Singer/songwriter Roger ‘Roger B’ Bowen is making a name for himself throughout Guyana singing his own music as well as covers. For the year so far, he has performed an average of 30 shows countrywide and has been truly turning up the crowd.
Roger performs oldies, dancehall, jazz, R&B and Hip Hop, but is most known for his Soca numbers. His latest single “Tequila” was released only yesterday, on the WR Reaz’s show.
According to Roger, while at Alleyne’s High School he took to dancehall music with some of his peers. Interschool sports, he said, was a most anticipated day when other guys like himself formed themselves into groups representing their respective schools and had a ‘riff off’ (song battle). It was these battles that led to Roger wanting to take up singing.
Upon leaving school, he joined the Mischievous Guys Band and thereafter, Mingles Sound Machine, before finding himself in the Flamme Band and then the Guyana Police Force Band, while he was a police constable. Now a civilian again, he performs solo.
His father, he said, is his biggest supporter. “The first time my father saw me perform, he was amazed and excited. He had always known I was a part of Mischievous Guys Band but had never heard me sing. The first time he would was when I performed at the Soca Monarch competition. It was then that he realized it was all of that,” Roger said in a sit down with The Scene.
He went on to say that had his mother been alive this probably would not have been. Roger lost his mother at the tender age of five, but from the little he could remember she seemed to be a strict woman who would have never allowed her son to get into singing soca and dancehall music. He added that he even enquired about this from family members who agreed with his conclusion.
But the fact is that Roger cannot not go a day without music. “Music is my passion,” he said. “I’m addicted to it…. Every decision I make in life actually surrounds music.”
Over the years he’s gathered a few of his own inspirations, some of whom are his mentors, some he performed with and those he’s never met but enjoyed their music and what they brought with them to the industry. Soca diva Michelle ‘Big Red’ King and Cyd Hooper were his mentors in finding his voice and were the ones who encouraged him to find his true self in his performance art. What he started doing was researching artistes who were prevailing in the various genre areas, and try to figure how it was that they attained the level they reached then watching their videos. He gained his own ideas and trying not to imitate them he created his own performance style. A few of these artistes were Machel Montano, Buju Banton, Ne-Yo and one of his all-time favourites, R Kelly.
Roger has had the privilege through Mingles Band to open shows for some of the finest artistes including: R Kelly, Ne-Yo, Beres Hammond, Romain Virgo and Morgan Heritage.
However, while music is his life Roger believes that the music industry in Guyana is being stifled because of the copyright issue.
“The biggest frustration is putting a lot of money into making a song and the persons who are really making the money are the people who push the carts. Why would I want to spend $80,000 making a track when I’m not sure I’ll get it back? So that’s the reason I stick to doing mostly covers.”
Life as a musician in Guyana, he went on, is vastly different from in the US or the Caribbean. Whilst persons overseas can make a career out of their music, in Guyana music isn’t profitable and artistes are therefore forced to take their passion and make it a ‘side gig’ while they work a nine-to-five job in order to get by. While foreign artistes can take days upon days perfecting a song, local artistes have no other choice but to make do with a few hours in the studios here. Fans therefore are shortchanged, getting only what artistes here can afford of their time and finance instead of getting their best. As he puts it, all the fans get is “smoke” when they should be getting fire.
Having heard from previous complaints from local artistes of being treated totally different by their promoters from those who come here to perform The Scene asked for his take on this matter. Roger feels differently about it. He believes that local artists should not compare themselves to foreign artists as they are not afforded all that is needed to make quality music and as such would not have put the same time and effort into recording their songs. Promoters, he indicated, act on the likes of fans and bring the persons they want to hear. For a long time local artistes have been complaining of their songs not having enough airplay. This however, has changed over the years and although Roger agrees, he strongly believes that if there’s an increase in airplay of Guyanese music, then it would be much easier to create a stronger fan base for local artistes.
So far his best show to have performed at was the Banks Carifesta Super Concert (Carifesta X 2008). Seeing the crowd sent Roger into a nervous state, which resulted in him sweating profusely as he stepped onstage to perform his song. However, throughout his performance the people gyrated and sang and at the end cheers and applause rained down and he truly had an amazing time after performing for the eager crowd four more songs.
However, when Roger puts microphone to his mouth, it’s not always a boisterous occasion. As the saying goes ‘after laugh is cry’ and something similar to this happened when he performed “Bruk Off Yuh Back” at Bath Settlement, Berbice earlier this year. At the height of his performance, a drunken fan dancing onstage sought to make a show of himself with a backflip off the stage which saw him landing on his neck instead. The fan sustained a concussion and this brought the curtains down on the show. According to Roger, as much as he wants his fans to enjoy his shows, he never wants it to get that far.
But that’s just one of many shows Roger has been setting on fire. Recently, he performed at his first Mother’s Day show at the MSC Ground in Linden. Stepping onstage with the memory of his beloved mother at heart he sang to the mothers in the crowd. He serenaded them with “Knock On Wood,” “Turn Back the Hands of Time” by Tyrone Davis and “Caribbean Queen”.
Roger B the performer is totally different from Roger the man, according to the artist who describes himself as reserved, but a total transformation happens once he steps onstage. “When I’m onstage, I’m in a totally different world. When people who know me see me perform, they are shocked and would tell me ‘I didn’t know you could do all of this’.” His newest song “Tequila” is a Soca/Chutney mix featuring Steven Rampaul. Though this makes number five on his list of singles to date, Roger who is currently attached to DP (Darrell Pugsley) Productions is expected to release his first album next year.
When he’s not busy he enjoys playing cricket, football, basketball and reading inspirational books.
Roger is in pursuit of taking his music to an international level. He currently performs at the Pegasus Hotel on weekends in the evenings (Fridays and Saturdays).
Roger’s songs can be viewed via Facebook Fan Page ‘Roger B Music’.