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Omar

Designated by many as the father of British neo-soul (though his impact extends over to U.S. shores as well), singer/songwriter/producer Omar began as one of the U.K.'s most promising R&B hopefuls with his early-'90s international hit "There's Nothing Like This." However, unintentionally avoiding pop stardom, he chose never to compromise his artistic credibility, and because of that, people like India.Arie, Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, Gilles Peterson, and his biggest idol, Stevie Wonder, have all endorsed him as personal fans (with the prior three naming him as an influence). Although he gets thrown into the R&B category, Omar has no real definitive boundaries. In interesting new ways with each album, he has molded soul and urban music to fit his wide variety of influences, including ragga, hip-hop, funk, jazz-pop, rock, and Latin/Caribbean dance. Despite the lack of chart success, his original techniques have garnered him a strong legion of followers in the U.K. and a devoted fan base in diverse regions across the world.

Born October 14, 1968, in London but raised in Canterbury, Omar Lye-Fook couldn't escape the call to music even he tried. His father, Byron Lye-Fook, was a studio musician and drummer who had done work for reggae greats Bob Marley and Horace Andy, as well as the Rolling Stones. At age five, Omar was already learning how to play the drums. During his grade school years, he completed formal training in piano, trumpet/coronet, and other percussion instruments, but he also taught himself to play the bass, emulating Level 42 guitarist Mark King. As a part of various brass, jazz, and percussion ensembles, the young prodigy had performed in Italy, Brazil, and the U.S. before turning 15 years old. By the time he was a student at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music in London, he was too tempted in pursuing a professional career and left after one year. Recording for his father's Kongo label, Omar debuted in 1985 with the single "Mr. Postman" at age 16. With Kongo following up with a series of buzz-worthy white labels throughout the late '80s, Omar's favorable reception continued to grow because of his classic yet updated soul approach, which was years before neo-soul became an acknowledged subgenre.

"There's Nothing Like This" first broke out in 1990. It peaked in the U.K.'s Top 20 the following year and remained on top of the R&B and dance charts for several weeks. This was at a time when acid jazz and house were the dominant urban forms in Britain. The soulful ballad got Omar signed to pioneering disc jockey Gilles Peterson's Talkin' Loud imprint. He recorded the albums There's Nothing Like This (1990), which was compiled from his earlier Kongo recordings, and Music (1992), a more mature outing, both in terms as a musician and a singer. (On some of these earlier recordings, he is credited as Omar Hammer, derived from his stepfather's last name.) For his following two albums, For Pleasure (1994) and This Is Not a Love Song (1997), he moved on to major-label RCA. The former had him in the studio with ex-Motown songwriters and producers Leon Ware and Lamont Dozier, who were both fans of his music. But on the latter album, keyboardist/producer David Frank (Chaka Khan, Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, and his own group, the System) took the reins of the album's direction.

Omar never received the type of promotion that he expected when joining RCA's roster, and so he parted ways with the label, finding himself on the French-based Naïve Records. Stating influences of soundtrack compositions and Latin jazz, he had much more personal space to work with on the 2000 effort Best by Far, indulging in his signature string and horn arrangements. However, a long period of inactivity ensued following the 2000 recording, although he did appear on U.S. rapper Common's Electric Circus LP in 2004. During that time, Omar constructed his own studio and established the record label Blunt Music. At this point in his career, he felt more independent than ever before, and with extreme satisfaction he released his sixth studio album, Sing (If You Want It), in 2006. Both U.S. (Common, Angie Stone) and U.K. artists (Rodney P, Estelle) paid homage to Omar, recording guest vocals for the album, but his crowning achievement was obtaining the Stevie Wonder duet "Feeling You," a song that Wonder apparently promised him 15 years earlier. Omar's brother, hip-hop/reggae producer Scratch Professor, also contributed, offering more drum-kicking rhythms for the dancefloor. At the end of the year, the Urban Music Awards, which acknowledge urban music artists around the globe, finally gave Omar his long, overdue praise, bestowing upon him the Best Neo-Soul Act and Outstanding Achievement Awards. A lengthy break from music followed. He got involved with acting, and in 2012, his recording career was acknowledged once more when he was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire. The next year, he released The Man on the Shanachie label with guest appearances from Caron Wheeler and Pino Palladino. ~ Cyril Cordor, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: The Man (Single)

Comments

BEST BY FAR !!!!! That track ROCKS !!x
.....thank you, for singing to me, Omar!#!
deedee_macke y
Superb vocals
do not play this song again
I love omar's cover of curtis mayfield's original track. Massive attack also did a cover of be thankful.
Loved Omar since about 94. Thanks Omar!!!!
ashantimorga n
They are missing 1 of his best CDs This is Not a Love Song You would enjoy it!!
A lot like Bobby McFerrin, anyone else hear it?
the best vocalist out there hands down
alenelawrenc e
Love this guy!!!His voice, his music and style are amazing and the songs just get better and better
One of THE most versatile musicians on the planet that I love. Been a fan for 16 years. He is awesome live!
beautyconsul t
A friend introduced me to Omar last year and I absolutely love his music, vocals and his style. They need to play him in mainstream, he's a winner!!!
jazziebernie
Certainly, one of the best artists to come out of the U.K. There is certainly nothing like this. Keep it up Omar!
michw08
Like a cross between Take 6 and Bobby McFarrin... Awesome
Keep on doing your thing Brother Omar. Hopefully he comes to NYC soon.
bodypreferen c e
omar is an amazing artist!
This brother can definitely put it down vocally but he is also a great musician as well!
I NEVER miss him when he comes to Atlanta...Yo u can usually catch him at The Apache Cafe....If you like listening to the recorded music, you'll be knocked out when you see him live
g_bess
One of my favorite artist! A few of us in America get it.
Simply just beautiful.
krautina
Been following him since he started with Galliano - he is massive! Catch him live if you can!
One of the most unrated kat's in the business great music fresh!!
a very Bay Area sound......v e r y nice and sexy
embode72
king of sexy
earlwiggs10
THE BEST!!! ALL OTHERS STEP ASIDE!!! PEACE YALL!!!
earlwiggs10
GGGGGGGOOOO OMAR!!! GO OMAR!!!! OMAR YOU ARE THE GREATEST!!
I've always his style. It's like a breath of fresh air!
conshus_dawt a
what about Best by Far? - that is my FAVORITE!!!!
earlwiggs10
THE BOY IS BAD!!! NUFF SAID
elliottgj
Watch the birds fly and the leaves dance with the wind while listening to this Free as a Bird Dancing With the Wind album! It lifts me higher and higher every time I hear each instruments sound, especially the strings and guitar!
this dude made me want to sing.
Pandora seems to be confusing this Omar with another Omar who appears to be of Middle Eastern descent and performs piano-based new age music with Middle Easter influences.
I loved this dude since i hear him on an acid jazz compliation
boosheb
I've admired this artist since 1996 and find that he always surpasses the masses in the "so called" neo - soul catergory. Has anyone caught him in concert?!
Wonderful... I n s p i r i n g . . . . creates the rise of many different Emotions
I love this! It's a keeper and something I need for my music collection
This is one of the best artists of all times !!!!

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