Angel Ram is the first Filipina to sing at famous Manhattan nightclub

‘At Last.’ Angel’s aspiration to perform at the storied BB King club fulfilled. Photos by Elton Lugay

‘At Last.’ Angel’s aspiration to perform at the storied BB King club fulfilled. Photos by Elton Lugay

By Cristina DC Pastor

“Am I ready? Kaya ko ba ito?”

These were the words that tormented Angel Ram the day she was booked to sing at the fabled BB King Blues Club & Grill on Times Square.

Angel, a receptionist at a dermatology clinic, was the first Filipino to sing at this landmark club where the likes of Chaka Khan, Dionne Warwick, and Bonnie Tyler had appeared to sold-out performances.

While racked with fear and self-doubt, the words “Go for it; this opportunity may not happen again” steadied her nerves.

On January 19, Angel, 32, uncorked a repertoire of Etta James and Angela Bofill songs before a mostly-American audience. Piano Man Bobby Ramiro provided accompaniment for a full 75 minutes.

“Hindi ko inakala ganun kadami ang tao,” Angel, still full of excitement, shared with The FilAm. “Daming puti, mixed. Hindi lang Filipino community.”

“Everyone was curious about the singer because the poster does not say who I am,” she continued laughing, recalling that memorable night of January 19. “When I came out, word got around and they said, oh it’s a Filipina girl. They didn’t know a Filipina can sing (the songs of Etta James and Angela Bofill).”

Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. was among the notables in the community who came to watch. Friends of Angel as well as her Russian employers were in the audience, too.

Angel did Etta James’s immortal “At Last,” a song that has been her trademark of sorts because she has sung it many times before various community gatherings. James’s “All I Could Do was Cry” and “I’d Rather Go Blind,” songs about the death of a romance, had Angel’s sultry vocals hushing a room full of boozy and boisterous patrons.

It all happened too fast for Angel.

She recalled coming to the club, named after blues singer and songwriter Riley ‘B.B.’ King, sometime in December to listen to a tribute to Aretha Franklin, one of her favorites. It was her first time at BB King. After the show, she got curious, asked around if the club is the type to give a break to local talents.

“Out of curiosity lang naman,” she said. “I asked one of the managers. I asked to speak to a promoter. So happens he was there. He was very approachable naman. I was just wondering, I said, do you give a chance to local talents? Tumawa siya. He asked are you a singer?”

She sent the manager she calls Mr. Kobi video clips from her performances at Carnegie Hall for TOFA-NY and Town Hall concerts for the community. The manager did not listen to her live.

“He said I have an amazing voice and that he thinks I’m really good on stage,” she said.

Within weeks he called to say there was an opening in the calendar. Would she be available to do a musical tribute for Etta James and Angela Bofill on January 19? She asked for two hours to mull things over. Her mind, stoked and swirling with all kinds of emotions, was telling her, “I want this…yes I’ll do it.” After she said ‘yes,’ the nerves took over.

Angel wanted to make things right. She made sure to invite one of the best pianists, Bobby Ramiro, to accompany her. She approached classical singer Joseph Legaspi to be her vocal coach.

The posters were printed and circulated on social media. The community, proud of Angel’s feat, rallied around her for support: makeup artist Victor Palmos, Bobby Yalong who did her gown, talent manager Cicero Oca, and Little John of DJ Filipino Events were just some of them.

Days after the show, Angel is still flush with thrill as she reviews all sorts of opportunities and possibilities. There are bookings being finalized around the Manhattan club circuit, and possibly a Broadway audition.

“But first I have to lose some weight,” she said to an outburst of laughter .

Born Angel Ramchand to a Filipino mother and a half-Indian father, she grew up in Zamboanga and later moved to Manila when she got married. She came to the U.S. in 2012 when her marriage ended. However, it was only in the last year and a half that she began to sing publicly at gatherings. She had a raspy singing style that some find haunting and different. She soon became one of the community’s favorite performers.

After BB King, Angel said she is hoping for a positive outcome, looking forward to reunite with her children – ages 7, 9, and 12 — who remain in the Philippines with their father. “I have not seen them and I miss them.”

“I feel like all this (blessings) is because of God; I feel like he is putting me on the right path,” she said.

Proud of the poster with her name on it

Proud of the poster with her name on it

At center, Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. shares a table with (from left) John Gadia, Elton Lugay, Miguel Braganza, and Vince Gesmundo.

At center, Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. shares a table with (from left) John Gadia, Elton Lugay, Miguel Braganza, and Vince Gesmundo.

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