Born and raised in Curaçao, singer / songwriter Ephrem Jonathan (‘Ephrem J’) Ocalia’s father encouraged him to perform in local talent shows and competitions from an early age. Ephrem honed his craft and became a Curaçao institution, so much so that he decided to embark on a solo career in 2007. By 2011, Ephrem signed a contract with NY record label, Mayimba Music (part of Premium Latin Music Inc.), joining the ranks of world-renowned bachata group Aventura and merengue singer Eddy Herrera. By January 2012, Ephrem J’s debut single under Mayimba Music’s contract ‘I Wanna Run 2 U’ (Quiero Correr) broke the Billboard Top 10 of ‘Tropical Songs’. That makes Ephrem J the FIRST-EVER Curaçao artist to reach the Billboard Top 10.
Ephrem J’s soulful voice and magnetic stage presence is undeniable. His eyes glisten when adoring fans approach him – and he has amassed quite an army of adoring fans over the years. “This is the kind of music that some women totally swoon over because it’s very romantic and sweet”, said Kyler England from http://www.wearelistening.org. True to his multi-cultural Curaçao roots, Ephrem J is an ambidextrous ‘culturalist’, skillful at switching languages (Spanish, Papiamentu, English) and styles (Bachata, Tumba, Ritmo Kombiná, R&B, Gospel, Merengue etc), often resulting in a ‘melting pot’ auditory and visual experience.
Largely a self-taught singer, Ephrem J benefited from the guidance of his father as well as more experienced Curaçao vocalists who took him under their wings. His first solo album was largely influenced by Luther Vandross, Ricardo Arjona and Marc Anthony, but Ephrem discovered a new sound by meshing romantic lyrics – popular among Latin American and Caribbean audiences – with adult contemporary music arrangements provided by Curaçao musicians, Gregory Colina and Gedion Chandler. His early songs “Speransa” (Hope), and “Stimabu So” (‘Love you so’) – both in Papiamentu – climbed to the top of the charts.
He always aspired to spread his wings beyond, making a global name for himself and, in turn, for Curaçao: “I will be an international artist that will place Curaçao’s flag up high.” – Ephrem J
In fact, Ephrem J’s Christmas 2012 Bachata ‘Ausente en Navidad’ is a collaboration with Mikey and Lenny Santos from Aventura, filmed in Curaçao. Lenny arranged and produced the track, and both brothers played on the session. In addition, Angel Fernández, Dominican-born arranger, producer and multi-instrumentalist of note, produced background vocals and final edits. “I am totally humbled that artists such as Lenny and Max believe in my talent to the point where they traveled all the way to Curaçao to participate in my video…,” said Ephrem about the collaboration.