Soul Man: Omar, MBE

Soul legend Omar Lye-Fook talks to The London Word ahead of his seventh album The Man…

Omar is an established figure in the music industry, having worked for decades and collaborated with the great and the good, such as Stevie Wonder and Angie Stone. Earlier this month he accepted an MBE for his contribution to the country’s cultural life.

‘It’s not been a bad start to the year, picking up an award from the Palace,’ he says. ‘With that and the new album out, it’s been all systems go.’

Vindication to him surely – not that any is needed – of Mark Lamarr’s questioning Omar’s significance on Never Mind the Buzzcocks in 2003 when he said the singer would require a Blockbuster card to confirm his identity to anyone. ‘That wasn’t even true at the time and we proved it,’ he laughs.

‘If I haven’t been seen, it’s because I’ve been really busy.’

As well as his general tours Omar has been performing a sell-out one-man play directed by Che Walker for the last four years called Lovesong. It came about after he was telling anecdotes and someone said they ought to be turned into a play.

‘It’s just me yammering away for 50 minutes,’ he says.

And when he’s not doing all that, Omar is busy producing. At the moment he’s working with a Danish artist and his brother on a separate project.

‘So it’s not as if I’ve just been gathering dust!’

Was he surprised to win the award? ‘I was told that I had been nominated for it, and that there was a big process to go through.  So I hadn’t really paid much attention to it or expected anything to come of it.’

He says for him the award is recognition from the highest of offices. ‘I’ve been making music for 30 years now, and I have an established sound that you know is Omar.’

Prince Charles asked him to drop off the new album when it’s finished. ‘But I don’t know if the Queen listens to my music on her iPod or not!’

What can expect from the new album? ‘If you know my music, you will know it’s me. It’s very much an evolution of what I do, with jazz, Latin, soul, and reggae.’

He says each of the 13 songs on the album encapsulate a different mood, with some really exciting sounds.

Omar lives near Croydon, but also spends time in Hove where his family is. Does he consider himself to be a ‘London artist? ‘Yes. I know all the backstreets, I’m London born and bred.’

England’s musical heritage is unique, he says. ‘A lot of my London culture was brought from Jamaica, mixed in with Englishness. That has created a unique sound that you don’t get in the States. Our heritage is West Indian, with a prevalence of reggae music. We created genres likes jungle and grime.

‘The music is very heavy on the base line, which also seems to be very unique. Elsewhere people tend to emphasis the chords and rhythm.’

Omar’s 7th album The Man is expected to be released in June for more information visit omarmusic.co.uk

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