With vocal capabilities that set him apart from the rest, hands down the most versatile artist hailing out of the island of St. Lucia is Bob Monroe. Formally known as Cylva J (Level 4), this poignant lyricist, singer, songwriter, and musician embodies St. Lucian music. He seamlessly weaves between Lovers Rock, Dancehall, R&B, Soca, and folk-themed songs utilizing Kwéyὸl (St. Lucian French patois) into a repertoire to be reckoned with. After a brief hiatus, Bob Monroe steps back into the video light as he releases his latest single “Wet” and introduces us to the land he loves.
WBM: Who is Bob Monroe and where are you from?
BOB: My name is Clement Henry, born a St. Lucian on the 27th of February 1979 — 34 years of age.
WBM: Can you tell us how growing up in St. Lucia has help to shape you as an artist?
BOB: I reside in the eastern part of the island, in the town of Micoud. In this community the residents are heavily dependent on farming and fishing as a result of the town’s geographical location; thus my father was a prominent farmer and passed on much of his knowledge and farming lifestyle to me and my brothers. Micoud is also a place closely connected to its culture and folk practices, which is where the music comes in.
My mother was born into a family where St. Lucian music and culture was deeply cherished and appreciated. She always used to share her childhood stories with me and my brothers about how she and her siblings loved to dance, and entertain themselves and people. Her brothers were musicians and they [she and her sisters] were the dancers, dancing to what is called quadrille, a St. Lucian folk dance.
WBM: How long have you been in the music industry and how did you get your start?
BOB: I am 34 years of age now…I can safely say that I have been into music for as long as I have known myself. As a little boy I was always around my older brothers who, themselves, were into music. They had formed a band, and I vividly remember them practicing, sometimes in the sitting room or in their band room. The house was always sounding with music, whether radio, TV or live – from my brothers.
There was no escaping music for me. I was born in it and it in me, so call me a music man. One day I remembered one of my brothers heard me sing, and he came and watched me, and then I stopped. So he asked me to sing again, and he told me that I have a great voice. I must have been about five or six.
WBM: When did you know this was something you wanted to pursue?
BOB: It was when I entered secondary school I really started down the road of music; I sang at shows, karaoke, and other public functions, even church. I realized that I had a deep passion for music ‘cause it was about the only thing that eased me — when I listened to it, or sang, or participated in some way in a musical activity. I started to write, and learned to play the guitar, bass and drums. It came natural to me and I never grew tired of it…I was never bored with it.
Seeing how many world renowned artists rose to fame and made a life for themselves [through music], the great Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, the Beatles, just to name a few… made me realise that I can make my own mark too. I thought to myself, “If I have a gift, I can make it in life, if I just use it to plow my way in life.” I must just keep at it.
WBM: How would you describe your musical style, and are there any particular musicians or genres that have influenced you?
BOB: Being around my brothers, they listened to a lot of reggae, but there was also soul music, rock, and jazz. They had an appreciation for many genres, so I was exposed to all of that and thus influenced. I think that, in itself, moulded me, somewhat, to sing anything – any style.
Right now, all who know me tell me that among all Lucian artists they can always know when my music is playing ‘cause I sound unique; different from everybody else…it’s like am not trying to copy any style. To name a few, I liked Bob Marley — a lot — Boyz II Men, Jacob “Killer” Miller, Peter Tosh, Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart, [and] Bryan Adams.
WBM: What opportunities have the world of music opened up for you?
BOB: My talent has garnered me some attention in that I have performed on stage, opening shows for the likes of Sizzla Kalonji and Third World. I also have done many gigs at the world-renowned St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, including main stage performance.
WBM: Who is your dream artist or producer to work with?
BOB: I won’t say that I have a dream producer to work with, ‘cause to me greatness has no prejudices — it can come from anywhere. Once work is being done towards accomplishing the best of efforts from anyone, the sky is the limit!
WBM: What does it mean to be a musician in 2013?
BOB: Not matter what time you are in, being a musician, for me, never changes. You’ve got a talent, you create, relate, and your fans love and appreciate. Once you got that going, you’re bound to move forward.
WBM: Define success.
BOB: Success to me is when you see the positive result of your work; knowing that your music and message reaches people and they appreciate your talent. This is the biggest talent any singer or music man can truly have.
WBM: What’s one thing that many don’t know about you?
BOB: Something that people don’t know about me…I like egg whites! (Laughs)
WBM: What’s next?
BOB: I am keeping the fire burning and continuing to create. Never stopping. So expect to hear new stuff soon.
WBM: Any advice for those looking to pursue their goals and dreams?
BOB: My advice to anyone pursuing a musical career is, always remain true to yourself, no matter what, stay original; be positive and open minded, and most of all, you must be willing to go the distance. If not, forget it.