María Luisa Ramsey (born March 21, 1969), better known mononymously as Jaya, is a Filipino soul music singer, rapper, dancer, record producer, presenter, and actress of mixed Filipino and Jamaican descent. She is a contract artist of GMA Artist Center. She is the first Filipino recording artist to chart in the United States, as her debut single "If You Leave Me Now" peaked at 44 at the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
María Luisa Ramsey was born on March 21, 1969 in Manila, Philippines. Her mother is Elizabeth Ramsay, a Filipino comedienne and singer of Jamaican descent. Ramsey's father is Ray Kagahastian, a Filipino. Her parents separated when she was young, while her father migrated in the United States. He now resides in Alberta, Canada.
She started in show business at the age of ten as a backup dancer for her mother. At 13, Ramsey became the undefeated champion in the GMA-7 noontime variety show, Student Canteen, and joined the Opera House. She began performing solo in 1982, using the name Louise Ramsey.
The young Louise did not finish high school in the Philippines because of her busy lifestyle as a child performer. She nonetheless managed to receive high marks and was once elected class president.
In the United States:
Her mother Elizabeth decided to leave for the United States in June 1985, and brought Louise with her. There she continued her solo singing stints, performing with other Overseas Filipino artists like Tillie Moreno, Eddie Mercado, Lerma dela Cruz, and the duo Reycards.
Life in America was likewise difficult for both Jaya and her mother. They stayed in different cities in California. She attended John Marshall High School in Los Angeles, California, which at the time already had a large Filipino-American student population. She ran away from home in 1988 after finishing high school, moving to New York with a friend and landing a job as a backup vocalist for Stevie B's group of musicians.
Ramsey was re-christened "Jaya" in 1989 by her American producer after she signing a record deal in the United States. After one year, Jaya moved to Florida, where she was offered an opportunity to finish an album that had already been started by another artist.
1995 was a turning point in Jaya's musical career. Pilita Corrales, dubbed "Asia's Queen of Songs", noticed her voice after Jaya did an opening act for Corrales, Carmen Soriano, the late Bert "Tawa" Marcelo, and Elizabeth in the United States. Corrales then asked Jaya if she would like to return to Manila and record an album, to which she agreed. Jaya returned to the Philippines and signed a record deal with Viva Records in March 1995 and completed her first local album. Five songs were recorded in the US while the rest were done in the Philippines.
Jaya is noted for being the Philippine music industry's female record holder of a seven-times platinum album. She was a big hit when Pinoys first heard her belt out soul ditties in 1996. Her winning the 1996 Metropop Song Festival via Danny Tan's "Sometimes You Just Know" made her the biggest star on the rise at the close of the last century. Her first album under Viva Records hit an all-time high of 8 times platinum closely followed by Jessa Zaragoza 2 years after.
In 1997, she released her third album In the Raw, (second in the Philippines) the follow-up to her massive-selling 1996 Philippine debut album, Jaya, which sold nine times platinum, (360,000 units; platinum is 40,000 units sold).
She also won as Best Interpreter at the Asia Song Festival held in Hong Kong in February 1997 for her rendition of the song "You Lift Me Up", composed by Danny Tan with lyrics by Dodjie Simon. This composition also received the grand prize, the Best Song award.
She adorns Magpakailan pa Man (Up to the End), with soulful, Toni Braxton-styled flourishes, and renders the upbeat, "Together" with panache and verve. Her assured handling of the delicately nuanced, "Sana'y Maulit Muli" (May it Recur Again), is a tour de force. The album sold quintuple-platinum (200,000 units sold).
She released a Christmas album, entitled Kung Kailan Pasko which contained traditional carols alongside original compositions, including a jazz version of The Christmas Song.
In 1999, PolyMax Records, a label of then-PolyGram Records Philippines (now an affiliate of Universal Records) released Jaya's A Love Album, first released in 1992 in Japan under the same title. The album consists of songs taken from an earlier Jaya album, also called A Love Album, released in the United States in 1989, as well as songs recorded specifically for the 1992 Japanese release. In 1992, while touring Japan as a backup singer and keyboardist for American R&B artist Stevie B., Jaya was approached by the Japanese label Toshiba/EMI to make an album for Japanese release. A Love Album was released in Japan in conjunction with Jaya's American label, LMR Records, which still owns master rights, and from whom PolyMax obtained permission to release the album in the Philippines (according to Kazu Watanabe, managing director of PolyMax Records). A Love Album is exquisitely produced, and Jaya acquits herself well on the album's upbeat R&B/dance-styled tunes and soulful ballads.
In 1999, Jaya released, her fifth album released in her native country since 1996, entitled Honesty originally done by Billy Joel, was also her carrier single.
Honesty differs greatly from Jaya's two previous major albums released in the Philippines, 1996's Jaya and 1997's In the Raw. Though, as before, Honesty contains mostly passionate, easy-listening love songs, this time out her approach is more intimate. She doesn't add many soulful flourishes as before, nor does she allow herself to soar passionately to the heavens, which she often did on her previous albums.
Another major difference is the inclusion of three modern, rhythm and blues styled songs, including, "We Thang," "Tear to Fall" and "In My Dreams." These songs are far more contemporary and have much more international appeal than the easy-listening love songs which dominate Jaya's music.
After five years in the recording scene, she released her first greatest hits album, entitled Five featuring a duet of Habang May Buhay (While Still having Life) with Regine Velasquez and Kung Wala Na (If Gone) from the Abandonada soundtrack.
In 1999, Jaya faced a big challenge when she did her first musical, the Ramayana-based Rama at Sita that starred Lani Misalucha. Her performance as the demon king Ravana's sister, Soorphanaka, was memorable for her skillful treatment of risque songs and sultry dancing.
2000: Unleashed and concert scene:
In 2001, Jaya released her sixth Unleashed album. Jaya sings in a relaxed, confident manner, and performs middle-of-the-road songs that mostly have depth and quality. Jaya mostly foregoes the soulful embellishments that were plentiful in her first two albums, 1996's Jaya and 1997's In the Raw, although every so often she adds a few unwritten notes in a passionate, soulful manner. She approached her last album, 1999's Honesty, in the refined manner that she furthers on Unleashed. Jaya covers Roy Orbison's "Love Hurts" and John Lennon's "Love" in an understated, yet enjoyable manner. Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly" features an imaginative, bass-heavy arrangement.
In 2001, she released her first live album, entitled, Jaya Live at the Araneta. The album is dominated by performances of American hits. For example, the album starts with a performance of Aretha Franklin's 1960s hit "Respect", and also includes Labelle's "Lady Marmalade, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and Roy Orbison's "Love Hurts." She performs several of these ballads here, including her first hit in the Philippines, "Dahil Tanging Ikaw" (Because It's Only You). Several guest artists also have spots, including Regine Velasquez, who performs Abba's "Dancing Queen"; boy band Jeremiah, who accompanies Jaya on remakes of songs by American boy bands, including Westlife's "Swear It Again"; and male singers Wency Cornejo, KC Montero, and Rivermaya's vocalist and songwriter, Rico Blanco.
After 4 years of hiatus in the music scene, Jaya returned with her seventh studio album entitled, Fall in Love Again. Friends, old and new helped Jaya put the album together. One of these is Ogie Alcasid, who composed and produced "Ako'y Sa'yo" later revived by Regine Velasquez, "Maging Akin Ka Lamang" and their duet of "Bakit 'Di Mo Sabihin". Another one is Vehnee Saturno, who wrote and produced most of Jaya's early hits. His contributions are "Pagkukunwari" and "Di Na Ba Kita Mapipigilan", which is the album's first single release.
2007: New label:
In 2007, she released her eighth album Cool Change under her new label, GMA Records, featuring covers of international hit songs including Donna Summer's "On the Radio" and the Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire". All of the songs were presented with new arrangements in various musical genres. The first single was "Is It Over?" originally sung by Ronnie Milsap which received Platinum award in 2009.
After her Platinum Record solo album, "Cool Change, " Ramsey released her ninth studio album entitled, Real.Love.Stories. It contains 14 love songs carefully picked and beautifully revived by the Philippine's Queen Of Soul, such as Breathe Again originally sung by Toni Braxton; Old Friend by Phyllis Hyman and Save the Best For Last by Vanessa Williams.
The concept album will be released initially on a limited edition micro secure digital format and after two weeks, it will be available on physical CDs and digital downloading.
Jaya is also part of Kaya Natin Ito single cd. The project will be supported by Gawad Kalinga to help the Ondoy and Pepeng victims in the recent disaster that killed more than half a million people all over the country.
2010: New beginnings:
On March 1, 2010, Jaya starred in her first soap opera as a supporting character in Diva, a new primetime offering of GMA Network for their 60th Anniversary, alongside Regine Velasquez, Mark Anthony Fernandez and Glaiza de Castro.
Her show BandaOke aired from October 25, 2009 to March 21, 2010, and was replaced by the reality sitcom Pepito Manaloto.
She is also a main presenter of the GMA-7 variety show, Party Pilipinas.
Jaya was reluctant to act before but she's now enjoying playing the role of Barang, Regine Velasquez' friend in Diva. She played the nosy landlady Helen de Herenes in Kaya ng Powers, a sitcom that starred Joey Marquez and Rufa Mae Quinto as a couple from outer space.
Jaya won Best Female Vocal Performance for the song "Hiding Inside Myself" at 23rd Awit Awards on September 30, 2010, defeating some of the younger local singers of today.
2011-present: All Souled Out and Sunday All Stars judge:
Jaya released an album under Universal Records entitled All Souled Out, a CD album containing 12 tracks of all revival songs. It was her third cover album, containing classic R&B and jazz songs that she grew up listening to. The album received a critical response, after experimenting with a variety of sounds in her previous outings, "Jaya comes to terms with what she is really all about as a singer in "All Souled Out." She triumphs in making the material sound genuine, largely because it is perfect for her. And her voice is a thing of wonder. There is warmth, power, and vulnerability in her renditions, making listening to the entire album a breeze--perfect for long drives or for those lazy weekends."
She is currently one of the "Big Four" judges of GMA Network's new musical variety show Sunday All Stars which began airing on June 30, 2013. She also currently stars in Mga Basang Sisiw as Sally
In 1998, Jaya married musician Andrew Buffington, whom she met in 1995. After three years of marriage, she filed for divorce. Jaya married her second husband Gary Gotidoc and at the age of 36 she gave birth to her daughter Sabriya. On July 27, 2009 at 5:28 pm, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center. The baby was named Dylan and weighed 8.2 pounds.
Jaya's voice is classified as Contralto, a dramatic soprano, widely known for her dark, low registered as low as A2, big voice, and belting as much as Ab5 in her rendition of "Through the Fire" even as high as Bb5 in her version of "High Energy".