Blowing Harp
Bobby Rieman Unique Musical Contribution to Roatan

April 1st, 2006
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[private] v4-4-Arts & Music-Bobby Rieman
Bobby Rieman arrived on Roatan in 1973 with little more than a harmonica in his pocket. He has always loved music. For as long as Bobby can remember he has found himself especially drawn to rhythm and blues. As a kid he had some preliminary guitar lessons and he learned to play a few chords and a few simple songs.

For a while, during high school and college, music took a back seat to his new found talent on the football field. It wasn’t until he began his travels that music reestablished its place in Bobby’s life. “I always traveled with a harmonica in my pocket. It kept me company in a way.”

At first he played as a way to keep busy in a new place, but soon he was playing back-up for musicians and bands. Bobby remembers feeling embarrassed before his musical skill improved.

Bobby came to Roatan almost by accident, intending instead to go to Brazil. He immediately liked the distinct foreign rhythms of the island and as new as reggae sounds were to Bobby, his “harp” was a new instrument to the local music scene. His harmonica playing cleverly incorporated the reggae influence. “What I really like about the harmonica is that it can be played in so many different musical situations.”

Bobby returned to Roatan in 1981 with a harmonica holder, a guitar and a newly discovered singing voice. He moved to French Harbour and his trio joined the local music scene. He developed his unique style by playing for “shrimpers,” taking requests and any opportunity to improvise. Bobby’s music continued to diversify and in 1996 he found himself in a situation neither he nor his music had experienced beforeā€¦”a band.”

Bringing his talents together with those of other people in a more formal way was an exciting experience. “I saw my solo songs really come to life with a band.” After four years Bobby and his band TUNU released their first album: “Roatanified.”

Six years later and after six months of detail-oriented work, Bobby and the Compadres, as he fondly calls the 11 contributing artists on his new album, released “Pulperia Leah,” his second CD. Bobby explains that “each person has a place on that album that really lets them show off their individual talents.”

The album’s twelve songs tell stories of life on Roatan through Bobby’s mixture of bluesy harmonica and Caribbean reggae exhibiting Bobby’s soulful lyrics. Some of the songs, like “Leavin’ You Babe” are newly recorded versions of those that he played for years. Others, such as “West End Stroll” are witty tales of life on the island.

His stories are realistic and uncomplicated versions of life on Roatan: what the island is and how it is changing. Bobby describes his lyrics as transparent with “nothing hiding behind dreamy language and cryptic words.” He claims that he’s never been able to decide to sit and write a song, but rather that he gets hit with inspiration: often while driving to and from construction sites that he works on. In fact, many a song has been written in the front seat of his truck, pulled over to the side of the road just long enough to jot down his thoughts.

Bobby looks forward to writing as an outlet and never really considered himself to be a great writer. His writing, together with the entirety of his musical style, reflects in his sparkling personality and gentle demeanor. “Pulperia Leah” is a step forward from “Roatanified,” keeping in with the first album’s general style and feel. Pulperia’s songs successfully broaden the scope of the first album. [/private]

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