We interview Jamaican Gospel Singer Omari. Familiar to Reggae fans from his recent hits “Help!” and “Why,” Omari is creating waves in the music industry with the message of hope. His Marlin Award-winning debut “Help!”, from the album “YOW 4” Street Gospel, has enjoyed the top spot on Tempo and throughout the Caribbean. Praised in the Jamaica Star as “one of the hottest and most inspirational gospel songs in the industry,” the song’s depictions of daily life and the difficulties of getting by in difficult economic times serve as inspiration to today’s youth. Omari’s motivation comes from his strong sense of social mission. He wants to develop in youth “a greater appreciation for life” as they cope with problems they inherit from previous generations. As a part of his efforts to aid in quelling street violence in the Caribbean, he has gone on bus tours to schools, including to the Bahamas for Tempo’s Badness Outta Style. He is known for speaking out boldly in favour of self-control and abstinence, and calls on parents as well as government and Church leaders to improve current conditions. He has performed at numerous events including Fun in the Son and the Shaggy and Friends concert in aid of the Bustamente Hospital for Children, and more recently at the Fulfill Your Mandate in 2009 event designed to bring meaning and focus to the lives of Jamaica’s street children. Check out our conversation with Omari.
When did you get started singing?
When I was a child…but more so when I started at Manchester High School. My friends and I used to sing at school events, in between class, during class (laugh).
Is this your full time career?
It is. And I love my job.
When did you make the decision you wanted this to be your career?
I always knew I wanted to sing, but a few years ago (in about 2004), it was really impressed upon me and it was pretty much a leap of faith. I’ve been singing and writing music ever since.
How hard a decision was it being that you are a Christian Reggae Artist?
It was pretty hard, because I didn’t want to be a “normal” Gospel Artist. I wanted to be on who would make a difference in society. So I wrestled with it for some time, especially because, at the time, it was not seen a a viable way of life. Gospel music wans’t seen as a good way to make a living…but the passion was greater than the fear.
What are you most proud of in your career?
That I’ve been able to reach so many people, especially those thought to be “unreachable”. I’m most proud that God would choose me to touch some “Rastas” and some others who did not listen to “gospel music” before now.
You tour with popular secular artist?
Some “church” people may see this as a problem. What are your thoughts on touring and working with secular artists? We are the light of the earth, the salt of the world. I will go wherever I’m sent. Those are my thoughts.
How about temptations while on your? Do women throw themselves at you? How do you handle the use of ganja by other artists you may be on tour with?
There is the occasion female who may overstep her boundaries, but I always have to make my position clear. Firstly, I’m a man who loves God and wants to live my life to please him, secondly I’m married and I must stay committed to my wife and my covenant of marriage. I must stay away from those things. Re the ganga smokers…Jesus used to hang with the so called “undesireables”. I try not to make issues of things like that. More times than not, the people I associate with pay respect to what they know I stand for. In other instances, it’s just a matter of time before they see the light in me and some will change, I believe that.
Who has been your favorite artist on tour?
Papa San. That man has created waves in the industry. I have lots of respect for him.
Do you listen to secular reggae artist? Who is your favorite?
I listen to some secular music and Taurus Riley and Queen Ifrica are two of my favourites.
Do you write all your songs?
Most of them. Some are co-written with other artistes/producers, but most are written by me. My wife drops in a line here and there too (laugh).
Many of your songs seem to have a message that bridges the secular and Christian communities. Your hit song “Help” is a an example of this. Do you purposely write this way?
No, not purposely. I just write what God gives me. They have a saying that “your passion drives you”. How I write reflects what my passion is.
Are you working on a new album?
Yes, to be released very soon. Look out!
What is the title of it?
It’s self-titled and sub-titled Omari – “Heal Jamaica, Heal the World”.
Are there any collaborations with other artist on this new album?
Yes, Promise – Canada, Naycha Kid – Antigua, Chevaughn – C-Sharp, Craig – Voicemail and a surprise Artiste.
When can we expect from the new album?
A different sound. A fresh sound. Everybody can listen to the album. Everybody.
What would you be doing if you were not a singer?
I was studying computer programming, so maybe that…
Is Jamaica going on the right Tracks?
I think we have the potential to be a great nation, but we must uphold integrity and uprightness. That’s the only way to get it right I think…and not just the politicians, but every Jamaican has to play his/her part.
Should Air Jamaica be sold to Caribbean Airlines?
Politics (laugh) I think they should give the pilots a chance.
Lime or Digicel or Claro?
Bwoy…I”m seriously thinking about it.
Hellshire or Little Ochi?
Wherever my wife wants to go. I’m not much of a beach lover.
What church do you attend in Jamaica?
Church on the Rock, Kingston.
Do they ask you to sing every week you are in church?
(laugh) No they don’t. Mostly on special occasions, especially those that involve the youth. I used to sing on the choir too.
Would it bother you if they did?
No. I have a close church family and I share a good relationship with my pastor and elders. I am willing to server there in any way I can or am asked to.
What message do you want your music to convey?
Love. Jesus’ love for us and the love we ought to have for others. It’s love that is gonna change the hearts of people, nothing else.
Thanks for the interview.Any closing thoughts?
Love God, love your neighbour and in everything you do in life, put God first. See you at the album launch (to be announced).