Nathaniel Savella Ramirez is a singer-songwriter of Filipino ancestry, who made it his life's work to spread the Filipino spirit and to tell the story of the Philippine-American War through his music.
All of his songs so far are in Filipino. These songs were recorded at Pigboat Recording Studios, Silverdale, WA. The session musicians are Joel Martin on keys, bass and drums. Tripp Swartz on mandolin, lead guitar and bass on “Sabi-Sabi”. I sing and play rhythm guitar.
Nathaniel Savella Ramirez interview:
Why this name?
"It is traditional in the Philippines that we use our mother's maiden name as our middle name. It is traditional, not mandatory. But I chose to use my full name as a sign of my devotion to my parents, the late Atty. Remigio T. Ramirez and the late Estelita Savella Ramirez. "
Do you play live?
"Yes, I play live. Currently, I do not have a regular gig. I really enjoy performing for a crowd or just one or two people. My first experience in front of a crowd with a backup band is an experience I will never forget. It happened on the island of Diego Garcia, BIOT(British Indian Ocean Territory). This was in June of 2000, at the Expat Club(Expatriates Club).. The band performing at that time was “Common Ground”,(a Manila show band specializing in 60's and 70's music). During their last set they call on member's of the audience to sing. We became close friends during my stay at Diego Garcia and they knew that I write and sing my own material. They have not heard any of my material. They assured me its going to be alright. After the last bar of the chorus was played, the crowd erupted in a roar and wanted more. But it was getting late and the band had a set to finish. The immediacy and positive energy that the crowd showed, even though most of them did not understand the lyrics, took me by surprise. I thanked the members of the band and went home floating on cloud nine.
How, do you think, does the internet (or mp3) change the music industry?
"Yes, the internet has changed the music industry, not to the extent where it's a level playing field. But its better than the old way, when the only way to be heard is thru the radio.
Would you sign a record contract with a major label?
"No, I think the kind of music I do is not mainstream at all. Maybe in the Philippines, I will.
I started playing ukelele when I was 5 years old. I played for a couple of years until my ukelele broke and coincidentally, my teacher left for the US. Years later I picked up the guitar while I was in Minor Seminary. While there, we sang during mass and religious services almost daily. The repertoire range from 60's folk to inspirational music.
In college, I took classical guitar lessons to improve my picking. I quit after a couple of months just before my first recital. After that I played the guitar on my own for a number of years.
I stopped playing for about 15 years until I was stationed in Diego Garcia. There, I started playing again after my wife's cousin gave me an Ibanez PF10 acoustic electric guitar. With it I wrote several songs, all of which you can listen to on my music page.
After serving 15 years in the US Navy. I got out because of the Invasion of Iraq. To me it was a repeat of our colonial adventures in the Philippines during the Philippine-American War.
In 2006, I took a job in Bethesda, MD. While there I performed for mostly Filipino audiences from VA to NY. It was a very emotionally rewarding time.
In March 2008, while returning to Washington State. I was involved in a car accident with an 18 wheeler in Iowa. A few months later in September, I suffered a heart attack in Seattle, WA. After a few months of recovery, I decided to as much of the world as I can.
So in December 3, 2008, I left for Germany. Currently, I am in Nussloch, Germany. A small town near Heidelberg. I will be here until the summer. Afterwhich, I will return to the US and eventually go home to the Philippines for good in 2010. "
"Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Freddie Aguilar, Heber Bartolome, Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman, Roy Orbison, Simon & Garfunkel and Jim Croce."
"My favorite spot on earth is an isolated beach in my birthplace of Cabugao, Ilocos Sur in the Philippines. It is at a tip of a peninsula that has black sand, and there is big black boulder about 15 feet tall jutting out all by itself in the middle of the beach. It's about a good 30 minute walk to the beach from the nearest road and the only way is by foot. I have only been there once years ago and I still could not forget the experience. "
"Tagbilaran" Custom Doubleneck Acoustic Guitar that I designed and commissioned in the Philippines. It was made by Mr. Jun Reputana of Reputana Guitars, Tagbilaran, Bohol, Philippines. Tagbilaran was destroyed in the car accident in Iowa. While in Washington State, I started to make a replacement. Due to my heart attack, I could not finish it before going to Germany.
In Germany, a friend had a vintage Yamaha FG 75. She lent it to me. I lowered the action and enlarged the bridge holes to make the pins plush with the bridge. That is what I am using at the moment, until I can finish the replacement of my doubleneck guitar.
All were made using simple hand tools and techniques he had learned from his father. Who in turn learned it from his.
He has been making guitars since he was 16. When asked how many guitars he has made. He say's "he does not remember but he has made a lot".
"My first studio effort from Pigboat Recording entitled "Ugat at Sanhi ng ating Aba" roughly translated "Root and Cause of our Misery" has been indefinitely shelved until I get back to Washington State to finish it. It is dedicated to Filipinos all over the world.
I have been added to the Singer/Songwriter Directory.
Also check out the website of Mr. Rod Garcia Esq. Rod's Hacienda. He is a singer/songwriter, musician, playwright and novelist who also happens to be a lawyer. Check them out.
Check out the INFAMAS site www.infamas.com. It is an aggrupation of Filipino-American Music Artists in the Mid-Atlantic states of VA,MD,NJ,NY and DC. Visit the website and support the member artists.
I July 2006, I attended the 2006 Folk Life Festival. They featured the Canadian Province of Alberta this year. One of the artists performing there was Mr. John Wort Hannam. I think he is the next big singer-songwriter from Canada. In the footsteps of the great Neil Young. Check his website at www.johnworthannam.com.
In June 2008, I joined the Guild of American Luthiers(GAL) and attended their convention in Tacoma, Washington. At about the same time, I joined the Seattle Luthiers Group(SLG).
In August 8, 2008, I started N.S. Ramirez Guitars in Silverdale, WA. But a heart attack in September 2008 put that on hold until I am fully recovered. In the meantime, I am travelling all over Central Europe, using the opportunity to educate myself in the Art of Lutherie in the places where they first flourished. Namely, Germany, Italy and Spain. "