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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas