Roger David (born 15 October 1979), better known by his stage name Bohemia (Urdu: بوہیمیا) or Raja is a Pakistani-American rapper, songwriter and record producer from California regarded as the first ever Punjabi rapper, releasing the first Punjabi rap album in 2002.
Bohemia was born on 15 October 1979 in Karachi, Sindh into an ethnic Punjabi, Christian family. He also has a bible and a guru granth sahib at his home, as one of his forefathers was Sikh at one point. His father was an employee at Pakistan International Airline. The family were transferred to Lahore, where he spent his childhood, followed by seven years in Peshawar. While he was in his early teens his family moved to the United States, settling in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Bohemia started learning music from his father, and writing Punjabi poetry around that time. He occasionally played keyboards at local Desi events. He wrote songs and poetry, mostly in Urdu and Punjabi. His mother died of cancer when he was 16 years old. At the same time he got a job at a recording studio in Sacramento. He dropped out of school and left his family to become a full-time musician. Along with a group of other musicians, he toured and playing gigs in the US and Canada, sleeping in cars and on recording studio floors.
He moved to join his cousin in Oakland, who was working at a West Oakland recording studio, and introduced him to a young hip hop producer called Sha One. Sha heard Bohemia reciting something he had written in Punjabi, and asked him to rap it over one of his beats. Over the next few months, Bohemia wrote the lyrics for his debut album Vich Pardesan De (In The Foreign Land) – an autobiographical story of his life as a Desi youngster adapting to life in the US. This album was a new genre of music which is today known as Desi Hip hop. Bohemia claims to be inspired by the poets Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mirza Ghalib and Allama Iqbal. He said in an interview, “People like Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Mirza Ghalib are our icons and most of my poetry is inspired by them. For instance, in one of my songs, I talk about ‘going beyond the stars’, the idea of which is essentially taken from Allama Iqbal’s ‘Sitaron Se Aagay Jahan Aur Bhi Hain’.”
His independent debut album, Vich Pardesan De reached the Top 10 on BBC Radio UK in 2002. The following album, Pesa nasha pyar [Money, intoxication, love became the first full-length Punjabi rap album released by a major label. He subsequently signed a multi-record deal with music label Universal Music Group [2006 – 2009]. In 2006 Pesa nasha pyar was on the Top 10 downloads of Maxim, and No. 3 on Planet M chart India. Da rap star, his third album, received four nominations at the UK Asian Music Awards and PTC Punjabi music awards It also remained at No. 1 on Planet M chart several weeks. Bohemia toured in 2009. performing in North America, Australia, Europe and Asia. He has appeared on several of Universal India’s compilations.
He performed the title track for Warner Bros film Chandni Chowk to China, appearing in the film with Akshay Kumar and Deepika Padukone. A few months later he did the title track for another Akshay Kumar film, 8 x 10 Tasveer. In 2011 he gave a song as a present to Akshay Kumar for his first Hollywood Production Breakaway. Bohemia also made a voice performance for the film Desi Boyz to set the cameo scene for Sanjay Dutt. In September 2012 he released his fourth album Thousand thoughts. In 2013, it won Best Non-Resident Punjabi Album award at PTC Punjabi Music Awards. At the Coke Studio Sessions he was the first rap artist, appearing in their fifth season where he performed three songs. Bohemia has also recorded a collaboration with Sonu Kakkar and Jamaican American artist Sean Kingston.
In May 2012, Sony Music India signed Bohemia. As part of the association, Sony Music managed his music albums, launches and shows under its artist management program. In 2014 Bohemia decided to go independent under his own music label Kali Denali Music. Bohemia appeared in XXL magazine in New York.