by Kimberley Cummins
Success may change some people, but don’t expect it to impact on BoBo.
What you see is what you get — the same old Damien Bowen.
As a matter of fact, when a Barbados TODAY team visited his home this morning, although it was evident by the way he was rubbing the sleep from his eyes, that we awoke him from his slumber, he humbly and politely invited us into his sanctuary. Wearing a simple tee-shirt, old cargo pants and bare feet it was hard to believe this was the same man, who just weeks ago, mashed up almost every party and easily dominated radio station. His demeanor was so calm, cool and somewhat reserved.
The last Crop-Over season was one of the best for this artist — Tendency, Boat and Fun Friends had thousands grooving, while in some cases Fun Friends left some wives and girlfriends angry at their significant other.
However, he says his success and ultimate popularity have not sunk in as yet and because of the kind of person he is he doesn’t want it to sink in because he wants “to stay hungry to keep gunning and aiming”.
There is something that is happening to me that never happened before,” he said as he leaned back in his chair to make himself more comfortable.
“I went into Sky Mall with my friends recently and when I walked I hear people whispering ‘That is who is BoBo, that is the fellow that does sing so and so’. That never happen before but that ain’t nothing that gine get to my head. It kind of got me more vigilant because I got to be careful and place a greater sense of responsibility on myself and what I do in the public eye.”
When he said such a thing had never happened before he wasn’t being modest. Before the stardom of 2013, he was for some 15 years grinding hard in the calypso arena. With tunes like Roots and Culture, Mekking It Forward, Lion Pun De Road, Jalepeno and Muddy, he did have a following. Then he wrote and co-wrote for former Pic-O-De-Crop monarch Adrian Clarke Crowd Response, Jungle Life and No Answer (Freudel Ain’t saying nothing) and that fan base got wider, but not to the extent of this year.
“I thankful for [the success]. It has fuelled me to continue and to do it bigger; it has instilled in me a recognition to keep that standard — I am just gonna remain true. My core support hasn’t changed, I have a small group of friends and my life is about my kids, Mekia and Micha — they are my biggest fans.
“I am not the kind of person who makes conversation with people and tell them I am BoBo. Me and you could be talking for weeks and you would not know. I think in terms of my standard, I hold firm to the notion that my standard has always been the standard of BoBo. Those long time fans would say that BoBo hasn’t really changed. It is the crowd that now has grown to appreciate the BoBo.”
Bowen added: “That comforts me because I believe that I don’t have that much pressure knowing that people have really tuned in to my style and flavour — there is now an appreciation of this fellow who is different. That appreciation used to be in the minority, it was really for the connoisseurs and people with some real serious soca appetite.
“Now that it gone into the masses I feel kind of cool because I think I understand what is required more now. I think that I’ve learned from mistakes in life, mistakes I made in terms of songs. I always thought I had good songs but the timing of a song is just as important as the writing of a song. If you don’t have good timing all will be for naught.”
Bowen, who is an accountant, was introduced to soca by his musical godfather, Chris Allman. When he moved into the House of Soca calypso tent, he said it was the likes of veteran entertainers Adonijah and Invader that helped developed the man who many Bajans today admire.
He added: “Those guys would have helped to shape BoBo but of course, you have to follow your own gut and your own vibe and at the end of the day you’ve got to know for you. Combining elements of mentorship from those guys, with the kind of path that I wanted to take, it prepared me for the kind of artist that I am.”
Since that time his approached to music would have changed somewhat. He doesn’t write his material to suit any judging criteria or season, rather he writes for the criteria of life so his music would have no limits. So while the hardcore fans may not have heard a conscious soca from him recently, he is making inroads in other genres like conscious reggaes called Pray To Jah, Support Yuh Own and a soon to be released, Treasure Woman, which has a world music type beat.
“I look at music not just from a soca level but from a musical stand point. I see myself as an artist. It has allowed me to use other genres to get my message across. I think by opening up my writing to many areas, even though it has taken away a little bit of the soca element, what it has allowed me to do is to come into soca and give soca what soca needs for the festival.
“I have tried in the past to add some measure of nutrition to the lyrics to take the art beyond… but what soca needs during festivals is just vibes,” he said.
“I think I understand the formula now to keep that Crop-Over vibe hot, and to give the Crop-Over people what they want and to not lose sight of my vision, which is to take people forward. It is about just trying to see how you can do it differently and that was always my challenge.
“I challenge myself to come harder every year. There are people who would say when they hear my songs they heard some measure of development. You have to be careful as an artist you don’t take your success and try to mirror it to maintain it.
“I will not try to mirror what I did I will try to create something that takes people to where I took them last season using a different vehicle. That will be the challenge and I love it so I’m looking forward to it,” the Queen’s College alumnus said. [email protected]