When I decided to move on from cricket, I felt it was the right time for me to do something different, and I was ready to take that step.
Omari: It's always great to be a part of something that's special. I grew up playing a lot of sports and at the age of seven or eight, I fell in love with cricket, which is a Caribbean pastime and passion. I looked up to Brian Lara, Richie Richardson, Viv Richards, Curtly Ambrose, Keith Arthurton and Stuart Williams just to name a few of the key players at the time. Growing up, a great cricketer was the thing to be and my ambition was to play at the highest level, and I worked hard on that. When I was selected, I was really excited for not only myself but Anguilla as well. Anguilla got behind me, fully supported me, and had waited a long time to get to a point where they had someone playing the sport on an international level.
You've noted that sports and music have been two of your passions since childhood. Was giving up one for the other a difficult decision to make?
The decision was actually quite an easy one because I had invested so much time into sports. Even before sports, I was around music my entire life. When I took sports more seriously, I was still heavily involved in music up until seventeen or eighteen years old. My first job after high school was actually in music. I would entertain in the night doing music and train during the day. When I decided to move on from cricket, I felt it was the right time for me to do something different, and I was ready to take that step.
Aside from your father Bankie Banx, who is a legendary reggae artist out of Anguilla, who are some of your musical influences?
I've got so many influences that span across genres and decades whether it's my dad, George Benson, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, R. Kelly, Jay-Z, Tupac, Lauryn Hill, U2, Aerosmith, and Queen. I'm a music lover, and I play an instrument as well so it's always good to have a variety of references when you're looking to create something.
Jamaica and England are the most recent promotional tours I embarked on, but I've been promoting throughout the region in St. Kitts and Nevis, Tortola, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and St. Maarten as well. I've been going to Jamaica to record and promote for the past four years so the foundation has been set for me to push my material. Recently, I thought it was important to travel to the UK because the UK and Europe are a big market for reggae music. I also lived in Somerset when I played cricket, and I've been traveling to England since I was fifteen years old in academies so I'm known in the region and there are also a few Anguillians over there so they came out to support me at my shows. It turned out to be very successful, and I'm happy about that.
If you could sum up your album, Move On, in three words, how would you describe it?
Conscious. Loving. Socially aware.
Peetah Morgan is somebody who I've always admired and respected as an artist and singer. I've known the Morgan family for quite a while through Moonsplash, my dad's reggae festival, and developed a good relationship with them over the years. I also did a show with Morgan Heritage, I-Octane and Alkaline in St. Maarten last year called Summer Vybz. A gentleman who worked with Morgan Heritage in terms of management heard my music and thought it would be a great opportunity for Peetah and I to do something together, and now he works with me as well in management. Peetah is one to support up-and-coming artists so we thought the song would've been a good collaboration for the both of us.
Moonsplash will be celebrating its 25th anniversary with a lineup including yourself, Jah Cure, and Third World just to name a few. What does this milestone anniversary mean to you?
It means a lot to me because I've been around Moonsplash my entire life. I've seen it grow from its infancy to a major international festival in the Caribbean, but there's a lot of hard work and determination behind the scenes to make an event such as this happen. It's the longest running privately-owned music festival in the Caribbean, and it has that reputation attached to it for a reason, and that reason is attributed to my dad and the people around him really having a passion for what they do. I can remember lighting the beach with candles as a kid, and my dad and I would try to attract tourists and locals to the festival. After 25 years, the festival has now taken its place at the Dune Preserve, my dad's beach bar restaurant. I've seen the different stages and evolution of Moonsplash and hopefully its legacy continues throughout generations.
What can people expect to see at the festival this year?
People can expect some of the biggest acts in reggae music showcasing their talent. It's one of those festivals where anything can happen. One year, John Mayer spontaneously performed. For the most part, it's going to be a ball and a happy time. For three days, you have constant partying, music, great performances, art, and creativity. That's what Moonsplash is about. The venue is a spectacle in itself, and I'm looking forward to it.
What's next for Omari Banks?
A lot. The album is out now. I have a couple of songs I'm releasing soon. I've got a song I'll be doing on a riddim with a producer out of the UK named Seani B. I'm doing a song with an artist out of Jamaica named Tydal. In terms of touring, I'll be doing a U.S. tour and another tour in Jamaica with a band. We have a lot of stuff lined up for the year including other festivals in the Caribbean. We're going to continue pushing the music. Right now, there's a big buzz with my music in Germany. "No Point to Prove" is the 18th most played song there so we're looking to tour in Europe as well. We want to continue to get the word out and let everyone know Omari Banks' music is not just for today but will carry on.