Though Onallee may not be a name you instantly recognise, it’s certain that you will know her by her achievements. Winner of the 1997 Mercury Music Prize [fighting off Radiohead and The Prodigy in the process!] Onallee is a founding member, lead vocalist and co writer of Roni Size / Reprazent; a band which carved a niche into the landscape of electronic music with their debut album ‘New Forms’, a blend of jazz and drum & bass which inspired a new generation of artists and breathed new life into a genre which had all but been forgotten by the media of the day.
Onallee’s contribution to the success of Roni Size / Reprazent cannot be underestimated, penning lyrics for three of the four main singles taken from ‘New Forms’ as well as providing the instantly recognisable call to action in ‘Brown Paper Bag’. As part of Reprazent Onallee has travelled the world pushing her inimitable style across Europe, Asia, Australasia and America, performed on Later… with Jools Holland several times, been awarded a Q Award for Best Live Act, notched up a Gold disc and played at just about every festival worth mentioning. While as a guest vocalist and lyric writer on The Freestylers’ ‘Get A Life’ Onallee also notched up a top 20 hit in Australia as well as being sought out by Universal Studios to use the track for their Hollywood motion picture ‘Sisters’.
Growing up in Bristol, the daughter of Jamaican parents and one of four children, Onallee cites music as being an essential part of her childhood. Her parents had a large and varied record collection and Onallee herself would spend her weekly pocket money on the latest singles, playing them and dancing around the front room of her family home. This obsession with music led to Onallee learning classical and Spanish guitar from the age of nine and writing poetry just a few years later but it was the advent of Hip Hop that would eventually change her life forever….
As well as ripping up the kitchen lino to try her hand at breakdancing she also started to harness her singing and writing talents.
Encouraged by a family friend and DJ who recognised her vocal talents early on, Onallee moved on from dancing (and ruining kitchens!) to take up singing in local venues around Bristol. She joined an Afrobeat band, founded an electro band called ‘Sourmash’ and enjoyed a brief stint as a track worker for British Rail – one of only a handful of women to do so – before settling on a full time career as a musician. It was around this time that she met Roni Size and the rest, as they say, is bass music history. Since then Reprazent has written three studio albums, with the third set to be released on Roni Size’s newly formed Mansion Sounds imprint.
However, Onallee’s adventures in music are less than complete, even with her incredible involvement in one of the defining acts in electronic music. Between the launch of the ‘New Forms’ reissue and subsequent tour in 2008 and the start of writing their new album in 2014 Onallee took the time to acquire a degree in Sound Engineering and to hatch plans to spread her wings and incorporate her own solo story into the mix. No longer content just to be known for her contribution to Reprazent, Onallee launched her own record label, Onallee Records, and is continuing to unleash a slew of new material that showcases her own diverse selection of influences and inspire another generation of bass music fans along the way.
Onallee continues to rock stages with ‘Reprazent’ and is preparing for the release of her second EP ‘Reverance’ at the end of 2016.
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