A bio: Fredy Omar con su Banda


Fredy Omar was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on April 15, 1970. From the age of eight, he worked in his grandfather's bakery before and after school. It was there, as he mixed and shaped the dough while singing along with the radio, that he dreamed of becoming a singer - an ambition that was ridiculed by his hard working family. But Fredy persevered. He became lead vocalist of his school's choir and recorded two 45's that quickly rose to the top of the playlist on the local stations. Victor Donaire, composer and Oti award winner, was enchanted by Fredy's voice and asked him to record a song he had written for a national contest to select the theme song for a popular television program. They won and the song is still used today as the theme for Campionismos. In 1987, he recorded two songs on Victor Donaire's album, "Soy Como Soy".

Impressed by his success and seriousness, Fredy's family finally agreed with his plan to formalize his musical education and allowed him to attend Tegucigalpa's National School of Music, where he had earned a scholarship. A producer asked him to join her bolero band, Equidad, and they recorded an album of 50's, 60's, and 70's romantic music. During this time, he continued helping his family at the bakery before and after his classes, while spending weekends touring with the band.

By the age of twenty-two, Fredy had played all the major venues in Honduras and toured El Salvador as a soloist. He began to feel frustrated by the limited music market in Central America. When the opportunity to perform at a festival in New Orleans arose, he jumped on it.


Fascinated by the musical diversity he found there and inspired by the freshness he felt in his discovery of un-familiar music styles, he decided to stay in New Orleans. Because he was limited by language, the first band he joined was Ritmo Caribeno, a twenty-year-old, thirteen-piece tropical music cover band. He sang lead vocals with this group for three years while he studied English at the Hispanic Apostolate and took piano lessons with Betty Carter. His developing interest in jazz lead him to quit Ritmo Caribeno and join the Latin jazz band Arpa, with whom he recorded an album, "Arpa Latina". In 1997, he was invited to showcase at a local music conference and this lead to the formation of Fredy Omar con su Banda. Perhaps because of the variety of rhythms (Latin jazz, merengue, salsa, cumbia, mambo, cha cha cha, bolero, and tango) the band enjoyed instant success and within months released their eponymous CD, recorded live at Tipitinas.

The original members, pianist Ralph Gipson and percussionists Humberto "Pupi" Menes (from Cuba), and Cristobal Cruazado (from Colombia) had accompanied the popular local Cuban sonero, Ruben "Mr. Salsa" Gonzalez, for over twenty years, until his death in 1994. They then formed their own award winning instrumental Latin jazz band, Santiago, which disbanded when Pupi Menes went on the road with the Iguanas. The popularity of Fredy’s band attracted other veteran Latin musicians. Peruvian guitarist/bassist, Jose "Pepe" Coloma and Joe Canoura (flute/tenor sax) both joined the group in 1999. Joe Canoura recorded the first Latin cross-over hit "Watusi" with Ray Barretto in 1963. He was a well respected member of the 1960’s New York Latin jazz scene where he performed and recorded with Charlie Palmieri, Tito Puente, and Andy Montanez, before moving to Puerto Rico in the ‘70s. In 2000, classical violinist, Matt Rhody, and versatile percussionist, Michael Skinkus, joined the group.

In 1998, in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, Fredy’s band hosted a benefit concert where they raised thousands of dollars and collected food and medical supplies for the International Hospital for Children’s Honduran Hurricane Relief Fund.


In the four years since its inception, Fredy Omar con su Banda has won five local music awards for "Best Latin Band" (Gambit Weekly’s Big Easy Award in 98, 2000, & 2001 and OffBeat Music Magazine in ‘97 & ‘98). In December, 2000 they won a national award, Musicians Atlas Regional Poll "Top Act in New Orleans". They draw capacity crowds at Frenchmen Street’s Cafe Brasil and at their weekly shows at the St. Charles Avenue’s Red Room, New Orleans’ most elegant nightclub and at the Gulf Coast’s premier casino/resort, Beau Rivage. They have headlined at the House of Blues, Snug Harbor, Mid-City Rock ‘n Bowl, Tipitinas, the Maple Leaf, Margaritaville, the Crystal Room, Live Bait, and other clubs.They have shared the stage with Tito Puente, Ruben Blades, Eddie Palmieri, Manny Oquendo, Maraca, Los Van Van, Albita, Manolin and Ricado Lemvo. They have played the NO Jazz and Heritage Festival every year since 1998, earning a "must see" rating for these performances. They have also performed at festivals in Monroe, LA, Chicago, IL, and Madison, WI, as well as opening for Jimmy Buffett at his Millennial New Year’s Eve party at Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles.
In 1999 Fredy recorded with Los Hombres Calientes on their second CD and with Cubanismo on "Mardi Gras Mambo". The highlight of the year was in November, when the band hosted a descarga (jam session) at Cafe Brasil and were joined by fourteen members of Cubanismo, a show that a local music critic rated among the best shows of the year ("Cubanismo meets Fredy Omar - the place was on fire").

The band’s second album, "Desde Nueva Orleans" (Louisiana Red Hot Records LRHR1124), all original music by the band and other New Orleans’ composers, was released in early 2000 to critical acclaim. The Spanish language radio station, WFNO, dubbed Fredy "El Orgullo de Nueva Orleans" (The Pride of New Orleans) and New Orleans’ only daily, The Times Picayune, ran a front page story with headlines declaring "Rising Son . . . Omar poised for break into national big time." In 2001 their third CD, "Latin Party in New Orleans", on the Mardi Gras Records label (MG1052), became one of the most widely played albums of the carnival season.