"I hated my first single, 'Mr Postman,' so much that I didn't want to hear it again." So says UK soul grandee, OMAR LYE-FOOK, MBE, who accompanies this statement with a gravelly chuckle. "This was 1984 and after two weeks of hearing it, I couldn't stand it," he explains. "So from that point, any music that I made, I had to like because you've got to play it for the rest of your life."
Six years later, and, Omar, now 22, came up with a song that he could listen to repeatedly. It was called 'There's Nothing Like This.' "When I wrote that song, I made a demo of it and put it on a 90-minute cassette," he says. "There was 45 minutes on one side of just that song and it played and played and played. Nobody got bored of it so that was a sign that it was going to be quite a big hit."
Indeed, it was, and for many soul fans of a certain age, it was the song that represented their first acquaintance with OMAR's music. It was back in the summer of 1991 when Acid Jazz was the hip and exciting new currency in the world of British R&B and bands like the Brand New Heavies, Incognito, and the Young Disciples were setting the pace. OMAR, then 23 - a multi-instrumentalist and former percussionist for the Kent Youth Orchestra - was a label mate of the latter two groups (on Gilles Peterson's influential Talkin' Loud imprint) and broke into the UK charts with 'There's Nothing Like This.' With its summery vibe, feel-good groove and addictive chorus, for many people that particular song came to encapsulate a special moment in time and was adopted as an anthem.
'There's Nothing Like This' remains one of the highpoints in OMAR's canon even though it was recorded almost thirty years ago. Though its success has eclipsed almost everything else he has done in commercial terms, he doesn't view it as a heavy and uncomfortable albatross around his neck. "No, I'm very happy with it," he tells SJF. "If that's the only song of mine that people know then at least they can start with that one and then get to learn the rest," he laughs. He then reveals that some people, when they recognise him, often approach him singing the 'There's Nothing Like This's' chorus line. "For the most part it's fine," he says, "but when you're trying to meet someone or get a private moment, and people come up to you singing it, you think 'not right this second!'"
But 48-year-old OMAR - who was awarded an MBE in 2012 for his services to music - isn't content to rest on his laurels and live in the past. Though not a prolific recording artist, there's been a fairly steady stream of music during the last 25 years and now he's now about to release his eighth album, 'Love In Beats,' which follows in the wake of 2013's critically-acclaimed 'The Man.' The new LP - which features noteworthy cameos from keyboardist-of-the-moment, Robert Glasper, soul veteran, Leon Ware, spoken-word specialist the Floacist (aka Natalie Stewart) and singer Natasha Watts, to name a few - is an eclectic collision of soul, funk, jazz and Caribbean flavours that has been masterfully marinated by its genius creator together with his producer brother, Scratch Professor.
In an interview with SJF's Charles Waring, OMAR talks about his new record as well as other fascinating facets of his career, including his aspirations in the world of acting....
Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 January 2017 14:39