First years and military life
We are talking with Puerto Rican salsa singer Jai Ramos. How are you feeling? Glad to have you here.
I’m feeling fine. Thank you very much for the invitation. I feel blessed to be able to release my songs, but more important is the opportunity I have to be here talking to you and your audience.
Why did you choose salsa as your main genre? Was it to do with your environment or your roots?
It had much to do with my roots. When I started to lean towards music, I listened to ballads and various popular music singers that we had in Puerto Rico such as Chuco Avellanet, Lucecita, Lissette, among others. I also listened to other international artists such as Nino Bravo.
However, what made the switch was to go to the movies to see Our Latin Thing with the Fania stars. That’s when I made the change to salsa.
It’s very interesting because most of the artists you mentioned are boleristas or balladers, in other words, it was a huge change.
You belonged to the United States Army, how did you combine your military career with your musical activities?
Interesting and very valid question. Even though I became interested in music, the places where I wanted to take music lessons would not accept me. After I finished school and became an adult, I joined the military and started to get exposure to different local music groups after arriving in the United States. That’s how I began to develop in my spare time. Admittedly, it was difficult, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
I’ve talked to several Puerto Rican artists who were also in the U.S. Army at various ranks.
Did you get to coexist with other artists and salseros there? If so, do you think that helped you pursue your career in music?
Absolutely. Ar first, I met a lot of people who had a lot of musical experience in their spare time even though they were serving in the armed forces and they were the ones who provided me with the knowledge needed to improve this balance. With the passage of time, I also got to know people with musical experience who are very famous today such as Angel Santos. He and I served in the armed forces at the same time and retired at about the same time, so he chose composition, while I chose music performance.
I made a career in the army for 22 years of service. During all that time, I met many people and today I have communication with many of them even though we’re now civilians.
What Ramos learned from other artists
You got to share and sing along with artists such as Ray Barreto, Celia Cruz, Grupo Niche, Oscar D’ León, Nino Segarra, among many others. What did you learn from each of them?
Good question. They all taught me that they were still human beings and have a duty to the people in spite of being so famous. They were all very humble and that gave me to understand that they are flesh and blood people like us, but that they achieved success because of their talent.
When I was on a military base in Atlanta, I had an enormous exposure to many of them and it was Mr. Enrique Mercado who invited me to be part of his orchestra, which opened up for many great artists such as Celia Cruz, Ray Barreto, Grupo Niche, Eddie Palmieri, Conjunto Libre and the King of timbales Tito Puente. When I met them, I realized that they are devoted to people, prompted me to move forward in this career.
In musical and technical matters, what did these artists teach you?
Discipline and professionalism. Many people think that music is just entertainment, but those working on it see it as their profession. I also perceived the pride of providing entertainment for people, but always with quality. I understood that idea and started to apply this in my life.
What did you learn not to do?
Some of the musicians who accompanied orchestras had certain habits that I was able to observe and I became convinced that I did not wanted to copy them. Sooner or later, I knew that such habits would eventually affect anyone.
I want to clarify that I did not see these things in any of the artists. That is why they are so professional, since they always behave well, both on and off stage. At the same time, they are humble enough to speak directly to a person like me who approached them to ask questions and get some advice.
What led you to have a solo career after having belonged to several orchestras?
I’ve always loved to be a lead singer, but I wasn’t the only one in the orchestra. However, something I noticed while being part of an orchestra is that I was always subjected to the music projects of our musical director, which stopped me from implementing my own ideas and my own music. That’s why I ventured to pursue a solo career and implement what God has put in my heart and mind.
You had already told me about your most recent release “Seguimos Como El León”, a tribute to Angel Santos Junior. Why did it take you to embark on this project? Why pay tribute to Angel Santos Junior?
Thank you for that question. I want to keep giving credit where credit is due. Angel and I were very close friends and I’m using the past tense because unfortunately he passed away on 15 April 15 this year. When I came here to San Antonio, he was one of the first musicians I met and I shared with him in many performances. As I mentioned before, he and I were in the army at the same time.
One of the things Angel has achieved was to create many successful compositions. When I decide to launch my own project, one of the people that I had in mind to get an original song was Angel. When I called him and asked if he had something available, he told me that he only has one song, which was “Seguimos Como El León”. By that time, I knew he was having health problems, but I had no knowledge that he had already been evicted.
When I listened to the lyrics, I didn’t realize that he was giving a message about himself for when he left. Almost all of his compositions had a joking or small-town tone, but this one is a message of overcoming.
By the time we finished the song, maestro Nino Segarra and yours truly agreed to record the project, master it and record it. Then, I shared it with Angel so that he could listen to it and I told him that we gave him credit. Nino Segarra and I thought it was important that everyone who listened to the song always knew that it was one of his compositions.
When we were getting ready to do the release, we learned that he passed away. So, I proceeded to communicate with his family to ask permission from them to use his image and pay tribute to him with that song. They agreed, so I changed the cover and the title of the song to make it look like a posthumous tribute to Angel and thus to perpetuate his name.
What did you learn from Angel Santos artistically and musically?
He was my mentor in this release. I carried out the project, but he mentored me into most of the steps I followed. The biggest lesson I learned from him in the last years was how to be an independent producer and how to implement the ideas I had in mind.
You have songs with titles such as “Seguimos Como El León” and “Lo Que Dios Me Dio”. We can note that these songs are focused on bringing positive messages and about personal growth. Why are these aspects so important to you? Why reflect them in your music?
I am a servant of the Lord. In my spare time, I am a minister at a church. With all the things happening today, I felt in my heart that I had to be part of the solution and bring a positive message in the midst of what is going on.
My musical proposal is based on messages about personal growth with the idea of getting people closer to the Creator.