Tennerz: Omar – Stop War Make Love (Freestyle Records)
In the tradition of the great messengers of all times, Omar Lye-Fooke MBE has never minced his words. Going straight to the point when comin’ to express his feelings. Just the way he did with ‘Fuck War, Make Love’ from his 2013 ‘The Man’ album. He so to say adds water to his wine with this radio friendly version re-titled ‘Stop War Make Love’.
The message remains the same though. So sadly illustrative of the trouble times we’re livin’. Therefore gaining extra dimension while distilled over a complex although syncopated construction. A fascinating progression as a matter of fact where the instruments seem to echo to each other. Meanwhile sort of compacting the architecture of the whole, with massive horn parts, aerial synth lines, over an infectious bouncy bassline.
‘Stop War Make Love…’ Feels like nothing has changed. Bringin’ us back to the souvenir of the Hippies’ famous ‘Love & Peace’ message during the Vietnam War. That was some 50 years ago!
Stop war make love… Sounds like a plan plan. Don’t you think?
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A native of London, Omar Christopher Lye-Fook, MBE grew up in Canterbury, Kent. This in the middle of a family of artists in their respective owns. Beginning with his dad, Byron, who worked as a studio musician and drummer with various luminaries. From Bob Marley to Horace Andy and even The Rolling Stones.
Omar‘s younger brother, the Grammy winning producer, remixer and DJ professionally known as Scratch Professor has been making jaws drop since the age of 13. Brilliantly stunning the crowd at the 1988 DMC UK Finals with his turntable skills. Meanwhile, Samia (Omar’s sister) is a renowned vocalist in her own right, and a BRIT School alumna.
A musical prodigy, Omar learned his craft classically. Eventually playing the trumpet, piano, bass guitar and percussion. A former principal percussionist of the Kent Youth Orchestra and later a graduate of the Guildhall School Of Music, he released his first single – ‘Mr Postman’ – on his father’s Kongo label back in 1985. Welcoming Caron Wheeler as a backing vocalist. He then came to drop his debut-album featuring the (title) track that changed it all for him… ‘There’s Nothing Like This’! And eventually got us to meet for the very first time before Gilles Peterson signed him on Talkin’ Loud.
Strangely enough, his liaison with Talkin’ Loud happened to be quite brief. Thus seeing him releasing a follow up-album – ‘Music’ – in 1992. This before switching to RCA two years later with ‘For Pleasure’. An album that saw him collaborating with David Frank of The System fame. And also with the late Leon Ware, Vanessa Simon, Maxton Beesley and Ray Parker, Jr. among others. With the whole givin’ birth to gems such as ‘Keep Steppin”, ‘Saturday’ and ‘Outside’. Meanwhile, from his 1997 ‘This Is Not A Love Song’ one would most likely remember ‘Say Nothin” and its alternative version featuring US Rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
Omar opened his Third Millennium account with the delivery of his best ‘Best By Far’ album on French label Naïve. This seeing him covering William DeVaughn‘s classic ‘Be Thankful For What You’ve Got’ (with its title shortened to ‘Be Thankful’), along with Erykah Badu.
Another six years on, then came his ‘Sing (If You Want It)’ album and the collaboration from extra luminaries. From Angie Stone to Common and Estelle (Swaray). This in addition to Stevie Wonder on the memorable ‘Feeling You’ which Ben Schwarz eventually remixed for Peppermint Jam. And the same extra period of time to see him collecting his MBE from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. Then make his debut the year after on Freestyle Records with ‘The Man’. An album which features a new version of ‘There’s Nothing Like This’ (featuring guitarist Pino Palladino). But also ‘Treat You’ along with long time friend Caron Wheeler and remixing work courtesy of Opolopo.
2014 saw the release of ‘Stop War, Make Love’. A friendly version of ‘Fµ** War, Make Love’ from his ‘The Man’ album which got us to welcome him for a chat on these shores. Then, 3 years after, came ‘Love In Beats’, his last album to date. An effort that saw him jammin’ along luminaries such as Leon Ware and The Floacist. Not to mention Robert Glasper, Ty or Natasha Watts.
With (only) 8 albums since his debut, some might think Omar has taken his time. But this would be forgetting his collaborations with countless of his contemporaries. As a featured artist, a backing vocalist or a songwriter. Writing ‘I Should’ve Known Better’ along with Mica Paris and co-producing it back in 1990. But also contributing to Misty Oldland‘s ‘Got Me A Feeling’ 3 years later.
Just like Robert Owens, as already said elsewhere on these shores, and although comin’ from different surroundings, Omar has brilliantly showcased his versatility along with time. Collaborating with Maddslinky back in 2010 on the bouncing ‘Special’, then with The Layabouts in 2012 on ‘As Long As You Believe’. But also with Dilouya on ‘Over The Sun’ that same year. A cut which resurfaced in October 2017 on Foliage Records with remix courtesy of Atjazz. And what about the boiling ‘Ding Ding’ along with Hallex M and DJ Fudge, also given a new life by the beginning of 2018 as remixed by DJ Beloved?
The end of the Summer of 2018 seein’ him sharing the vocal duties along with Darien Dean on the Hallex M produced ‘Straight Up!’. A cut most likely destined to feature in our 10 essential tracks of the year.
Omar also ventured into African territories along with Boddhi Satva on ‘Benefit’. And he also joined Ralf GUM on ‘Love Core’ and, more recently Los Charly’s Orchestra on ‘History’ which received the remix treatment courtesy of John Morales.