OMC frontman Pauly Fuemana, the man behind what is likely to be the most successful New Zealand single of all time, died in Auckland on Sunday (Jan. 31) after a short period of illness. He was 40.
The South Auckland rapper’s 1995 single “How Bizarre” is one of the few New Zealand songs to become an international break-out hit. It is estimated that the song and album of the same name generated sales of well over 3 million worldwide.
OMC, aka the Otara Millionaires Club, was named after the tough South Auckland suburb where Fuemana grew up. It was formed in 1993 by his older brother Phillip, who was the founder of Urban Pacifika Records, one of the first record labels to be owned and run by New Zealanders of Pacific island descent.
By 1995, OMC was essentially a solo vehicle for Pauly and had been signed by the indie label huh!, which was distributed by PolyGram. “How Bizzare” was a collaboration with producer Alan Jansson and was first released in New Zealand in November 1995, where it topped the charts and quickly achieved triple platinum status.
The following year it went on to conquer the world, reaching No. 1 in Australia, Canada, South Africa and Ireland, plus a number of other European territories. It also reached No. 5 in the U.K. charts, while in the U.S. it peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s mainstream pop top 40 in August 1997; it spent 32 weeks on that chart.
Although OMC enjoyed some modest success with follow-up singles and the subsequent “How Bizarre” album, he never managed to crack the top 20 in any of the major world markets again.
At the beginning of the last decade, he had all but disappeared from the music scene and in 2006 he was declared bankrupt. In 2007, he reunited with Jansson for a comeback single, which also featured the talents of former “Xena: Warrior Princess” TV star and New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless. But it failed to crack the local top 40.
However, Fuemana remained a massive inspiration for a host of New Zealand artists and is credited with ushering in a unique urban Pacific sound.
He is survived by his wife Kirstine and five children. Phillip died in 2005 but another brother Tony and sister Christina remain active in the music business.