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Nicky Bomba Soundtracks Melbourne’s NYE Spectacular Countdown

Tonight, DJs and bands will be exploding all around Melbourne as Australia’s music capital spins, beatboxes, gyrates, flashes, drum rolls and feedback squalls into 2014.

But in the city centre where 550,000 will gather before midnight, it is the music of multi-instrumentalist and composer Nicky Bomba which will feature. He has put together a 12-minute piece of music for the event: a two minute intro for the countdown, and a 10-minute soundtrack for the $3 million fireworks spectacular.
 
“It was a really exciting adventure,” says Bomba. “I’ve done music scores before, putting music to visuals. But this time I knew that could do anything musically knowing that the fireworks could match it to the millisecond.”
 
The display was developed over nine months by director Andrew Howard’s pyrotechnics company Howard and Sons. This year, technology allows the music and the two semi-trailers’ worth of fireworks to coordinate seamlessly.
 
In the past, revelers complained that they would hear the soundtrack a few seconds after the fireworks. This year, the city has taken over the 99.7FM through which to broadcast the soundtrack. “As long as you can see the Melbourne skyline, you’ll be able to see and hear the fireworks in real time.”
 
When Bomba was contacted in September by the city’s events manager Ros Abercrombie, she wanted something uniquely Melbourne. A feeling of celebration, a feeling of community and a feeling of cultural diversity.
 
Bomba looked through his sound library, and found pieces of music done in the past ten years with his 30-piece Melbourne Ska Orchestra (MSO), the pre-ska Bustamento and solo band Bomba. A MSO piece written four years ago for New Year’s Day called Singalong Day (“my Auld Lang Syne”) started with bells. Fireworks have their own tempos which have to be adhered to, so the pieces had to be seamless and become more theatrical and orchestral with touches of timpani and percussion.
 
The two-minute countdown, titled What’s Your Resolution?, sees him using steel pans, African drums, ukulele, acoustic guitar, tribal drums and dub sounds that build up to a cacophony. The 12-minute piece will eventually be available for download on nickybomba.com.
 
Bomba famously said that he does so much travelling that he once slept on 18 hotel beds in 18 days. In each hotel room, he sets up an altar with incense and Tibetan bells to make it his. Bomba’s projects have taken everything in from the MSO and Bustamento, to playing drums in his brother-in-law John Butler’s band and producing the Multicultural Arts Victoria Visible project. He’s also the poster boy of the Cairns Ukulele Festival. In 2012, it used his Travellin’ from the Planet Juice album while trying to set a new world record for largest ukulele ensemble. He’s also studied music in Ethiopia, Morocco, Jamaica, Europe and his birthplace, Malta.
 
At the start of 2014 are plans for the Melbourne Ska Orchestra to shoot a video for the ska version of the 1960s hit TV Get Smart theme. He’ll record with Bustamento, and make an album with his keyboardist brother Michael.
 
In February he’ll also record an album of ukulele sounds, after scoring endorsement from ukulele company Koyama.

Bomba points out, “There’s a big resurgence of the ukulele at the moment. It’s a beautiful travelling instrument and simple to learn. As the world becomes more populated, instruments that are easy to carry and create a sense of community are going to be welcome.”