Ramana Vieira sings with such a wide range of emotions one cannot help but be mesmerized by images of “old world” Portugal that emerge from the depths of her soul. Her extraordinary gift of bringing this 15th century style into modern times is her unique trademark. Often referred to as the “New Voice of Portuguese World Music,” this powerful vocalist is making her mark as one of the premier contemporary Fado artists. According to the Portuguese, Fado is a melancholy and often-mournful music similar to the American blues as it tells stories of heartache and disappointment. The essence of the poetry is the quality of “saudade,” a word that is difficult to translate as it expresses a myriad of feelings.
Ramana’s personal relationship to Fado music lies deep in her family history, as her grandfather was a famous musician and composer from Madeira Island, Portugal. Born in San Leandro, California to Portuguese immigrants, Ramana was fortunate to be exposed to the voices of Portugal’s past at a young age. “During my childhood, I sang with my mother to Amália Rodgrigues and other fabulous fadistas that were part of her special record collection,” said Ramana in a recent interview. Her mother quickly observed her daughter’s gift for music and by the age of ten she bought a piano so that Ramana could study classical music.
Her passion for music continued as she matured and eventually she attended The American Conservatory Theatre where she did her vocal training with Faith Winthrop, San Francisco's grande dame of song and one of the most respected singers and vocal coaches on the scene today. Along with singing, Ramana studied drama and dance as well as performing in many theatrical productions. Although she had dreams of a Broadway career her direction shifted abruptly when a famous music producer inspired her to embrace her Portuguese roots. Shortly after that she found herself on an unexpected journey to Portugal where she had the opportunity to perform with the local Fado singers and musicians bringing the house to it’s feet with her authentic, yet individual style. “It was there I discovered that there was nothing in the world more gratifying to me than singing Fado.”
Called a “rising star in World Music” by the San Francisco Examiner, Ramana has solidified her place as an artist who understands the tradition of Fado singing and continues to creatively construct a path into the future by combining new musical textures and original compositions. Many of the songs on her recordings are inspired by Ramana’s main influence, Amália Rodrigues, known as the "Rainha do Fado" ("Queen of Fado") and who is attributed to popularizing the Fado worldwide. According to Ramana, “nobody else is doing what we are doing with Fado. Take the feel and groove of Shakira and the melodic textures of Dulce Pontes and that is how I would describe our music.”
Some of the highlights of Ramana's performance career include: opening for Grammy nominated fadista Mariza; performing her original song “Unido Para Amar” for the 2006 Winter Olympics video montage; making her international debut with RPT TV Portuguese network; and chosen to sing for the Grammy’s 50th Awards special Music Cares benefit to honor Aretha Franklin. Her two prior recordings, “Despi A Alma (I Undressed My Soul)” and “Sem Ti” helped her to gain recognition, win awards, and appear on the cover of “Mundo Portuguese” Magazine.
However, Ramana’s truly magical spirit comes alive in her newest release on the Pacific Coast Jazz label, “Lágrimas De Rainha (Tears of a Queen).” The emotional concept of “Lágrimas De Rainha” paints sonic pictures that support Ramana’s desire to invent a fresh Fado sound blooming from the ground of her own family roots and features an outstanding group of musicians, lyricists, and arrangers such as Marcie Brown (cello), Jeffrey Luiz (classic and electric guitars), Stephen La Porta (drums and percussion), Alberto Ramirez (electric bass), and special guests, Helder Carvallheira (guitarra or Portuguese guitar), Didier Bouvet (guitar), and Golden Reel Award winning film composer and arranger, Robert Randles (“The English Patient,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” and “Amadeus”).
Ramana sincerely believes that her progressive and unconventional style of juxtaposing different instrumental layers and nuances will open new doors for Fado music while continuing to maintain the integrity of a time-honored tradition. With her incredible artistry and devotion for Fado music there is no doubt this bright-eyed beauty will accomplish her dream.