Tanzania, home to multiple BET Awards nominee, Diamond Platnumz; winner, Rayvanny; Vanessa Mdee; Harmonize, has one of the emerging entertainment markets on the African continent. The sprouting industry is one of the organs of the East African music renaissance, which coincides with the boom of African music – the penetration of the music into major markets. One of the respected voices in the industry is Omary Tambwr’s – the one famously called Lil Ommy.
Lil Ommy, a popular On Air Personality and digital influencer, is one of the custodians of the bubbling Tanzanian entertainment culture. The smooth running voice of the dark and fairly thick journalist on Times FM’s “The Playlist”, interviewing native celebrities like Queen Darleen; or international names like Nasty C, Ice Prince, is the ideal radio experience for hundreds of thousands of East Africans who keep up with the pop culture.
On the internet, his YouTube channel, LilOmmyTV, is a hub for organic video contents on the ‘this’ and ‘thats’ of East African entertainment, with over a hundred thousand willing subscribers squeezing the juice from the one thousand plus video contents sitting on his channel – an inkling into the size of the around his show. The YouTube milestone got his account verified and earned him a silver plaque in 2018. The elemental HipHop influence on his style of presenting is striking: the “Lil” in his art name sprung from the rappers’ name trend of the 2000s’ Hiphop community; his sentences are speedy and with a rhythmic flow; his signature phrase, “half man, half amazing”, is a line from the opening song on Nas’ 1999 album, “I Am.”
Lil Ommy might appear in a trendy designer T-shirt on top of a fancy jean, rocking a luxury chain and a snapback like a high-earning American DJ or show host, however his substance is African – he speaks Swahili on his show; he covers African music, Bongo Fleva (Tanzanian music) mostly. He spoke about the direction of his show saying, “Well, on my show, The Playlist, I play all African Music.” He continued, “Yes, we play more of our (Tanzanian) music, Bongo Fleva but we also support music from Africa as a whole. (We play music) from Kenya. We play Sauti Sol, Nyashinski, Khaligraph Jones, STL, Fena, Nadia Mukami, Victoria Kimani, Otile Brown among others.”
Interestingly, there are western adaptions – Hiphop influences – which Ommy admits to, but the influences are on his ethos, mostly. “Most of inspiration comes from my personal background – my father and my family members – as well as from 2Pac. Though being a rapper couldn’t be my thing but 2Pac impacted me on so many different levels, as I reflect on my struggles on my way to being here now.” He talked about the iconic East Coast rapper as a mentor whose legacy he studies like an academic course useful in acing life. “When I listen to ‘Pac I get lot of game rules and ways on how to deal with things and people as far as this entertainment industry is concerned.” The cardinal rule of ‘Pac, which Ommy said he practices is “play the game, never let the game play you!”
The happening inters and intra continental cultural exchange across music and other art forms is one conversation Ommy enjoys having. Since his 2010 debut, he has witnessed and participated in these interactions – mostly music related – between the Tanzania industry and other parts of Africa like Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Ghana. And now that there’s a cross-continental relationship with the US and UK, Ommy is all for it. He said, “I think it’s all about Africa and the future is now, so here we are. Let’s embrace what we have and go global.”
The other time globalisation entered the conversation, Ommy was more specific – he talked about the potential of Tanzanian music potential. “Tanzania music has grown so fast and so quick. The artist have invested in their craft heavily – people like Diamond, Alikiba, Vanessa Mdee; and others from Harmonize to Rayvanny to Nedy Music who just won Afrima a couple months ago. It is a good thing to see the industry is growing to global heights as we get to promote our culture, attract tourism and contribute income to the nation by providing job opportunities to Djs, photographers, managers, drivers, bodyguards.”
The growth of the entertainment scene is indeed creating life transforming openings for people of Tanzania. Rayvanny, a BET Award holder, was only a tea seller before being discovered. Lil Ommy himself was a technician who repaired antennas, watches and radios back in Tabora before he joined Ismail Aden Rage’s infant radio station in 2011. The challenging and equally beautiful journey of his climb to become an influential figure who is pushing the growth of the industry from his position, with innovative ideas like the LilOmmyApp that allows his fans follow his interview runs, and TheLivingRoom show that would have him invite celebrities for steamy conversations in his living room, has placed him among the leading media voices in East Africa.
In some of his most reflective private moments, Lil Ommy takes the retrospective trip to the humble beginnings, back when his younger self was dreaming of the big outings and the support from his very first fan, his sister, Nyange, who is now late. Ommy very often appreciates his new reality and wishes his sister was alive to share it with him. “I wish she could be here today to see me do what she envisioned I would do back then.” “She actually supported me in my craft, she bought me tapes, she sent me stuff, as she knew this is what I have always wanted – the media, being on radio, and music.”
This article was written by Ibironke Oluwatobi. He tweets via: @ibironketweets