Immerse | Music | People | Sports | Anguilla Omari Banks: “All I wanted to do was play my guitar” Omari Banks on becoming the first Anguillan to play cricket for the West Indies, knowing when it was time to make a new career in music, and the power of passion — as told to Nadja Thomas By Nadja Thomas | Issue 139 (May/June 2016) 0 Comments Move on, don’t look back on what you could have done. Just move on. Learn you’re a champion. With faith, the battle’s won. That’s a line from a song I wrote. I’m a musician-singer-songwriter-artist, and former West Indies Test cricketer. I think my real gift is my ability to set my mind on a goal and pursue it with vigour and passion every single day. That has been the secret to any measure of success which I can claim. I was brought up in Anguilla by my dad Bankie Banks, who was an artist, and my mother Donna Banks, who worked for the government of Anguilla. My family shaped me. They stressed the importance of hard work and following through. I never wanted to do anything other than play sports and music. They were the only practical things I wanted to do. I grew up around music. I had a talent for music. I had no other ambition to do anything else but these two things as an occupation. I wasn’t the kid who loved to read books, but I loved motivational stuff, because I found it inspired me to work hard. I would go to the school library sometimes and read stories about Viv [cricketer Sir Vivian Richards]. It would inspire me to go to the park to practice batting. I always thought, I gon’ play for the West Indies and I gon’ prove it to them. Nobody from Anguilla had played for the West Indies. I was like, Hey, I’m going to do it. I don’t care. When I make it they’ll see. At the age of twelve I was selected for the Anguilla under-nineteen cricket team, and at fifteen I travelled to England to train with different academies. I started to play professionally for the Leeward Islands at the age of eighteen. When I was twenty I got selected for the West Indies senior team. When the call came in, on the line was the captain of the West Indies cricket team, Brian Lara. He said, “Hey Banksie, this is Brian. I’m just calling to let you know that you’ve been selected to be part of the squad.” Nobody from Anguilla had played for the West Indies. I’m the only Anguillan to have done that. I remember all the excitement brewing. I always believed in myself. I believe that if you put it in, you’ll get it out. I had a professional career of about ten or eleven years. When I travelled on tour playing cricket, whether it be for Leeward Islands or the West Indies team, I would always travel with my guitar. I would play for the boys in the dressing room. I remember my last cricket tour — it was actually coming to a close, all I wanted to do was play my guitar, and that’s how I knew it was actually coming to an end. I was playing the sport I never thought that I could just retire from. I was somebody who was willing to sacrifice everything to get the right results I wanted for my game. But with all the politics that was going on around West Indies cricket, I just decided to come home. I didn’t have the passion to get up everyday and try to be better. I said, Hey, it’s time for me to retire. When I decided to end my career, it was quite abrupt. I got back home from my last cricket tour and I started to write songs like “Move On”, because that’s where I was at the time. I started to play at nightclubs, where I would play for free to build an audience. I always took music seriously. In fact, my first job when I finished high school to support my cricketing career was singing in hotels and playing the guitar. Music was something I always kept around me, because it was a balancing force in my life. I remember my dad did a show at B.B. King’s in New York, and I did background vocals, and at that time I was like, Hey, this is something I would like to do. Four years after ending my cricket career, I’m opening for one of the biggest bands in the history of reggae music — Morgan Heritage. So that’s just a testimony of where you can get if you focus one step at a time and work on your product. It’s really just about believing you can do it if you take action. I actually believe I am more talented at music. I can practice music by myself and make a lot of headway. In sports, I still needed somebody to bat or to throw the ball so I could practice. Yet cricket has taught me you’ve got to be who you are, know what your strengths are, and stick to those strengths. I take that attitude over to my music. Create something memorable. I meet very few people who are as passionate at what they do. I want to be recognised throughout the region and the world for my music. To headline festivals. What’s important is getting my music out all over the globe. When I perform at a festival, I want people to know my music and to sing along. For me, that’s one of the big things. If you’re doing a festival and people are singing your songs with you, you know you’ve done the groundwork.