Soraia Ramos Wants to Take Cape Verde to the World

The rising star brings tells us about her fusion of R&B and kizomba ahead of her first album, and her desire to continue on what Cesária Évora built.

The morning Soraia Ramos woke up to the news brought by her manager, she thought it was an April Fools joke. "I saw the photo she sent me on WhatsApp and, at first, I said it was a fake, but then I realized it was true and cried for hours. It's amazing to see the effort I put on my work being rewarded," she says over a Zoom call. Indeed, to star one of Spotify's humongous billboards in New York City's Times Square was nothing but incredible for the Portuguese-Cape Verdean singer, whose explorations in music started back in 2010 when she began posting self-made videos on YouTube.

Today, Soraia has a place at the top-charts of the disputed Africa's Luso-pop landscape. Her soulful vocals fit in a blend of kizomba flavors and R&B-esque melodies as in "O Nosso Amor," a single with 24 million views on YouTube — an impressive achievement for an artist that hasn't even released her first album. From her beginnings in Lisbon to the day she went global through New York, the path to becoming a rising star was also a comeback home journey to Soraia.

"I've met Cape Verde through music," she says. "The first time I went there, in 2010, it was to play in a show. I got in touch with my roots through music." Born in Portugal, and having lived a couple of years in France and Switzerland, Soraia kept coming and going to her family's home country in the following years. In 2019, she recorded her first hit singing in criolo, the love song "Bai", with a music video recorded in the streets of Praia.

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Image courtesy of Marvin Lima (Virtuoso_ny)

Spotlight: Virtuoso Masters The Art of Cape Verdean Streetwear

With years in the industry under his belt, creator Marvin Lima is honoring his dreams, loved ones and heritage with his own line based in New York City.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists, and more who are producing vibrant, original work.

In our latest piece, we spotlight Cape Verdean rooted streetwear label Virtuoso. Creator and designer Marvin Lima's story follows one many of us are familiar with - he worked retail in his local mall, before moving on to higher roles in more exclusive spaces. Now, having accumulated over 10 years of experience in the fashion industry, and generating styled images for different brands and department stores, Lima has the tools and resources to succeed amongst his peers. Virtuoso (expert, master, maestro) blends the warm, earthy, and eye-catching tones associated with Cape Verde's style, with the casual yet charming nature of Western clothing trends. The company adds appeal but using close family and friends as models, and allowing them to present themselves as they desire.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Describe your background as an artist and the journey you've taken to get it to where it is today.

I developed an interest in fashion while working retail at a local mall. I started to understand the retail side of fashion, which led me to an assistant manager role at a small boutique named Rufskin. They had just opened their first NYC store, so I got to work closely with designers, and creative directors, allowing for somewhat of a hands-on experience. From retail, I moved into e-commerce styling, assisting stylists on photo shoots, and I got to work with a few photographers as well as creative directors. I got a second job assisting a pattern maker and got exposed to the production side there. I learned to measure and draft patterns; measure, cut, and sew garments. Eventually, I was offered a full-time stylist position at Barneys, where I worked with some of the more popular luxury brands. After 10 years of experience producing styled images for different brands, all these experiences helped me transition into the next phase of my career, which was creating my own brand.

What are central themes in your work and how have you told the story this time around?

Virtuoso made it a priority to collaborate with other African artists and has become a platform to showcase that work. From videographers, photographers, models, and even hair and makeup artists. This process has inspired me to incorporate more of myself into the brand. I have the freedom to express myself through Virtuoso, and I try to tell a story that incorporates my Cape Verdean roots. Our first editorial focuses on the island life, but fishermen and fisherwomen have inspired some of the stylings. We also used windmills and cassava in the set building.

How are you using fashion to translate African stories to a global market?

My first piece titled "Struggle of an African Mother" was inspired by my own mother's story of migrating to the United States. She left her native land taking her young son, with the hope of a better life. My art is an expression of some of these life lessons, and I know that this story is not exclusive to us, so I hope that others with similar experiences can relate and have a sense of community.

Can you talk about the use of colors, hairstyles, and jewelry in your work?

I use my family and friends as models most of the time, so while styling the shoots, I try to keep their preferred hairstyles and usually keep the jewelry to a minimum. I like to keep the focus on them, the set, and of course the garments.

What exciting projects are you currently working on/ What future projects are you excited to share with the world?

It looks like the fashion industry is growing towards more interconnectivity with the digital world and I'm excited to announce an NFT project that will be available soon. The digital art world of NFT is a new market, but we're living in this really interesting transitional era where we're seeing more and more of a digital impact in fashion.

Image courtesy of Marvin Lima (Virtuoso_ny)

Image courtesy of Marvin Lima (Virtuoso_ny)

Image courtesy of Marvin Lima (Virtuoso_ny)

Image courtesy of Marvin Lima (Virtuoso_ny)

Image courtesy of Marvin Lima (Virtuoso_ny)

Image courtesy of Marvin Lima (Virtuoso_ny)

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