Operation Offbeat is a multiple-band tour that was launched towards the end of April in Australia. Why then are you reading about it on a Maltese newspaper, you might wonder? The answer is simple really; two of the bands on the tour, namely Bustamento and The Melbourne Ska Orchestra (MSO) feature the one and only NICKY BOMBA, who will be giving a live performance in Malta a week from today. The tour's main aim was effectively to help the logistically-heavy MSO get to UK's famed Glastonbury Festival, a feat they will be realizing later this month, following which they will then head to Canada for four more major festival appearances.
Before that however Bomba will be swinging by Malta once again and, as has become the norm every time he visits, he will be giving a live performance here. Anyone who was present at his last performance at Zion’s Yard will know this is an event not to be missed. As preparations for another Bomba experience - this time with siblings Michael and Danielle (aka Mama Kin) also on board - are underway, MICHAEL BUGEJA caught up with the man himself to catch up on his latest musical forays. "I'm feeling great right now", he tells him. "There are lots of great opportunities and adventures in my life".
This past year was eventful for you, having quit the John Butler Trio to focus on your own bands and achieving success with both Bustamento and the MSO...
Yes, it has been a magnificent rollercoaster ride of joy and happiness. Since our release we've had many accolades and have won awards and been nominated for many others. It's a blessing to know songs that I've written are making an impact. All of the performances to date have been electric, we've played at some huge festivals here and the audiences are always super-receptive to our show. I suppose it's pretty unique and spectacular. Bustamento has been growing in leaps and bounds too and we sometimes perform with both acts at the same festival as they are different enough despite their Caribbean connection.
How significant is the MSO's upcoming performance at Glastonbury given the band has already been recognised and rewarded on home turf?
Playing at Glastonbury is a major step for the band. A 24-piece band is not easy to organize so it takes a lot of courage to attempt an adventure like this. The fact that promoters around the globe are open for us to make a splash is a great opportunity for us and an important part of the development of any band's career. Glastonbury is undoubtedly one of the best festivals on the planet so a showcase there can lead to bigger things. Most of the invitations we received on this tour stemmed from a World Music expo we played at in Melbourne. The day after we played we were inundated with invitations from around the world from festival promoters who had attended. We applied for a couple of grants but didn't get them so we had to make sure the tour was going to be effective to match the financial outlay. The general plan is to plant as many good seeds as possible, do some great shows and return next year with a more extensive tour including Malta...that would be a dream for me.
Apart from touring and releasing singles, have you had time to work on new music or will that come later as Operation Offbeat was given priority?
I'm constantly in a creative zone and I’m always writing tunes. I have some exciting ideas to bring to the band and am looking forward to loads more from the many talented musicians within the orchestra's ranks.
The MSO apart, how has Bustamento been shaping up, and what other plans are there for the band?
As I said earlier, Bustamento has been building up at a sweet rate. The album's been selling really well, and we're also pleased that the packaging has been nominated for artwork design awards. I plan to record another album with the boys this year, including more of the Steel pan with our new pan player from Trinidad.
I saw a post on your Facebook page mentioning The Ska Vendors. Is this another of your projects?
No, that band is run by one of the singers in the MSO but they are signed to my Transmitter record label. The label had been dormant for a while but I'm planning to re-launch it with a newly-energized team in October and The Ska Vendors' album, which I helped to mix and master, will be one of the first releases. They play authentic Ska with a bluesy twist and have been doing it for quite a while.
You'll be performing in Malta next week. What have you got planned for your Maltese brothers and sisters this time?
I am so looking forward to returning as always. Being born there has had a huge significance in my life and the friendly social ethic of the Maltese is part and parcel of my philosophy in life, where happiness reigns supreme. Apart from the drummer and bassist from Bustamento and the MSO, my brother Michael, who is a keyboard player and my sister Danielle (MamaKin), who is a great performer in her own right will also be travelling with me, so I suppose a family party will be the order of the day onstage.. and of course with this line-up I'll be able to perform more of my tunes. I'm also looking forward to catching up with all my friends there.
Nicky Bomba & Friends will be performing at Zion’s Yard in Marsascala on Sunday, June 22. The Rifffs will also be playing on the night. For more details look up the event page on Facebook.
An edited version of this article was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta (15 June, 2014)