Run Da Riddim Partner Up With Omari Banks

Ex West Indian cricketer talks about Reggae Summertime (Leighton Remix)...

Run Da Riddim, a collective turned label in the drum & bass scene formed by the late Calum Leighton aka Leighton, have teamed up with ex West Indian professional cricketer turned reggae artist, Omari Banks, for a super vibey remix of Banks’ tune Reggae Summertime.

We last spoke to Run Da Riddim just over a year ago here when the label launched with their first VA, Sounds Of The Jungle. Omari Banks – Reggae Summertime (Leighton Remix) is out now and the story behind it is a heartfelt one.

Calum Leighton tragically died in a car crash on his way back from an event on August 21 2022, aged 18. His father Andrew now co-runs the label and is one of the main catalysts behind this remix project. There is an annual tribute event held in honour of Calum, Joe and Lawrence at Lost Horizon, this year’s event takes place Saturday 17 August.

The Leighton family have been regular visitors to Omari Banks’ country, Anguilla, since November 2004. 10 years later, the Leightons and Banks’ paths first crossed, and they have since continued to develop a budding relationship and in 2020, Leighton proposed a remix of Reggae Summertime, to which Banks gladly agreed after hearing samples of the track.

Before retiring from cricket, Banks spent 2 years playing in Somerset and after a glowing career, swapped bat and ball for guitar and microphone, a passion he always had from a young age. Banks had always been around music, being the son of renowned Anguillan reggae singer, Bankie Banx.

We recently caught up with Banks and had a wonderful conversation about his musical family, how the Reggae Summertime remix came to fruition, Banks’ southwest UK connections, his relationship with the Leightons and much more.

Banks has teased a new album in the works and with this in mind, Omari Banks will be touring the UK this year in partnership with Run Da Riddim, at the end of August with the below show dates at various venues:

Friday 30 August – Artum, Birmingham

Thursday 5 September – Attic Bar, Bristol

Friday 6 September – Colours Hoxton, London

Omari Banks – Reggae Summertime (Leighton Remix) is out now, get your helmets on, tighten up your pads, mark your position at the crease, prepare to be reverse-swept away as the conversation below breaks and spins in various directions…

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. How did your journey into music begin?

Initially, as a child, I grew up around music my whole life, my dad being an artist by the name of Bankie Banx from Anguilla. He’s well known locally, regionally, and internationally as well. I grew up in an environment where music was always around, with The Band House beneath my bedroom. Growing up from the ages of 1-3 years old, my favourite toys were a ball, a bat, and a guitar, so I’ve always had a love for music and sports. My mother always encouraged me to go into music, and my dad spent a lot of time away from the age of maybe 4 or 5 years old and lived in France. When I was more in my teenage years, he spent a lot of time in New York. So very early on, I had a love for music and I actually represented Anguilla at different talent shows from the age of 8 years old as just a singer. I, of course, went on to develop another passion, which was sports, so that passion for sports became my obsession and the music was basically on the side as a hobby. My aunt taught me my first chords on the guitar at age 11.

You could almost say that you were pretty much destined to get into music. Do you have any other musical inspirations?

I think a lot of times destiny, when you look back at it, everything kind of looks perfect. But as a child, I was never formally taught music. My brother and sister went to formal piano classes, but I never did that; I had a musical ear. My influences were basically the people that I listened to, which was across genres. Richard Marx to Michael Bolton, Michael Jackson to people like Lauryn Hill in that period. Then, when I got even deeper into guitar, of course, all the familiar names like Hendrix, Clapton, and Santana. Bon Jovi to Aerosmith. If you’re exposed to a lot of different styles of music, your ears open up. Sometimes you kind of gravitate right back to the things that you liked as a child.

That’s a big eclectic range of artists there. While based in Somerset during your cricket career, did you delve into jungle and drum & bass?

Somerset was more or less coming into the latter part of my career. But before that, I spent quite a lot of time in Leicestershire as I was brought over from the age of 14 or 15. I would spend quite a few summers in England when I was not playing in the Caribbean. At that age, you would go to the club and you’d hear these different styles of music. Sometimes you were not even necessarily familiar with the genre of music, but you realized it was different. Once I was over here, I got a bit of a vibe and wanted to fit in, so you hang in those crowds. When I went to the club, I would hear different styles of music. I was not necessarily sure what it was, not sure of the genre, but it was definitely electronic music with synths and rhythm. I think that’s what music is about too, just how it makes you feel.

Love that! So, how did you find transitioning from being a professional cricketer into music?

I live my life by the idea that anything that comes easy isn’t good, and anything that’s good won’t come easy. So, I wouldn’t say that it was easy, but it was something that I was passionate about. The journey so far has been full of happiness and joy, but like anything else in life that you’re working towards, there will be trials, tribulations, and obstacles to overcome. Coming from a sporting background, a lot of people think it’s just a gimmick, but then people listen to my music and see me perform live and realize I actually sing, play the guitar, and am a musician. I’ve always been the kind of person that whatever I get into, I commit myself to it. When you commit yourself to things, it shows in your work, and I try to just do what I love to do. People gravitate towards that.

Let’s talk about Run Da Riddim. How did you first come into contact with Calum, Andrew, Darcey and the Leightons?

Basically, on a trip to Anguilla, Andrew and the family always came out to see me for quite a while. Calum reached out before passing and mentioned a couple of years before that he wanted to do a remix of one of my songs; he was a kid at that time. I said yeah, it’s something I definitely would want to do because that’s the connection I had with the entire family. From my point of view, you want to inspire the youth, and I think that’s what my music is really about, inspiring people to work towards whatever they’re doing in a positive way. When he said he wanted to do that, it was a joy, and I felt honoured to know that a young person from a different country and different upbringing wanted to remix my song. After he passed, Andrew reached out regarding it, and I, as a father of two, understand what it meant to him. It’s been an honor to Calum’s memory. It gave me more reason to do it because of the understanding of the relationship between a parent and their children. I wanted to make sure the work that he started was continued, and this is what he would have liked to achieve from it.

Full love and respect for Run Da Riddim and the Leightons! What was the inspiration behind the original Reggae Summertime?

Reggae Summertime is a song inspired by what it means to me to be an Anguillan, as well as what it means to celebrate it with the people that love Anguilla. A lot of people visit the island, the inspiration for that song came out of love and just trying to capture the fire of what it means to visit Anguilla. It’s a song about bringing people together, it’s a song about light and love. The title track of the album that it came off is called Sunlight, and it fit the theme of what that album is about, realising that we are more the same than we are different. We want to welcome people onto our island, our homes, and our lives who’ve got the same energy and vibrate at the same levels that we do.

How does it feel to have somebody from a completely different genre and style of music put their own spin on the track?

Anybody that knows me knows that I’m very particular with what I do. At first, I had to think about how we would go about doing it, but one of the really cool things that Andrew did was he sent me the track when it was done to see if I liked it. When he did, I really loved it. I’m familiar with the style of music; it put a fresh feel to the song. Being a teenager and growing up for some years in the UK, I saw a lot of people dance in the crowd, and I put myself back in that mindset. I said, okay, I can see people bopping their heads and enjoying this one. It really gave me a feel like, yeah, this is something people will enjoy in a club setting. I’m really excited, especially after hearing the final product. The mix and the mastering were great, so I’m really happy about that.

Were you sent the track and liked it just like that, first time?

He sent me about 30 or 45 seconds of the direction they were going with the sound. I mean, I’m not a professional in that particular genre, and sometimes as an artist, you have to trust the experts in their field. I gave them some feedback, but within reason. Once I liked it, and it was great, I had no issues with it at all. I understood what they were going for, making people move and have a good time. A lot of times, when I create my songs, it’s to make people vibe, but also about the musicality of it. For me, I was happy with what Andrew let me hear, and I could see people partying and dancing to it. It was cool.

Could this become a more regular thing, doing crossovers with Run Da Riddim and maybe that genre?

We’ll see how it goes, how I create music is a process that involves a singer-songwriter, instrumentalist approach, as well as being a vocalist. But I think music doesn’t have boundaries. Once the song has a solid foundation and lyrical content that I’m happy with, I’m open to working with people who bring good energy and vibes to the project. The intent behind the music is what matters. When the energy and intention are right, the music is usually appreciated the way it’s meant to be.

Amazing, I understand you’ll be coming over to the UK at the end of August and beginning of September. What are your plans while you’re here?

My plans are to do some marketing, performances, and just get in touch with some folks in the UK that I haven’t seen in a couple of years. I have a new album that I’ll be promoting over the next couple of months. It’s good to get out and meet different people, maybe some I haven’t met through my usual channels. The jungle music scene is appreciated across various age groups, and it’s cool to connect with those who love that style of music. Music is about bringing people together, and I want to do that the best way I know how, through my music. If this song with Andrew and in memory of Calum can do that, I’ll be more than happy to continue doing things like that.

You mentioned you have an album on the way. Can you tell us a bit about it?

I don’t want to reveal too much yet. It’s already finished recording, and I have a name in mind, but I’m not certain on it yet. I’m really excited about it. I’ve got some cool international collaborations on this album. It’s been a while since I released a full album, the last one being in 2017-18. Although COVID took away two to three years of our lives, I did release singles in that time. But it’s really time for a full project. I’m excited to get back out there with new music, perform live, and connect with my fans around the world.

This has been awesome! Is there anybody you want to give a special shoutout to?

Just to all the people in the UK who have been so supportive and great to me, the cricketing fraternity, the Anguillans in the UK, and everyone who supported my journey from sports to music. The first time I toured the UK for music, I came over with a group that was actually nominated for a Grammy in 2016, and we did about 12 to 16 shows through Europe. I love to engage with people. When you hear I’m coming over, make sure you come out. I’ll be there to meet you and perform for you. Music is about building bridges and spreading love and light. That’s the message I want to send out there.

In loving memory of Calum Leighton

Run Da Riddim: Facebook > Instagram

Omari Banks: Facebook > Instagram

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