It took 16 years for Young Bill Rogers to win the calypso crown and he deserves an equal amount of time to reign solely because of his undying commitment and solid resolve.
No other local calypsonian has worked harder to keep the art form alive outside the annual Mashramani competition, and very few can boast of being as knowledgeable as he is with respect to the fine details of where to find which calypsonian and where they might be at a particular time.
Young Bill Rogers probably had an early advantage though by growing up in a home where calypso was breakfast, lunch and dinner compliments of his father, the late Bill Rogers. Music was all he knew and was interested in, and in an interview with The Scene yesterday, he said he has no regrets over following in his father’s footsteps.
When he edged his way to the calypso monarchy in Linden a week ago after a close battle with Lindener, Lester “The Professor” Charles, Rogers had very little concern about the winning margin. All he cared for was the crown, a crown that he had waited 16 years for.
“I am happy, extremely happy because my hard work has paid off, my dedication has paid off. My family is proud and my father is too,” the calypsonian said.
Rogers revealed that he was feeling a bit shaky after his performance in Linden because of the last minute surge by The Professor. For a minute, he was even worried that the crown which seemed so close after he won the semi-finals in Bartica was slipping away largely due to the sentiments of the home crowd that was passionately backing The Professor.
But when his name was called, he felt assured that the piece he sat and wrote last September had done what he believed it could do — win him his first monarchy. Rogers said the song, “We’re Still a Paradise” was meant to send two messages to the public. First, that Guyana has had its full share of problems, from crime to corruption to tax burdens and cost of living issues. And second, that in spite of everything the country is a paradise.
According to him, the song seemed a winner from the beginning and following a chat with fellow calypsonian and former monarch, Camille ‘Tempest Goliah, he was confident that it was.
“Tempest heard it and told me from day one that it was going to win. She said that it was the kind of song that people can relate to and enjoy. She was so sure that I had no choice but to be as sure,” he said.
He admitted that a few persons including Tempest told him to watch the Linden guy on the night of the finals but pointed out that they believed he was the winner.
Rogers said he has had years of support from many persons in the arena such as Tempest, Rebel, Lord Canary and others. He said they encouraged him in the days when he was knocked out early in the competition, and kept him believing that winning the title was still possible.
In addition, he has a love for calypso that is deep. Rogers said though his entry into it was difficult at first, he persisted and kept going back until he started making semi-finals and finals. Since 1997, he has been a consistent performer and has finished strong in a few competitions.
In 1998 he finished third, in 2006 he came fourth and he has a several other notable finishes. Rogers said he knew the monarchy was in sight and just kept working towards it without letting up.
As to whether he feels it was long overdue, he said a definite yes. Rogers has represented Guyana at Carifesta calypso competitions and has performed creditably. He was in Trinidad in 2006.
Rogers pointed out that though calypso is his love, he has another. He has embraced Shanto over the years and is the undisputed Shanto king in the country having won five titles.
He recently re-recorded the song, “Fifteen Cents Sweetheart”, which his father originally released in 1934 and is currently working on a biography of his father that he hopes to have published before Carifesta.
When the Caribbean Single Market and Economy was introduced in the region, Rogers joined Caribbean Vision, a cultural regional group that toured the region informing young people about CSME. Rogers has also shared the stage with the likes of Kurt Alleyne; the Mighty Gabby, Singing Sandra and Allison Hinds among others.
Since sponsorship is difficult to attract, he expressed his gratitude to sponsors – Giftland Office Max, Western Union, G&R Bovell Construction and White Castle Fish Shop. He also made mention of his tailor, Vinoo who works on Robb Street and who has been outfitting him for competition since 1997. (firstname.lastname@example.org)