Paul Fuemana: Singer of OMC, famed for their 1996 hit "How Bizarre"

Unjustly fated to “one-hit wonder” status, Paul Fuemana was the voice of the New Zealand duo OMC, briefly famed for their worldwide 1996 smash “How Bizarre”. The song topped the charts in eight countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and Canada, and reached No 5 in the UK in July that year, bringing Fuemana considerable wealth. Even so, a combination of poor financial management, reckless spending and excessive generosity to friends and relatives meant that this slipped through his hands.

“How Bizarre” juxtaposed metronomic beats with mariachi-style trumpet, Polynesian soul and Fuemana’s vaguely surreal rap. The album of the same name was the most popular record ever by a New Zealand act, selling over three million copies. Fuemana failed to follow up this success, and was eventually declared bankrupt.

“Coming out of the ghetto and jumping on the world stage, he opened up a lot of doors for Polynesian music, especially the New Zealand hip-hop and R&B artists,” said Ermehn Lealaialoto Sakaria, who worked with Fuemana in an early incarnation of OMC. “The music industry is full of sharks and he happened to be in the water where there were a lot of sharks around him. He got taken advantage of.”

However, Simon Grigg of the huh! label, which released the album How Bizarre, maintains: “Pauly’s royalty stream was audited independently by his management three times. And it came out squeaky clean. Basically, Pauly spent it. He was very generous, and his friends spent a fair amount. I think Pauly essentially burnt out. He was an enigmatic soul, charming, inspiring and always fragile, both physically and mentally.”

Fuemana grew up in the tough, largely Polynesian suburb of Otara in South Auckland, where his father, having emigrated from the tiny Pacific Island nation of Niue, worked in factory jobs after marrying a local Maori woman. As is often the case in Pacific cultures, Feumana was largely raised by his grandparents, and grew up surrounded by Pacific Island church and secular music.

Unemployed after leaving school,|he sometimes had brushes with|the law – a period referred to in the song “On the Run”. Although he later talked about spending time in borstal during this period, there is no record of it. The blissful “Land of Plenty”|was more honestly autobiographical, relating his family’s joy at arriving in New Zealand.

By the end of the 1980s, Fuemana was starting to appear with House Party, an R&B band which included his brothers, Phil and Tony, and his sister, Christine. He started out as the group’s dancer and taught himself to play guitar. He was contributing vocals by the time they changed their name

to Fuemana, and featured on their eponymous 1993 album, issued on Phil’s Urban Pacifika label. Later that year, Phil Fuemana founded a group called Otara Millionaires Club, which included Paul.

In 1994, Paul contributed guest vocals on the track “Twelve” for the Shift Left album by jazz artist Nathan Haines. They had met in Auckland’s High Street club scene, where Haines played in the early 1990s. Otara Millionaires Club also had some success that year with “We R the OMC”, a hip-hop track featuring a Cypress Hill-flavoured rap by Fuemana. The band

split up soon afterwards, with Fuemana taking the OMC name, and forming a duo with the producer Alan Jansson. When he took part in Australia’s Big Day Out festival early in 1995, Rolling Stone dubbed Fuemana a “young Marvin Gaye”.

The single “How Bizarre” was recorded later that year and topped the New Zealand charts by the end of it, soon following suit in other territories. This plunged Fuemana and a hastily assembled group (which included Haines) into a gruelling year of promotional touring in Europe. They also spent three months in the US, where “How Bizarre” wasn’t released as a single in order to maximise album sales, but got plenty of airplay. “I remember turning on the radio in the bus and ‘How Bizarre’ was playing on three different radio stations simultaneously,” Haines recalled of this crazy phase.

Things began to go sour for Fuemana after he was compelled by Polygram to record an expensive cover of Randy Newman’s “I Love LA” for the 1997 Rowan Atkinson movie Bean. The career-killing song flopped, and in 1998 Janssen sued Fuemana over unpaid royalties. They settled out of court, but the creative partnership was over, and by 2000 Polygram’s new owners, Universal, had dropped Fuemana.

In 2005, Phil Fuemana died of a heart attack at 41, and the following year Paul was declared bankrupt, losing his home, numerous assets and songwriting royalties. Grigg eventually brokered a reunion between Janssen and Fuemana, resulting in OMC’s 2007 comeback single “4 All of Us”, but it too flopped and Janssen called it a day soon afterwards.

Fuemana had been ill for several months before his death, and is said to have been suffering from a neurological disorder.

Jon Lusk

Paul Lawrence Fuemana, singer and songwriter: born Auckland, New Zealand 8 February 1969; married Kirstine (three sons, two daughters); died Auckland 31 January 2010.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam