A group of girlfriends celebrating a birthday got more than they bargained for when Ray invited them to join him on stage to sing. *Photo by Sarah Lagan
A group of girlfriends celebrating a birthday got more than they bargained for when Ray invited them to join him on stage to sing. *Photo by Sarah Lagan

FRIDAY, JUNE 17: He’s bold, he’s brash and he’s back.

After a two-year spell off the island, the much-loved music man Ray Pasanen has been belting out the island’s favourite songs at The Swizzle Inn at Bailey’s Bay.

He is known for his extremely rich repertoire from rock to reggae to rap, and his penchant for free shots of Jagermeister, courtesy of his many doting fans.

He has played here on a string of temporary permits for up to 8 months at a time over the past 13 years but in February 2009, government decided he should stay off island for a full two years.

He has been living in Germany during that time but now, armed with just a semi-acoustic guitar and a mean vocal range, he has well and truly put the swagger back into the Swizzle.

When I attended a gig a couple of weeks ago, the bar was packed to the rafters, the dance floor was bouncing and members of  the audience were joining Ray on stage for a sing-along. He was performing all kinds of requests and he even had a few new songs under his belt.

“It’s so funny — I was living in a tight knit community in Bailey’s Bay and they would ask for Shaggy and that kind of music,” he recalls. “When I went to Germany I thought, ‘go on then I’ll learn some 50 Cent and even some Justin Timberlake’.”

While the audience marvels at this 42-year-old man on guitar belting out songs like What Up Gangster and In Da Club, this type of music is not exactly where his heart lies.

“I love the classic rock — if I was born 20 years earlier I could have been someone like Freddie Mercury or Phil Collins,” he hankers. “But I happened to be born in an era where Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera are the stars.”

Ray says his favourite band in the world is The Beatles.

“They wrote the perfect songs. My favourite is probably George Harrison’s Something In The Way — how can you write anything better than that?”

Music has been Ray’s sole source of income since he was fourteen. At the age of eight he was playing trumpet, sax, drums and guitar. He spent the rest of his life playing in pubs and clubs around the world and even opened for the legendary Johnny Cash once.

Ray performs at the Swizzle from Thursday to Monday when Bermudians, expats and tourists alike get together to enjoy this great party atmosphere.