By Roy L Hales
She exploded onto Cortes Island’s Lip Sync stage four years ago, introducing the musical tastes of her native Portugal. She can also render a sultry imitation of Tina Turner. Her radio program Vinho do Porto is among CKTZ’s most popular. In this morning’s show, Susana Vijaya talks about becoming more public.
Becoming More Public
“I feel that I am … expanding a lot. I’m becoming more public. I’m giving more not just to my close friends, the ten people who live around you, but to an audience. The first time that I sang in public was last year, at the Summer of Love. I was so nervous, I was shaking inside, my hands were shaking. And then this last winter in Mexico it was amazing, I was singing every Friday night in the bar and every other Saturday. Suddenly I had a fan club … A lot of people would come to watch me sing and dance on stage,” she said.
“That brought out a lot of insecurities because I do not think I am that good. I am still learning. In fact I still have everything to learn, but it is incredible how these processes are because I remember Lyle and I would play something and we would come feeling the worst you can imagine … That we were horrible; that we were out of tune; that we were out of rhythm. So we would go to bed feeling like the worst. Then we would wake up the next day and say ‘Lets watch the records ….’ Then we would see that in reality it was not that bad. Later in the day you would come out and people would say ‘Wow Susana you were amazing.’”
“I’m not used to it. I’m not used to people coming and saying I’m amazing on the street because I am still very shy about my singing. I’m still very insecure about what I have to offer, but I want to keep doing it. I want o keep improving for all those people who already love what I am doing.”
The Home Of Port Wine
Susana was born in the coastal city in Portugal that gave its name to Port wine. The grapes come from further up the River Douro, close to the Spanish border. For centuries, they were transported to Porto in rabelo boats. Now the grapes are brought in trucks, but the wine is still aged in Porto. So Susana calls her radio program Vinho do Porto (“Port Wine”).
Her father gave Susana a love of music. In addition to playing a guitar, he possessed hundreds of vinyl records. This included “all the hits from mostly the 60s and 70s.”
After her parent’s divorce, Susana, her mother and sister moved into an apartment where she was surrounded by family. Her grandmother was on the first floor. Her uncle and cousins were on the third floor.
“We were always connected. So every time I went to visit my grandmother, she was always listening to Fado. So it was always present, but it was not an important thing for me at that time. In reality, I started to appreciate Fado much after 2008, when I left Portugal. When I was missing home or couldn’t cry or something was happening in my life and I couldn’t cry, I would go to Youtube and put Fado [on] and immediately the tears would start to roll down my face because it is just so much in my blood.”
What Susana was born to do
Listening to the podcast above, you get the impression that Susana was born to perform. She doesn’t remember playing with dolls as a little girl.
“Whenever adults would come to my parents house, I want them to be my audience. I always had a little show; a little theatre; a little something to show to them. My grandmother used to say that I was a pain in the ass because she wanted to go to talk with her daughter but I would make her sit on the couch and sing her a song or make little piece of theatre.”
Putting it all aside to work
“I come from a very traditional family and I was raised in a very traditional neighbourhood that I never liked. That had a very big negative influence on me because I was always the black sheep and I could never do the things I wanted to do. It was a society that was very judgemental. They have an opinion for everything, but it is just that little thing that they know. Everything that is out of that doesn’t count, or its inferior or nobody makes a living out of that. ”
Though she was a “Karaoke Queen” during her teenage years, Susana set music aside when she entered the world of commercial sales at the age of 21.
“That was good in terms of money. I made a lot of money all through those years, but I was so unhappy … I was going against my heart.”
She started as a junior sales girl and over the course of the next seven to eight years worked her way up to a Commercial Director. Then, when they asked her to move to Lisbon, Susanna decided it was time for a change. She opened a restaurant.
“I said okay, I’m a good cook. I’ve cooked since I was eight. In fact when my father was divorced I was nine. I was doing one month at my mother’s house and one month in my father’s house. And when I was in my father’s house, I was the cook. The kitchen was something that was always present in me and in my family … ”
For the first three years Susana’s restaurant lost money, but by the time she was finished it had achieved national recognition.
“I was seven times in the national television. I was many times in national radio stations, newspapers, magazines …”
By this time, her restaurant had been transformed into a holistic centre. Susana describes the therapy she took there as important for her evolution as a human being, but the 16-hour-a-day, seven days a week, work load was exhausting.
“So I sold it, in 2008, and I went to Brazil.”
Between her savings and inheritances, she did not have to worry about money.
For the next three years, Susana backpacked across the country visiting alternative communities. She met her first husband at Brazil’s most famous Permaculture centre. She also volunteered at centre for rescuing endangered wild animals.
“At the time I was there, they had 500 animals between lions, tigers, monkeys, snakes, birds … and my role there was to give reiki to animals, because I am a reiki master, and prepare raw food, because I also have some courses in raw food.”
Coming To Cortes Island
Susana was travelling through Mexico in a motorhome, when she met an older man who proved to be an excellent travelling companion. They were together for a few months before he had to return home and start chemotherapy. Susana agreed to follow him, but took three or four months exploring the West Coast on the way. By the time they met up again on Vancouver Island, his leukemia had advanced.
“He was already bald; with no hair at all; with no muscles. Very altruistically, he let me go. He said, ‘I cannot do that to you. You are too young, you have your life in front of you and I am dying.’ So I think it was a favour that he did for me, because I was ready to take care of him. So I left.”
She explored the rest of Vancouver Island, going to Tofino, Victoria, Salt Spring Island, Hornby Island. She went to see the grizzly bears at Telegraph Cove.
“Everyone kept saying come to Cortes. I arrived in that year, it was 2012, and when I arrived on Cortes island, my heart just knew that it was one of my places in the world.”
Since then, she and her new partner, Lyle, have been on Cortes for up to sixth months every year.
“In 2014 I went for the first time to attend the Lip Sync … I had a theatrical explosion. I said next year I’ll be on stage.”
She became a regular performer at CKTZ’s Lip Syncs and, more recently, cabarets. Her radio program, Vinho do Porto, recently celebrated its first anniversary.
Susana Vijaya is currently applying for residency, so that she live on Cortes permanently.