The BOKS of Rock: A Returned Volunteer Returns to his Musical Roots
By Catherine Chumakov on Friday, March 29th, 2013
Sometimes, life just happens. That was case for Steve Latin-Kasper, a drummer and keyboard player for the band The BOKS of Rock, who started his music career while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Marshall Islands from 1981-83.
Steve’s tour started auspiciously enough. During training he met a fellow Volunteer, Molli Latin, who would eventually become his wife. He was posted to the outer atoll of Lae and didn’t see another Volunteer for his entire first year.
But then a drought struck Lae, leading to a lack of fresh water for two weeks, Steve found himself suffering from intestinal blockage due to the lack of water and after being hospitalized, consequently went back to the district center, Majuro, instead of returning to Lae.
Despite the Peace Corps nurse’s recommendations to end Steve’s tour of duty, the Peace Corps allowed him to stay in Majuro so that he could write a 5-Year Economic Development Plan, which would allow the Marshall Islands to become a member in of the United Nations. It was Steve’s economic degree that allowed him to stay in Majuro, and consequently meet Marc LaPlate, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who was connected to Marshallese musicians in a band.
When they found out Steve was a drummer, they decided to incorporate him into their group and created a new band, named Dri Karere Ran, which is Marshallese for “people of different types that come together.” The band became very popular locally, and 30 years later their music is still being played on local radio.
After Peace Corps, Steve and Molli moved back to the U.S. and settled in Milwaukee.
Career happened. Family happened. And then the kids grew up.
About three years ago, Steve found that he once again had some time for himself–and that the urge to make music was still there. He discovered that a guy in his bowling league, Bill Ostrowski, was a guitar player. Together they created The BOKS of Rock, a self-described “fiercely independent garage/attic/basement band” that’s a fusion of surf, psychedelic, folk, classic and contemporary rock.
Fast forward three years, and they had recorded enough material to make an album. “While I didn’t write songs for Dri Karere Ran, I wrote about 20 songs while I was in the Marshall Islands for future use,” says Steve. “Little did I know how long those songs would have to wait to be recorded and heard. When final decisions were made regarding which songs we would include on our debut album, three of the songs written during my Peace Corps tour of duty survived: ‘Perambulate,’ ‘Cosmically Connected’ and ‘Woman Warrior.’”
‘Women Warrior,’ which is about women in the Peace Corps, is particularly meaningful to Steve.
“One thing that was indelibly burned into my consciousness while serving my tour of duty was that Peace Corps was in fact a tough job.” says Steve. “The truth is it was tougher for the women than it was for the men. They had to deal with stuff that the guys just didn’t have to worry about. Most of the female-centric issues derived from culturally driven intolerance. Some of it was simply about men behaving badly, of which I have multiple long stories. The amazing thing was how effective Peace Corps women were and are. The legacies they have left behind them all over the world should be more celebrated, but then again, none of them did what they did thinking that they deserved attention for it.”
For now Steve is keeping his day job, working as an economist and teaching economics part-time at the local vo-tech college. But he’s eager to share his music with the Peace Corps community. You can check it out at http://boksofrock.com