Drummer Omar Hakim, who has recorded hit songs with top artists over the past 40 years including David Bowie (“Let’s Dance”) and Daft Punk (“Get Lucky”), has been named the new Chair of the Percussion Department at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Hakim succeeds John Ramsey, who had been chair since 2008.
Hakim is renowned for his musical versatility and has played on hundreds of albums, collaborating with prominent artists including Miles Davis, Madonna, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Mariah Carey, Chaka Khan, D’Angelo, and Bowie, who described him “a fascinating drummer with impeccable timing” and “always fresh in his approach.”
“I am thrilled and excited about the possibilities of my new role at Berklee,” says Hakim. “I see this as an incredible opportunity to be a part of one of the best foundational programs in the world for young drummers, and I look forward to identifying new and innovative ways to inspire and prepare Berklee students for successful careers in music.”
A native of New York City, Hakim took up the drums when he was five. By age 10, he was touring with his father Hasan, a trombonist who had played with Duke Ellington and Count Basie. His first big break came in 1980, when vibraphonist Mike Mainieri hired him to play in Carly Simon’s band. He rose to greater prominence as member of the pivotal fusion band Weather Report, a job he held until the group’s breakup in 1985.
He went on to work with Bowie (Let’s Dance), Dire Straits (Brothers In Arms), Miles Davis (Tutu), and Sting (The Dream Of The Blue Turtles), including String’s 1985 movie Bring On The Night, which featured Hakim’s solo during the song “I Burn For You.” In 1988, he became the house drummer on the NBC program Sunday Night (later renamed Night Music). His Grammy-nominated solo debut, Rhythm Deep, was released in 1989.
In the 1990s, Hakim toured and recorded with Lionel Richie and Madonna, working with Madonna for eight years. During this period, he was also exploring the latest advances in electronic drums, becoming one of the first adopters of the Roland V-Drums.
In 2009, Hakim and his wife Rachel Z created a band called the Trio of OZ, which has toured and recorded several albums. In 2012, he recorded with Daft Punk on their album Random Access Memories, contributing the groove to the hit single “Get Lucky” and other tracks. The album went on to win multiple Grammy Awards including Album of the Year. In 2014, he released his critically acclaimed third solo album We Are One.
“Omar Hakim has always been cutting edge,” says Grammy-winning jazz drummer and Berklee professor Terri Lyne Carrington. “I am excited to see how the Percussion Department will be enhanced under his visionary leadership.”
“As one of the standard bearers of drumming and modern music for more than three decades, Omar Hakim will have an immediate and profound impact on our students and faculty,” adds Ron Savage, interim dean of Berklee’s professional performance division.
Many of today’s most successful drummers began their careers at Berklee, including Carrington, Antonio Sanchez (who was interviewed for Drum Magazine’s October 2017 issue), Vinnie Colaiuta, Joey Kramer, Will Calhoun, Cindy Blackman, and Mike Portnoy.