right with two albums (including the critically acclaimed Blackstar) under her belt. Lately, however, Yazarah -- who also sometimes goes by the moniker Purple St. James -- has been collecting a brand-new set of tunes and is preparing to let them loose this summer.

Creative Loafing recently caught up with the provocative vocalist to get all the details.

Creative Loafing: So what have you been up to lately?

Yazarah: Presently, I'm finishing the last two songs for my record, The Ballad of Ms. Purple St. James. I've been touring with The Foreign Exchange, which, you know, I've been a member of that collective since '05. The degree of love I've felt out on the road with them and on my own has been encouraging and kept me focused. Especially now that the independent world has grown to be so huge. You kind of try to find where you fit. I know I have a place. So I'm ready to unleash this new music on the world.

Now, unlike a lot of your contemporaries, you've never seemed reluctant to put your sensuality out front.

I have a joke that I've been sexy since kindergarten. I grew up idolizing women like Eartha Kitt ... and Diana Ross, and I felt that they were the epitome of sexy. The naughty bits I probably get from people like Chaka Khan and maybe there's a little bit of Millie Jackson in there. But I prefer my sensuality to be associated with women like Eartha Kitt, who are a little bit more coquettish than sexy -- very flirty. But I'm not afraid, and I don't feel like being a soul singer should, for lack of a better word, neuter me from my pride in my sexuality.

When you're performing with The Foreign Exchange, is it more about the collective or do you have a chance to be Yazarah?

It's definitely more about the collective, but I always bring Yazarah out wherever I am. Whatever I do, I do 150 percent. And I really just enjoy aiding this process with them. I've always enjoyed making music with Phonte and [Nicolay]. I'm pretty much at home onstage with them.

The Raleigh/Durham area has really produced some great independent soul artists in the last few years. Why is that?

Well talent has always been here, it's just that more recently people are actually looking at it because of artists like myself, Little Brother, and now Foreign Exchange and Darien Brockington. The talent has always been there, it's just that we just had to go elsewhere to bring the focus back on what we're doing here in Durham and particularly in North Carolina. We're just touching the surface of what this place has to give with what we're putting out. There are amazing artists being born every day in the Triangle.

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