Yolisa was born in the United Kingdom, also having a strong association with South Africa. She attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, majoring in classical piano and violin, but soon found herself immersed in popular music, playing violin with critically acclaimed 1990s pop act Soul II Soul, and becoming a founding member, composer and musician in the Island Records-signed Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra, eventually sharing a stage with artists including Duran Duran and Jamoroquai. In 1993 Yolisa performed with Duran Duran during An Acoustic Evening Tour and The Dilate Your Mind Tour, which included the Live In South African show and the New Orleans show.
In 1998 she joined the BBC World Service as a music producer and four years later moving to the post as senior music producer at BBC Radio's 6 Music, which was the broadcaster's first-ever digital radio station and it's first new music channel in 30 years.
The pull of her South African roots and her abiding love for African music saw her make a move to the country in late 2005 where she took up the position of Channel O general manager and spearheading the revival of the channel, turning it into the number one music channel on the African continent.