Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"When James Brown Sang In Arabic "Leila / حكيم و جيمس براون - ليلة

Hakim is cool enough that he shared the stage with James Brown once, not too many Arab or international stars have had this honor. The Egyptian party firecracker and well rounded singer has not been making music for some times now, but he is not out. However, he does not seem to want to reclaim his center stage status among many stars who have followed in his footsteps.

One more thing, Hakim had also performed in Central Park in the heart of New York City. He is an icon in  North African music, with fanfare the star  nicknamed the Lion of Egypt, at Central Park Summer Stage. Why? He is still the "king of shaabi music," referring to his rhythmic street pop. New York is filled with many young Egyptians whose quite ways are helping to rebuild an economy.

Hakim music tends to combine traditional instruments and folkloric melodies with urban dance beats and a propulsive contemporary vocal style; it emerged in the late 60s. Thanks to his American producer, Miles Copeland who had him singing duets with everyone from James Brown to Latin pop diva Olga Tañon, but today he's once again without a Western label.

Hakim is a proponent of cross-cultural unity. He was one of the first artists to update traditional shaabi with electric instruments, and he has collaborated with Western artists. Fittingly, the highlight of this thoroughly enjoyable show was "Ah Ya Albi," a duet with the Dominican-American R&B singer Karina Pasian. (The Puerto Rican vocalist Olga Tañon sang the original recorded version.)

Some of Hakim's music is disagreeably slick or driven by distractedly huge programmed beats, but his voice and his pop-star charisma can outshine the glossiest arrangements—and in his live shows he strips away much of the studio lacquer.

Hakim & James Brown - Leila / حكيم و جيمس براون - ليلة

Hakim - Aal Beyhebbeny / حكيم - قال بيحبني


  1. Can I confess that I hated every one of these attempted money-grabbing collaborations? I think the version of "Ah ya albi" without Olga Tañon is much better than the one with her, and I'd have been happier if that version of "Leila" had never happened at all. "Leila" isn't good Egyptian music. It's not good American R&B. Congratulations, Miles, you managed to create something worth less than the sum of its parts.

    Personally, I'm glad Hakim is back doing his own thing without such "helpful" outside influence. Maybe Miles should try to hook up with Tamer Hosni. They seem like kindred spirits when it comes to oddball, multicultural duets, and they both really want to "make 'fetch' happen" between Arabic music and the US pop charts.