You couldn’t get anywhere in Cairo without hearing his joyful songs rattling out of the cassette player. Hakim between belief and business flair has sold more than eleven million records, recorded music with James Brown and Stevie Wonder, and was one of a select group of artists (including Lionel Richie, Rihanna, Sharon Stone, Simply Red, and Cat Stevens) invited to attend and perform at the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in November 2006 representing the Arab World.
He has now released an international album “Tigi Tigi” including a collaboration with the King of reggaeton (Dale Don Dale) Don Omar from Puerto Rico as well as other featuring.
His appearances go from being amongst international stars (Glorya Gaynor, James Brown) at the World Peace Music Awards in the US to played at major international festivals including the Celebrate Brooklyn Festival, The World Economical Forum in New York (2002) with music legend Quincy Jones and many other international artists like Bono, Lauryn Hill, The Radio City Music Hall with artists such as Elton John.
Other festivals include the Sfinks Festival (Belgium) in front of 70000 fans representing the Arab world, Les Orientales (St. Florent, France), Palais Des Congres (Paris), the Taj Mahal (Atlantic City), Extra Fiesta (Milan with 15000 fans), Detroit festival with 90000 fans, summer stage New York, Multikuti Berlin, Soul of Africa, Winthertur not mentioning other important festivals where he was invited to represent the Arab world.
Hakim has also contributed his music to many charity organizations around the world for the benefit of children, including the AFNCI (the first hospital to be built in Egypt specifically for children with cancer), the “One World Jam” in New York – in association with Nelson Mandela – for the education of disadvantaged children around the world.
He played at the Bethlehem University benefit concert for students that couldn’t pay for their studies under the patronage of late President Yasser Arafat and was honored and awarded by the president Yasser Arafat.
In Tunisia, he helped raise money for the poor through the concert 2626 and was awarded for this cause.
In Morocco, he participated in the mother’s association concert and was also awarded by the King Mohamed the VI.
He also received honors in the USA receiving the Key of New Jersey from the New Jersey Mayor Bret Schundler.
He has received numerous accolades including the award for Best Video Clip at the Paoli Awards in Puerto Rico, Best North African Singer 2000 at Africa’s prestigious Kora Awards, and he was chosen to represent Egypt at 1994’s Festival des Allumees in Nantes, France. In 1999, his rising popularity prompted France’s Blue Silver label to release “The Best of the Big Egyptian Star” an album of hits that was met with acclaim from crowds of new European fans.
Hakim has also lent his talent to TV commercials for his home country mobile networks, Mobinil and for a tea beverage company.
His hit song “Yahooo” was used in Sweden for the chain store Indiska as part of their campaign.
His music is the music of the masses, evident by his ever-growing fan base throughout Europe, Australia, North and South America, and the Middle East, which fuses traditional melodies with urban dance beats, and with lyrics that chronicle daily life through the rhythm of the traditions.
Hakim is one of the Arab world’s most popular performers. His music — danceable pop that originated from Egyptian traditional music — is called Sha’bi. Sha’bi offers listeners a chance to vent their feelings about love, romance, joy, dreams, and life, — anything that’s worth longing for, laughing, dreaming and crying about. This is what differentiates Hakim.
Though Hakim’s favorite subject seems to be love, he also sings a lot about cultural understanding, as on his album, “Lela,” which features a duet with James Brown about the need for people to connect and leave their problems behind them.
The album also features a song that says Islam is a religion of peace and asks listeners to respond in kind. Hakim wants to bring the world and Arabs closer together. He wants audiences to revel in lively music that’s obviously of Arab origin but also reflects an increasingly global culture.
“I want to bring the two cultures to bond even more,” says Hakim in a phone interview from Cairo, before flying to Europe for his latest whirling tour, to promote it.
“He’s extremely charismatic, and when he starts performing, he’s absolutely delightful — he’s completely on,” says Scott Marcus, a professor of ethnomusicology at UC Santa Barbara who wrote an extensive chapter on Hakim in his recent book, “Music in the Middle East.”
Hakim, who sings in Arabic, is a restless Papillion hovering to gain universal following. This was illustrated in Lela, an album produced by Narada Michael Walden, who worked with Stevie Wonder before and encouraged him to play on the song “Ah Men Halawtu.” the song, takes its title from an expression that means “Oh from Her Beauty!”
“I couldn’t believe it,” says Hakim, recalling when Walden told him that Stevie Wonder wanted to record the song “Ah Men Halawtu” with him.
Hakim’s first record deal came in 1991, though he performed for 10 years before that in settings that ranged from birthday parties to cultural events in his hometown.
Born in Maghagha, a small town in Minya, Egypt, in 1962, Hakim grew up surrounded by the sound of Sha’bi. “It was the only music,” he recalls. “From being a kid that was the sound for me. It’s the root of Egyptian music, and comes from the south where I grew up.”
Influenced by some of the great Sha’bi singers, Hakim practiced Mawals, the vocal improvisations which begin a song, and which have become his trademark over the years. At fourteen he formed a band and performed at local parties and school functions with the accompaniment of a tabla, a duff, and an accordion, playing covers of classic Sha’bi hits by Ahmed Adaweya, Mohamed El Ezabi, and Abdel Ghani Al Sayed. Soon they expanded, adding keyboards and drums and performing all over the Minya province.
Although he loved singing and wanted it to be his career, he bowed to the wishes of his father, mayor of Maghagha, and attended the University of El Azhar in Cairo. In 1983 Hakim graduated with a degree in communications, but while in the capital he also kept up his musical interests, meeting new people and artists, including the iconic accordionist Ibrahim El Fayouni, who took the young man under his wing and fostered his spirit.
With a Degree in hand, Hakim returned to Maghagha, this time to pursue his dream. He formed a new band, blending Western, Middle Eastern, and Oriental instruments for a fresh sound. They quickly became Minya’s most popular group with their Jeel (youth) take on Sha’bi. Hakim wanted to take this as far as it would go. So, although his family disapproved, he returned to Cairo, intent on making his living as a singer.
Hakim’s big break came when he met acclaimed producer Hamid El Shaeri, and signed a deal with Sonar Ltd./Slam Records. With El Shaeri at the board, Hakim entered the studio to make his first album, 1991’s Nazra.
It was a Sha’bi revolution as the sound Hakim had been perfecting finally hit the streets. The album leaped into the charts, and the first pressing of the disc sold out within a month. Hakim himself took the unprecedented step of personally going to DJs and giving them a copy of his tape, which boosted his popularity even further, as his voice boomed from radios and shops all over Cairo.
1994 brought a second album, Nar, and Hakim was picked to represent Egypt at the Festival des Allumees in Nantes, France. Between that prestigious appearance, which introduced him to a global audience, and his record sales at home, Hakim became known as the “Roi du Jeel” (“King of Jeel”). Two years later a nomination for the Kora Award in the category of Best North African Singer confirmed his regal status (he won the award in 2000). And when he released Efred, the first of many collaborative efforts between himself, lyricist Amal El Taer, and composer Essam Tawfik, the rapturous reception and sales showed this star was on the rise.
1998 was the year of two major albums, the first was Hakim Remix, where he turned eight of his previously-released hits over to Britain’s Transglobal Underground (TGU), who then applied their own spin. It was a daring move, as Hakim had to maintain the right balance between tradition and innovation to keep his audience at home happy, but also moving past frontiers geographically and musically.
The second album was “Hayel” where hakim somehow needed to return to his roots with a very Sha’bi Album making two smashing hits “Wala Wahed” and “Matakhodsh Ala Keda”
“I felt I needed to do that album,” he says. “When I began doing my music it was a new sound for the people. After three albums, and knowing TGU, I felt it was a good step. I had to do it, so I could start experimenting with other things. I thought the sounds could bring in people from elsewhere. I think I have succeeded.”
That experimental search for the perfect fusion of tradition continued with Yahooo. Its original version was a huge success in the Middle East, having sold over 1 million copies, and brought him to the attention of Ark 21/Mondo Melodia’s founder Miles Copeland.
“I first heard Hakim on a late night radio show on the BBC in London,” Copeland recalls. “I spent the next day tracking him down and scouring record stores to get my hands on everything Hakim. In this process I was also turned on to what Transglobal Underground (TGU) were doing with Arabic music in general and Hakim in particular. The result was I signed both Hakim and TGU”.
The U.S. version of Yahooo! was somewhat different from the Egyptian version. In addition to four Transglobal remixes, it included two brand-new songs, “Yemin We Shemal” by French producer Sodi and “El Bi Hebeni El.” Without a doubt, it was Hakim’s finest studio album.
Yahooo brought two smash hit singles in the Middle East, the title cut and “Esma Yalli.” But it also brought Hakim to the attention of an American audience, which fell in love with his sha’bi sound. That new popularity was consolidated when Hakim toured the U.S. in 2001, firing up audiences across the country with his lion’s roar, and the rich, exciting textures and beat of his music. Audiences thrilled to the sound, and Hakim’s performance in Brooklyn,
with its rawness and power, was recorded for The Lion Roars: Live in Brooklyn.
It captured Hakim at his very best, in a double CD set that Afropop Worldwide called “this sensational live set by the style’s hottest contemporary practitioner,” while CD Now called Hakim “so refreshing, as the singer fearlessly embraces a joyful, forward-thinking outlook without ever sacrificing his cultural heritage — and manages to rock out while doing so. “
Talakik followed Yahooo. Working once again with Transglobal Underground, who contributed a lot to Yahooo, and also the legendary Narada Michael Walden, who produces three tracks, and steps out from behind the board to duet with Hakim on the deliciously funky “Feeling Good.”
Narada Also produced what made an award in San Juan for best video clip , the excellent duet “Ah Ya Albi“ with Puerto Rican Diva Olga Tanon. That song also hit the charts in the middle east and Europe combining Hakim’s dazzling Sha’bi and Latino sound.
The latest addition to his recordings is the Album “Tigi Tigi” recorded in 2008.
Again Hakim has shown us that he has no boundaries when it comes to fusion. Browsing through international new trends ,he found the sound of reggaton interesting and well for combining it to his Sha’bi sound. He contacted famous reggaton singer Don Omar and recorded with him the duet “Tigi Tigi”. He also contacted the producer Gomez know for his work in Puerto Rico and gave him the song “Makdar” to be produced. Both song song have done very well internationally specially in Latin America.
Also for promoting peace, Hakim recorded a song called “Resala” that has touched specially the young generation.
It builds on what he’s achieved so far, with the raw energy of Yahooo and the power of The Lion Roars…, refining his special style, and bringing the rhythms of the Cairo street to America.
“What’s great about Hakim is his infectious energy, vocally and rhythmically — with an undeniable joi de vivre pouring out of each track,” notes Copeland. “Hakim is the real deal!”
Hakim most certainly is the real deal. But success hasn’t gone to his head. The man who’s played to sell-out crowds in Europe, the Middle East, Australia, North America, and Africa remains humble, a man of the people, in touch with his origins, and his hopes for the future
“With God’s will, I hope my music will go everywhere in the world. It won’t happen overnight. It’ll take time and patience. I’ll have to experiment. But I’ve always done that.”