By Admin. Updated 7:11 p.m., Sunday, May 15, 2022, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
Oronde Bomani Charles of Campden Park made history in 2004 when he won the national soca monarch, road march, and OECS soca monarch competitions in the same year.
Before 2004, however, Bomani was relatively unknown in the music industry: an industry that was dominated at the time by the likes of Delroy ‘Fireman’ Hooper, Beckett, Madzart, and bands like Touch, and Blacksand.
Today, Bomani has transformed from being unknown to being immortalized in the soca arena and has also made meritorious contributions in two other areas apart from music production. He has helped to influence cultural policies and he has successfully pushed for intellectual property rights protection for local artistes.
Before we go into detail about those three accomplishments, let’s reminisce on exactly where Bomani started.
Here are some highlights from an interview One News St. Vincent did with Bomani to commemorate his 20th anniversary as a professional musical recording artiste.
Interviewer: How did your musical career begin?
When did you realize that you could sing?
Bomani: “I didn’t really know I could sing I knew I could write. That’s where my early passion was – for writings songs. Singing became a necessity because when you write a song, you have to know how it sounds and so on. So that’s how that kinda developed. I guess I knew I had the capacity to vocalize. If I could practice long enough and hard enough I would get better and better at it.”
One of my childhood dreams was to write for Michael Jackson”.
“Eventually when I started singing I realized people would react in a polite way and so that sorta give me an encouragement to pair the singing with the writing.”
Interviewer: Do you have any writers in your family?
Bomani: “Not professionally. I saw an old picture with my mom with a microphone and my dad playing the African drums and this was back in the 70’s I think it was. (He wasn’t sure if it was poetry or singing ) “ I guess some form of entertainment was in my family.”
Interviewer: Could you remember your first performance ever or first song you wrote?
“ I don’t remember the first song that I wrote but I remember the time period. This was in Kingstown Anglican School probably around 11 or 12 years old and that continued into secondary school at St. Martin Secondary. I remember auditioning for the choir in St. Martin. They had a musical program. Back in those days they had volunteer teachers coming in from the USA and Canada under peace co program and there was a particular teacher assembling a boys choir.”
Bomani said he went to school with the likes of Fenton Harry, Jerome Charles and Efron – all established singers today.
He said he remembered auditioning with a song from Phil Collins – “that’s the way it is”. He got a standing ovation which he stated “it sorta gave me enough confidence to continue.”
Interviewer: Was the soca genre by choice?
“Prior to when I just left school, I started giving serious consideration to some kind of career in musical entertainment. The only person I knew was Pat Ralph. We were friends and she introduced me to Joanssa king who played with signal band”. He had a little studio where they would record demos)
“By that time I was gaining experience on the hotel circuit and cultural circuit.”
“In 2001 I got a call from Johnny Rebel that they were looking for a vocalist at Adrian Bailey’s studio,” where Bomani “ended up getting the gig as a frontline vocalist for Blacksand Band”.
The next year 2002 was his first vocal studio recording in that space with a piece called “De music” written by himself and co-written by Tony Rebel Bailey.
In 2003, Bomani worked on a cruise ship – the Carnival Victory, stating that he “took a break from the local scene.”
Then at around age 22 in 2004 he returned to the State and recorded “I am Soca,” a hit that would change his life and the musical scene at the time.
Interviewer: you brought something new to soca are you aware of that? How did you pull that off?
“I think I made a conscious decision that I was going to spend time and obviously money into studio production that should make it worth the while. You were in a space with Fireman Hooper and Madzart (they were making waves) and to stand out from the crowd you had to try something different. I know I was already comfortable writing the music I was writing.”
“My song was kinda just naturaly different.
The challenge for me was kinda finding a way of interpreting this music on records and make it fit into that already existing space but carving out a niche for myself that sorta makes me unique. (He made it clear that he wasn’t competing) I was tryna establish some musical content that people could gravitate to on their own naturally. By the time I was looking up to guys like Becket, Ron Pompey and Winston Soso. That is what I was trying to emulate.”
Interviewer: After 2004 how was music?
In 2004 he released “I am soca” and booty call which got him signed to VP Records which he stated was “making waves regionally and internationally.”
In 2005 ‘Wet’ arguably my biggest internationally success” was produced. In 2006 ‘Sweetness’ was produced and then in 2007, ‘Not going down there tonight’ was produced.
As he stated he had a 5-year period “consecutive hit streak”
‘Wet’ has been my most successful song to date, Bomani said, adding that “Wet took me around the world – to different Caribbean islands and to both sides of the Atlantic. It just kinda took on a life on its own,” he added.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about the drastic change from a climax to a steady normal path in the music industry.
All of that was nice but it was all about the music for me to build a catalog overtime. Which “compiled into 3 albums over the years”
Interviewer: From the music to cultural administration, how did you make that transition?
“There was a workshop involving music producers. I gave my views on certain issues and apparently that impressed some people. Then he was asked to join many organizations after that. Most prominently was the SVGAMP – the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Music Professionals which I ended up co-founding and chaired as president for 7 years.
The move to protect intellectual property
Bomani said he joined that conversation in 2008 talking privately with entertainers. When he became the president of SVGAMP, he held meetings to raise the issue with practitioners, stakeholders, the commissioner of police, and others and invited people from different copyrights companies and state enterprises and even the minister responsible for the Bureau of Standards to have SVG’s music in a national broadcast policy. Then came the Introduction of ECCO into SVG – The Eastern Caribbean Collective Organisation for Music Rights.
“We had to get out our practitioners to be registered with a copyright society for their protection”.
Bomani stated they had some set backs, however, around 2013 (the year subject to correction) royalty payments were made to about 25-30 local songwriters for the first time in Vincentian musical history.
He said this was a huge accomplishment.
Interviewer: What is the future for Vincentian culture (specifically music)?
“We are in a period of transition which is not a strange place to be and it happens every 15-18 years where you have a new generation coming into their own and speaking a cultural language that they identify with. Which may not necessarily resonate with the old generation that came before.
He stated that technology, social media makes it easier for your music to be identified as he compared his day with using compact discs (CDs).
He explained that upcoming local artistes can now take advantage of managing their own publishing and distribution through independent entities like Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, and the like.
Interviewer: What’s the future for you in music?
Bomani said he has a lot to be thankful for, and he added that “Exploring other possibilities within music – an attempt to reach a wider audience,” is something he is working on. “I think the world is ready for a new sound,” he added.
“I think I’m an exploratory space where I am thinking about what new songs I can come up with and how I can shape the musical landscape going forward into the future.”
Bomani thanked his manager Franklyn “Max-E” Edwards for being there for him and pushing him through all the years. He also thanked his family , his fans, and all those who have been instrumental to his success over the years for their unwavering support.
The recorded interview was transcribed by Richardeen Williams.