NZ HIP HOP STAND UP - OMC 'HOW BIZARRE'
In 1995, OMC’s Pauly Fuemana and Alan Jansson pulled an all-nighter and wrote ‘How Bizarre’, a song that would come to dominate the global charts and make history as Aotearoa’s first hip hop beat to go truly global.
Pauly Fuemana’s wife, Kirstine Fuemana, still has “books and books” of his songwriting and remembers him writing “endlessly” when he came up with the track that would go on to irrevocably change his life in 1993.
The Ōtara Millionaires Club, or OMC, was still an emerging group on New Zealand’s hip hop scene when vocalist Pauly Fuemana and producer Alan Jansson were tinkering away writing late into the night.
On that night, right before the group’s debut appearance at the Big Day Out, Alan remembers him and Pauly working into the early morning with the pair having written eight tracks in one sitting — one of which became How Bizarre.
Alan added that the song’s instantly recognisable hook came from Pauly’s father who used to play it to him as a child. With a relaxed mix of guitar and trumpet, the song became the “perfect mix of rap and pop melody”.
Setting out without many expectations, success for OMC came hard and fast. How Bizarre went to number one in at least 13 overseas pop charts. This was before the internet age and the track took months to reach overseas markets but instantly blew up on release in Australia, the U.S. and the U.K.
“I went to L.A. and it was coming out of every second shop,” Darryl Thomson (DLT) remembers.
As Pauly Fuemana toured the world, Aotearoa’s music industry was barely ready for a superstar like him. Kirstine recalls being unable to find local entertainment lawyers or accountants who were able to take on a star as big as he was.
Over the following years, OMC toured the world on the back of the enormous success of How Bizarre. The track was introduced as “the biggest song in the history of New Zealand music” on the BBC series Top of the Pops and Pauly became one of the country’s music globetrotters.
Kirstine Fuemana says she saw her husband grow and live in an environment that was unimaginable for anyone from his roots. Pauly Fuemana sadly passed away in 2010.
“I watched him experience things that a kid from Ōtara, who had pretty much been on the streets since 11, would never imagine they could live,” she said.
This episode features many who knew Pauly and witnessed his rise from the streets of South Auckland. It reveals new details about the origins of How Bizarre and how he became a real Ōtara millionaire while seeing the world.
About the Artists
OMC was formed as the ‘Ōtara Millionaires Club’ by Phil Fuemana and Pauly Fuemana in 1993. Before their ‘one-hit wonder’, the group had recorded ‘We R the O.M.C.’ for Alan Jansson’s groundbreaking hip hop compilation album ‘Proud’ which put them on the map of New Zealand music. Following How Bizarre, came several singles including ‘Land of Plenty’ and ‘Right On’ which both charted in 1996 and 1997. Following a contractual debate, OMC regrouped in 2007 with a new track ‘4 All of Us’.
Paul Lawrence Fuemana was a founding member of the two-headed ‘Ōtara Millionaires Club’ alongside his brother Phil in 1993, who left shortly before the release of How Bizarre. He collaborated with Jansson on his releases after his brother left the group. Born in Ōtara with roots in Niue, the artist came from a poverty-stricken background and found an unthinkable career as a musician. His death in 2010 saw hundreds memorialize him as forever an icon in New Zealand music history.
Alan Jansson became a significant part of OMC around the time of the release of How Bizarre, having co-written the album with Fuemana, while also handling the production and arrangement of the track. The producer regrouped with Fuemana in 2004 to release ‘4 All of Us’. Jansson has a legendary status for having been involved in numerous breakthrough moments for New Zealand hip hop including Sisters Underground’s breakthrough track In The Neighbourhood.