Omar Hakim

Former Chair
Affiliated Departments
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Omar Hakim, chair of Berklee’s Percussion Department, is one of the world’s most sought-after drummers, both on the performance stage and in the recording studio. He has worked with the biggest names in music across a multitude of genres, from R&B/pop (Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan ‘04H, Daft Punk, D’Angelo) and jazz (Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock ‘86H, Joe Sample) to rock (David Bowie ‘99H, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger), country (Jerry Douglas), hip-hop (Queen Latifah), and more.

In the 1980s, Hakim toured and recorded extensively with Wayne Shorter ‘99H, Joe Zawinul ’59 ‘91H, and Victor Bailey in Weather Report, having been recommended for the role by none other than Miles Davis. In the 1990s, he toured and recorded extensively with Madonna. One of the earliest adopters of the home studio, Hakim was among the first to use Roland’s V-Drums. Also a composer, vocalist, and producer, he has released several albums of his own music with the Omar Hakim Experience and in a group with his wife, Rachel Z, the Trio of Oz.

Hakim began playing the drums in the Queens, New York neighborhood of St. Albans at age 5 and started touring with his father, the esteemed jazz trombonist Hasan Hakim, at age 10, which afforded him the opportunity to learn from Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, and Clyde Lucas.

Career Highlights
  • Performed with Wayne Shorter ‘99H, Joe Zawinul ’59 ‘91H, and Victor Bailey in Weather Report
  • Founding member of jazz supergroup Urban Knights, along with Ramsey Lewis, Grover Washington Jr., and Victor Bailey
  • Performed on hit songs such as Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”
  • Has worked with George Benson ‘90H, Lionel Richie ‘17H, Anita Baker ‘05H, Bobby McFerrin ‘03H, and John Scofield ’73 ‘97H, among many others
  • Performed as a member of the house band for the hit NBC music variety show Night Music
  • Featured as percussionist on hundreds of popular recordings
  • Nominated for Grammys in the Best Jazz Fusion Performance, Vocal or Instrumental category for his work on Weather Report’s Procession (1983) and Sportin’ Life (1985)
  • Nominated for a Grammy in the Best R&B Instrumental Performance category for his song “Constructive Criticism” (1989)
  • Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts
In Their Own Words

“We have to be open-minded to the current trends in a business that is always morphing and redefining itself in terms of what those tools will be and what that mindset is for a musician that is walking into this world at this moment, and even that could change. We need to give students the survival skills to go out there and participate in the music culture and the music business.”

“At the end of it all, it’s still going to be about you: the person behind the music. The notes exist because of who you are. The rhythm exists because of who you are. So it’s not only your practice that informs the music, but your life informs the music. So we take a look at not only how we’re practicing music, but how we’re living life.”