A Night of Neo-Soul : Omar & Terri Walker
Designated by many as the father of British neo-soul (though his impact extends 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." 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, are all personal fans (with the prior three naming him 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 his 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 if he'd tried. His father, Byron Lye-Fook, was a studio musician and drummer who worked with reggae greats Bob Marley and Horace Andy, as well as the Rolling Stones. At age five, Omarwas 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 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 to pursue 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 -- years before neo-soul became an acknowledged subgenre.