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
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn