“It really does not matter how many people believe in you, you have to believe in yourself and that is sometimes the hardest thing. But always remember that there is no one that can do what you were born to do exactly the way you were born to do it – do not rob the world of your imprint” – Ryan Hoppie
From the auditions to the finals, Ryan Hoppie was a favourite both with the judges and viewers alike. Just the announcement of his name would set off applause in the National Cultural Centre. His winning of the English segment of the 2013 GT&T Jingle and Song Competition was especially well received. But it was not a foregone conclusion. This was not the first time Ryan entered the competition. He confessed that he was booted out of the 2009 season.
To begin with, Ryan expressed that he came from a family of great talent. His late uncle Billy Vieira was a classical musician. He also has numerous cousins
and even some of his siblings who are striving to get into the music business both locally and internationally.
He has been part in schools’ and churches’ choirs at different levels but music really became a part of him in high school. His music teacher at St Joseph High Mr Evelyn worked really hard with a few students who he really believed had the potential to do great things musically. So Ryan was taught how to read music and play a few songs on the piano. He took part in graduation exercises and held his own instrument in the steel band orchestra at school.
“Nothing was most memorable than to sing at my graduating exercise. It was nerve wrecking when the item on our programme was changed from a trio to a solo at the last minute but it came out successful. From then until now I am still in love with music,” he said.
Asked what made him return to the jingle competition four years after his elimination, Ryan said, “There were several reasons why that happened [being dropped from the competition] which is in the past but what I will say is that having the flu and being called to a second audition instantaneously is not a good combination for any singer’s career. My family and friends actually steered me into this year’s competition amidst my umpteen nos.
“Those who felt it wasn’t right – well enough about that. I would prefer to focus on the overwhelming support from my Pastors Apostle Claude and Carole Brooks, those who prayed me through it, those who came out and supported at the competition rounds and those who worked really hard. Those who took time out to encourage and share their love, I’m sure as the world watched and listened, those are the ones who go down in history.”
Ryan said God is his source and Jesus Christ his Lord and Saviour. He said that he thanks Him daily for loving an imperfect soul like himself, “…This is really my testimony of reaching this far in life. This is what I know – that God has been gracious to me, my experiences in life and that of others inspire and motivate me to write and sing and through God and His grace I live.”
As a musician, he noted, you have to be open-minded lest you become lost in your own craft. He is a big fan of Eddie Neblett, not just his music and dedication but the humble person behind it.
Added to his list of musical inspirations are DJ Nicholas, Sherwin Gardener and Kirk Franklyn. He mentioned that such a list would not be complete without John Legend, Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys and last, but by no means least, the legends – Michael Jackson, whom he grew up listening to and Whitney Houston.
His preferable genre of singing would be indefinitely Rhythm & Beat. “Music is where my voice becomes that of thousands of the voiceless souls. It means so much to me I’m lost for words. Almost everything I do involves music,” he remarked.
Singing, he said, was always a part of his image as a child and as his family would often say, “He had this one song he would always sing.”
Ryan is a Georgetown boy. Born 25 years ago in the city, he grew up between Festival City and Lodge with his mother and two siblings; he remembers that they also had the attention and affection of their father.
There were always adventures, especially coming from a paternal family of 13 children most of whom he knows and relates to very well. Sunday school and crusades were part of his childhood years and as a young teen he began doing child evangelism and assisting at church camps amongst other activities. His mother made sure that church was a priority and where education was concerned, both his parents spent vast amounts of time making sure that he got his schoolwork done.
Holidays and celebrations were always about family, he said. They would also “religiously” go to the creek on Sundays after church and action movies were the order of the day.
Ryan expressed that church was always the cornerstone of his life and he was fortunate to perform at national events at a tender age. Some such memorable events are Republic Day celebrations and the commissioning of the Rights of a Child Monument. So from a young age his neighbours and friends knew he was a trendsetter. He believed the same of them and they would all challenge each other to do great things. “We wanted to change the world,” he said.
Roller skating and distance running were some of his hobbies as a child and he liked school very much. He was always a fan of seafood; he attributes this to his father who specialised in the packaging and exporting of same. Ryan noted that his father employed several persons from the neighbourhood who became more or less the eyes that would watch him and his siblings as they went on their expeditions of fruit picking and childhood games like ‘War Break’, ‘Hide and Seek’, ‘Saul Out’ and ‘100 Meter Dashes’ (not like they knew the measurements for sure but they made their own measuring pronouncements.)
“Festival City and Lodge were quite different structurally but the people were warm in most instances,” he stated.
Ryan attended the now defunct Sacred Heart Primary School, St Joseph High and he is currently awaiting his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from the Univer-sity of Guyana. Ryan campaigned for the 2012 University of Guyana Students Society (UGSS) presidential elections but his party, Revolutionaries, failed to meet the deadline to enter the elections which made the only opposition party at the time, Students Empowerment Alliance run by Ganesh Mahipaul win by default.
The 2013 Jingle and Song winner is also a certified by the Christian Crisis Counselling Services, Wesleyan Bible College.
Going forward, Ryan plans on using his new title and spotlight to enter the music industry on a larger platform, but that is still in the planning stage.
Ryan won a car and $1 million in the competition and said he will “sit and discuss with those I trust and value greatly what are some of the best investments. This much I will say: Some will go into assisting those in need through my youth oriented organisation Come Alive Network. As for the newly earned fame, I really hope to shed light and push the shovel to the soil on social ills I see in Guyana. I have a greater support team and I network a lot so this will be a legitimate mechanism to get things done for those who need more than a hand-out.
“As an artiste, I am already representing my country on the international stage and I hope that it unfolds to a much greater extent in the years to come. In some regards, my team has bigger dreams for me than I have for myself and I’m not ashamed to say I have some catching up to do but I will get there – we all do need that push sometimes. I will be working diligently with a very dedicated and creative team.”
He said that doing music differently is always a risk but you have to be willing to take that risk. “Our people listen to it and they go to the shows, we just need to have it packaged right and marketed aggressively in Guyana. It is not a walk in the park but it’s a walk worth taking and if people can identify with it then you reach the people. The other part is making them enjoy what they listen to and it has to do with giving your best, putting love into your music.”
Harking back to the competition, he revealed that before his performance at the final, there was a lot of panicking and deep breathing, and then there was a sudden mishap that broke his focus but he knew he had the perfect team working backstage as well as on stage with him and they held it together so.
“After the applause, screams and standing ovation, I knew Guyana was pleased and the judges echoed the sentiments of the audience.
“When I was announced the winner I was more than elated. Flashes of the journey kept coming to me and I was just grateful to God for giving this one to my family, my team and I. We fought really hard at the end and we finished strong.”
But that was not his most challenging moment in the competition. In fact, it was performing Machel Montano’s “De Vibes Cyah Done”, lyrically and energy wise. “It was not easy at all doing choreography for a Soca song while trying to make it more than just a song. And as a spokesman for youth development I had to alter the lyrics which the GT&T team was very gracious in allowing,” he said.
A typical Ryan Hoppie day would be spent watching cartoons and when he is not in front the television he would be focused on one of the many organisations he is a part of. In 2012 he founded Come Alive Network, an organisation that has begun to mature and fulfil its commitments to local communities. Ryan is a Global Shaper, Vice President of the St Joseph Alumni Association, Mentor on the United States Georgetown Embassy Youth Ambassadors Programme, outgoing Project Manager Fellow for One World Youth Project Guyana among other things.
He likes reading, writing songs, playing video games (mostly combat games) and is good with virtual football, swimming though he expresses that he is nothing close to a great swimmer. “I think I would be selling myself short if I forget to include Facebook and hanging with friends while enjoying junk food,” he said.
He has worked on several USAID and Global Fund projects but said he has dedicated his time to his organisation and university for the past year.
As for plans in the future: winning the competition has Ryan rethinking a few things so he didn’t say much, only to reveal that he plans on entering politics eventually, having his own family and furthering his education in international relations and law.
He is working on releasing a single in the upcoming months but no exact date has been set.