Photography: Frank Otten
When the smash hit “Amor en la luna” was first released 6 years ago, it marked a new era in the career of Ephrem J. For many it was the introduction to his music. But his career actually began long before that. From his early days as Junny Chiki performing with several bands in Curaçao to the now world famous Ephrem J, he has paid his dues and deserves the spotlight. Go Weekly spoke to him on the eve of his upcoming tour and CD release.
What drives Ephrem J to work hard to get his music out?
“It is definitely not fame. I love music; I love the experience of making music and performing in front of an audience. From an early age, I was on stage with my father, who is also a musician, and I had the feeling that this was what I wanted to do. My dream was to launch an international career. My first solo CD “Speransa” in 2007 was a huge success, with multiple singles entering the top of the charts in Curaçao. I followed it up with “Latin Evolution”, a CD with Spanish tracks. I believed in this CD and in my potential to conquer the Latin market. My perseverance paid off, even with the naysayers trying to discourage me. My father has always been a great support of mine, his advice is priceless.”
You chose to become a Latin artist, a market where if you are not from Latin America it is very difficult to get in. Why is that?
“I chose Latin music because I felt that the connection with my Latin roots was very strong. I can also speak the language, not just textbook Spanish, but slang too. When “Amor en la luna” came out, nobody could tell that it was somebody from Curaçao singing it. The entire process of creating the album felt very natural. The Latin community embraces its artists more than any other.”
Besides your father, who else influenced your music career?
“It is very cliché, but I am a big fan of Michael Jackson. I love his choreography. I am also a fan of Stevie Wonder, Brian McKnight and Luther Vandross. You can call me old fashioned, but I adore this type of music. Again it was not popular to be a fan of those guys, but I didn’t go with the flow, I chose my own path.”
How did you feel the first time you went on stage as a solo artist?
“When I was in a band I used to envision myself as a solo artist. My first official time on stage as a solo artist felt like magic. I cannot describe the sensation.’’
What is your most memorable performance up until now?
“My performance in Argentina was magical. It’s a country where I had never been before and the audience knew every word to my songs. They even requested songs that were not even popular from my earlier CD’s.’’
What accomplishment are you the proudest of?
“Becoming a solo artist is something I am very proud of because it was the step I needed to take to make my career flourish. Writing my own songs is also something I am very proud of.”
You recently released “Como Una Oración”. What can we expect from Ephrem J in the near future?
“I am currently working on my new CD, which will come out in July, in order for it to be eligible for a Latin Grammy. I have concerts coming up in Belgium, Argentina, Chile and Mexico to name a few. I am preparing for bigger shows by upgrading my performance. Like I tell everybody, be good at what you do. Always keep improving and progressing and you will reap the benefits.”