It Takes an Orchestra

By Joshua Eckersley

we speak to the mega-talented drummer and singer-songwriter, Nicky Bomba, about his new single Malibu and subsequent tour.

The list of bands that Bomba has been associated with over his exceptional career is far too long to mention here but you may recognise him as the energetic band leader of the massive (in both size and popularity) Melbourne Ska Orchestra, or from his time as the drummer for the legendary John Butler Trio. After interrupting his pre-flight nap, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in the middle of a music lesson with the ever-alert Bomba, as he schooled me on the rhythmic differences between reggae and ska. It was clear this encyclopaedic knowledge of music is something he’s always ready to share as part of his mission to spread the love of world-music.

Born in Malta and migrating to Australia at a very young age, Bomba can thank his musical family and Maltese origins for his life-long appreciation of music. “The Maltese community are quite active in Melbourne, and every Sunday we got together for planned dances and kept the culture alive as many communities did in multicultural Melbourne.” 

With a steady diet of ethnic music, ranging from Jamaican reggae and ska to Indian and Ethiopian music, it wasn’t long before Bomba had established himself as one of Australia’s leading world-music artists. After collecting two ARIA awards and a swag of critical acclaim for his work with the Melbourne Ska Orchestra, Bomba is now set to release a new single this month, titled Malibu, followed by a tour in support of the release.

Telling the story behind the new single, Nicky regales us. “The Melbourne Ska Orchestra recorded one song a week for a whole year (for the ARIA award winning ‘One Year of Ska’ album). We did 52 songs but, in the end, I’d written 53, so the 53rd song became the first song off my new album, Malibu. The song is about not knowing what you’ve got until its gone. There’s a certain point you get to where there’s so many layers of information that gets in the way of the essence of what life really is, and Malibu is about that. It’s a metaphor for a time and essence that was simple, and it’s also based on my philosophy of trying to simplify things and have less on your plate, but everything is really rich.”

Bomba, who played all of the instruments on the upcoming album, is hitting the road with his band to support the new single. “I’ll be playing drums, guitar and percussions, so I’ll be switching my roles but it’s a 4-piece band and I love the interaction when you’ve got 4 great musicians on stage. You can go anywhere with it. My brother, who I’ve been playing with all my life, will be in there so it’ll be great to have that family connection. I’m really looking forward to that, and I’ll be putting a really good groove into every song.”