Roger David aka Bohemia, the American-Pakistani Punjabi rapper rocked his fans at The Powerstation in Mt Eden on Saturday, February 11. Considered the first Punjabi rapper who brought a revolution into Punjabi music, Bohemia is known for eccentric lyrics inspired from his rough childhood memories and his love for poetry. This was his second performance in New Zealand in the last two years.
The crowd went ecstatic with Bohemia’s grand entrance to the stage. Clad in his signature hoodie jacket, track pant, and a skull cap, the rap star delivered his hit numbers such as Sahara, 420, Diwana, Aitbaar, Tera Pyar and Zamana Jalli and Meri Jeet from his 2017 album Skull and Bones.
Speaking to Indian Weekender, Bohemia got nostalgic sharing his journey that began with small gigs in California. Excerpts from the interview below.
IWK: How did you get your first break in the music industry?
Bohemia: I had a rough start moving to the United States from Pakistan. My mum passed away, and we went through from both financial and emotional troubles. For almost two years in California, I roamed on streets, without any goal and like a homeless person.
Back in Pakistan, I used to play keyboard, which came to my rescue in the US. I made some friends there who asked me to play the keyboard for them, did gigs with them, hung out in the studio, and that is where it all started. I used to perform at parties, and one day, I realised that I was more than just a keyboard player. I didn’t want to be just another face. I wanted to do something original so that people would remember me and my work. I picked up the pen and started writing songs and that changed everything. My first independent Vich Pardesa de was an instant hit and reached Top 10 on BBC Radio in 2002.
IWK: How would you say you have evolved in the last one-and-half decade?
Bohemia: The music industry is one of the most dynamic and rapidly changing industries. There has to be a new song, a hot song now and then; that is the trend. Most singers have become trend followers instead of becoming trendsetters. My fan following has grown over the years, and they love me for the songs I did 10 years back, and they are used to the ‘Bohemian Era’—the Punjabi rap era I introduced. Whenever I do my shows, I make sure I have my old hit songs in the playlist. It is incredible to see how the crowd connects to them and their hoots are my reward.
As a person, yes, I have evolved to be a better person and a settled family man.
IWK: Tell us about your latest album Skull & Bones.
Bohemia: My latest album is me going 15 years back when I started this venture. The album is entirely produced by me, right from the lyrics, composition, music, recording, designing the graphics, and the video. I have made that album from a mindset of an adolescent, someone who is rough, yet has delicate emotions, is new to the industry and a mind that has a thousand thoughts to share.
IWK: Any Bollywood projects in the pipeline for you?
Bohemia: I worked with Akki paaji (Akshay Kumar) previously in Chandni Chowk to China, his Hollywood production Breakaway, 8x10 Tasveer, and Desi Boyz. For a while, I abandoned Bollywood and wanted to work more on my rap music, but now I am open to experimentation and Bollywood too.
IWK: What is your message to your fans?
Bohemia: Stick to your roots, read books, study, and educate yourself, that is the key to success. Someone who has started from a scratch, from a very low level, knows how to build an empire. No matter what you aim to do, immerse yourself in it. The pain is always momentary, but the outcome will always be rewarding, that too, in the long run. My album Skull & Bones that I produced as a one-man band wouldn’t have been possible had I not known every aspect of making music, from scratch to the polished final product.