Omar Hakim Named Chair of Berklee's Percussion Department

By 
Nick Balkin
August 16, 2017
Press release
yes
Omar Hakim
Image by John Abbott

Omar Hakim, a master drummer who has played on countless hits, from David Bowie's "Let's Dance" to Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," has been named the new chair of the Percussion Department at Berklee College of Music.

Hakim is one of the most influential and sought-after drummers of the past 40 years. Renowned for his versatility, Hakim has hundreds of albums to his credit, collaborating with scores of prominent artists, including Miles Davis, Madonna, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Mariah Carey, Chaka Khan, D’Angelo, and the late Bowie, who described him as "a fascinating drummer, with impeccable timing" and "always fresh in his approach." Hakim succeeds John Ramsay, who served as Berklee's percussion chair since 2008.

"I am thrilled and excited about the possibilities of my new role at Berklee," said 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."

Evolving as an Artist and Innovator 

A native of New York City, Hakim took up the drums when he was 5. 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 a 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). His drum solo on "I Burn for You," featured in the 1985 documentary Bring on the Night, which chronicles Sting's first solo concert, is considered one of the most powerful drum solos ever captured on film. In 1988, Hakim became the house drummer on NBC's Sunday Night (later renamed Night Music). His Grammy-nominated solo debut, Rhythm Deep, was released in 1989.

"I look forward to identifying new and innovative ways to inspire and prepare Berklee students for successful careers in music."

— Omar Hakim

Listen to a Sounds of Berklee podcast with Omar Hakim:

In the 1990s, Hakim toured and recorded with Richie and Madonna, the latter for whom he worked for eight years. During this period, he also was exploring the latest advances in electronic drums, becoming one of the first adopters of the Roland V-Drums. His technological prowess established him as major innovator and put him in even greater demand.

In 2009, Hakim and his wife Rachel Z formed the Trio of OZ, which has toured and recorded several albums. In 2012, he recorded with Daft Punk on its album Random Access Memories, contributing the groove to the hit single "Get Lucky" and other tracks. The album won multiple Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. In 2014, Hakim released his critically acclaimed third solo album, We Are One.

"Omar Hakim has always been cutting edge," said Terri Lyne Carrington B.M. '83 '03H, a Grammy-winning jazz drummer and Berklee percussion professor. "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," added 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 B.M. '97, who composed the score to Birdman, Vinnie Colaiuta '75 (Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell), Joey Kramer '70 (Aerosmith), Will Calhoun B.M. '86 (Living Colour), Cindy Blackman '80 (Lenny Kravitz), and Mike Portnoy B.M. '86 (Dream Theater).