Omar Hakim, The Drummer’s Drummer

A Career Transcending Music Genres

Omar Hakim

Omar Hakim

Omar Hakim’s incredible groove and highly musical approach to drumming make him one of the most sought-after and talked about musicians the world over. In particular, his ability to play both jazz and pop with unrivaled authority – not to mention a groove that’s so deep you can’t help but fall in – puts his name at a near-legendary status. If he had stopped at Weather Report and Miles Davis, Omar Hakim would be marked as having a formidable career but that was just the beginning. Omar Hakim defined the groove for the groundbreaking Dream of the Blue Turtles, Sting’s first solo undertaking, as well as Sting’s Bring on the Night live CD and feature-length video. And his list of credits since is staggering: Madonna, Jewel, Tracy Chapman, Lionel Richie, Mariah Carey, David Bowie, Sophi B. Hawkins, Joan Osbourne, Everything But The Girl, Dire Straits, David Sanborn, and more. On top of all this studio and live drumming, Omar Hakim is also a gifted songwriter, producer, keyboardist and singer (“with a little guitar thrown in,” he notes).

Omar Hakim: The Power of the V-Drums

His First Gigs…

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Omar Hakim started playing professionally at a very early age. “ I played with my dad when I was ten. He was my first boss. We used to play gigs all over the tri-state area: New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. We’d do weddings and stuff.” This experience got his career off to a flying start. Omar Hakim remembers, I guess what happened was that I started to get a little reputation around town as the young kid on drums. Then at 15 I did a record and a tour with a guy named Jay Mason. We opened for bands like Sly and the Family Stone and The Doobie Brothers. I think it was from that point that people started to recognize me, and I would get calls for serious gigs even though I hadn’t hit high school yet.”

Being in Demand…

By the time Omar Hakim reached high school, he was already a sought after musician. He worked with Patty LaBelle and numerous others while still attending school. Once out of school, Omar Hakim began playing with vibraphonist Mike Manieri and did a tour with Kazumi Watanabe. “I think that was another turning-point gig for me because it got me in with Manieri, and he was a musical director for Carly Simon,” he recalls. “So I got hired to sing and play drums for Carly. From that tour,  I met David Sanborn, and I started gigging with him and did a record called As We Speak. That was another record that people started to really see my playing on. It had some really good performances [and] embodied a lot of what I had been working on stylistically,” reflects Hakim. “From Sanborn I worked with the Gil Evans Big Band and met Hiram Bullock in that band. Because Gil was friends with Miles, from that point on my name really started to get around New York City.”

Weather Report…

Another huge step for Hakim came when he landed the Weather Report gig. Hakim had been playing in all the New York clubs and had established a solid name for himself as a hot young drummer. So when Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter were looking for someone to fill the drum chair in Weather Report, he was recognized as a contender. Hakim remembers, “Apparently my name kept coming up with people Joe and Wayne would call, so Joe called me. I freaked out; I couldn’t believe it. I was such a big fan throughout high school.  So I joined Weather Report in ‘82.”

Hakim did three albums and three world tours with Weather Report while concurrently doing two records with David Bowie, a record with Brian Ferry, and many other recordings. “Even though I was doing jazz, I was keeping my foot in the rock and funk world. It was very important for me not to become typecast. I made it my mission.”

Building success upon success, after Omar left Weather Report he joined up with Sting and recorded more hit records and did more world touring. “I did ’85 and ’86 with Sting. But when I got off the road with him, I was completely burnt from touring. I’d been going out for ten years, so I stayed home from ’87 to ’91. In this time period,  I still worked like crazy. I did the Night Music TV show with David Sanborn and tons of records. I also did my first solo album.”

Drummers of Weather Report 2007 Photo via: DrummerWorld.com

Omar Hakim: A Passion for Music

Current Projects…

From ’91 Omar’s career continued to sky-rocket with some of his biggest tours and records: a Madonna world tour, two records with Jennifer Lopez, a record with Anita Baker, another with Mariah Carey, Sting, Jewel, Celine Dion, Bruce Springsteen and on and on and on… Omar’s current projects include The Trio of OZ (a jazz collaboration with his wife Rachel Z), touring with a Miles Davis tribute band – Miles Smilesa project with Jerry Douglas, tons of session work, and playing at the GRAMMY‘s with, as Omar says, “the dudes in the funny helmets” Daft Punk, which he also worked with on their 2013 album Random Access Memories. 

Omar Hakim Interview

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