‘From grass to grace’ is a scenario that many people go through as they journey to pastures new. Lil Ommy - now a brand name in Tanzania’s radio stratosphere - has been emboldened and hardened to never lose hope or get discouraged by setbacks when pursuing a dream.
With an award for Best Host already under his belt, Lil Ommy is now smiling all the way to airwaves as he sits comfortably at the throne.
Omary Tambwe - a.k.a ‘Lil Ommy’ - is one of the top radio presenters in Tanzania. Casual and upbeat, the on-air personality has the aura of a mogul behind the mic – something which he says isn’t a job to him, but a lifestyle.
Listening to The Playlist, a show that Lil Ommy hosts on Times FM, you will instantly notice a difference in his presenting style.
The off-the-cut questions that at times catch guests unawares have beguiled his hosting flair to the thousands of listeners who tune in everyday.
Born and raised in Tabora, Lil Ommy always had an eye for the entertainment world. As the last born, the prefix ‘Lil’ fit perfectly.
Even in his adulthood he stuck by the name, one which has garnered fame in the radio broadcast industry in Tanzania today.
Lil Ommy’s first steps in the media world saw him navigate the radio business in Tabora by working at Voice of Tabora (VoT) radio. As he recalls his journey, the now successful media personality says it wasn’t easy getting a gig at VOT. “I tried and failed five times before getting accepted,” he opens to The Beat.
Even though his unique ability to host radio shows was unearthed early on, getting the spotlight proved to be a hard nut to crack. Lil Ommy had to pass through different channels, getting the right recommendation but each attempt was futile. “It reached a point I decided to circumvent the intermediaries and directly talk to the owner of VoT in order to present my case,” he says. This was his fifth attempt at trying to get the right opportunity, it too, did not bare any fruits.
“All I wanted was to be given a platform, I wasn’t looking to get paid, I just needed the opportunity,” Lil Ommy says. After hitting a dead-end with each attempt, resilient and optimistic he had to find another way to breakthrough.
But even as he was trying to find that golden goose that would grant him a chance at becoming a radio host, Lil Ommy still needed to survive.
To make ends meet he worked at a stationary where he transferred songs to CDs/phones and also repaired computers. “I know a thing or two about IT,” he says, adding; “I used such knowledge to indulge in other activates as I strived to achieve my main goal in the entertainment world.”
With radio at heart, but seeming rather impenetrable, the multi-talented presenter also spent his time doing DJ gigs and working as a hype-man at events.
It was during such time in limbo that luck would come his way and he’d have another go at VoT. “The owner of the radio station had encountered some legal problems which rendered him absent from the business.
Being the cash-cow, his absence hit the radio station real hard so I was contacted by one of the radio’s affiliates and we struck a deal for me to start working for them,” he recalls.
Even though the pay was minimal and there was a massive attrition of employees, Lil Ommy persevered and brought his ‘A’ game to work, knowing full-well that this is a stepping stone to greater things to come.
Bongo Rhymes was the first programme he hosted at VoT. However he would later start his own radio show called Extra Ordinary.
As the radio station was still frail and going through penury, Lil Ommy tapped into his creative ability to transform the business and make it stand on its own feet. “There was an overhaul of all radio programs, right from morning shows to those that air in the twilight. This helped bring a new feel of zeal and excitement,” he explains.
As the famous saying goes ‘It’s not over, until it’s over’, Lil Ommy’s lucky break was on the horizon. With passion and an unrelenting sense of determination, the golden opportunity for him to really breakthrough came during one of the regional tours of talent search show ‘Bongo Star Search’ (BSS). “BSS came to Tabora to search for raw talents in music.
It was then that I got an opportunity to interview legendary music producers, who were the judges for the show: P. Funk and Master J. These two interviews went viral and received a lot of praise from viewers,” he says.
It was through the interviews that Lil Ommy’s true talent and ability as a radio host was given the spotlight that had eluded him for so long.
Word went around and soon after, Dar es Salaam-based radio station Times FM came calling. They needed Lil Ommy’s services at their media house. “Times FM’s director called me and told me they have a spot for me at the radio station,” he says.
After many failed attempts to break through, it was victory at last – a deserved win for his relentless efforts. “Failing to land a gig after trying five times might seem like a total disaster, but it has taught me humility and how to persistently pursue something that I love,” Lil Ommy says.
Even today as a famous personality in radio, The Playlist host doesn’t always have his way, but if past failures have taught him anything; never giving up is a trait that is inherent to success.
His journey to the apex of radio hosting now sees him vying for bragging rights with big names in the continental radio industry. This year the radio host has seen his name put up for nominations in three major awards in radio in Africa – a rare feat for Tanzania.
First off is the Afrimma Awards where he’s gunning for recognition as radio personality of the year. Second is African Entertainment Awards USA where he was nominated for Best Entertainment Host, and went on to win the award. He also vied for Best Media Personality Award at the ‘StarQT Awards.’