Hakim is the king of the young offshoot of Egyptian sha'bi street-pop known as jeel, a man who's sold more than six million records at home and the first of the young Egyptian singers to make any kind of breakthrough internationally. Born in 1962 in the village of Maghagha, he began singing at school parties and caught the music bug early. By the time he was 14, he had a band, performing hits of the older sha'bi stars, adding more modern instruments, like guitar and keyboards, and performing all over the Minya area. There was a break in the early '80s when Hakim moved to Cairo — not to play music, but to study communications at Al Azhar University. He chose that, he said, because "it was normal to go on and study, my family expected that. I studied communications so I could be close to music, working with radio and things like that. At that time I couldn't study music." After graduation he returned to Minya and continued to play with his band until 1990, when he took the plunge and returned to Cairo as a singer.
With his bandmates he recorded Al Nazra, one of the first sha'bi cassettes to include synthesizer, guitar, and Western dance beats. He personally took it too all the Cairo DJs, who began playing it — with the result that the first pressing was sold out within two months and invitations flooded in to play parties and shows. From there it was onward and upward, as two more cassettes sold in even greater quantities, with a forward-looking sound that still remained strongly rooted in the working-class tradition of sha'bi. However, in 1998, he put his career on the line by letting British world/dance fusionists Transglobal Underground remix some of his work for a disc simply entitled Hakim Remix. Although it proved to be the lowest-selling of his records in Egypt, it made a significant impact in Europe, and for the artist it seemed like a necessary step, since " I had to do it, so I could start experimenting with other things. I thought the sounds could bring in people from elsewhere." The follow-up, 1999's Hayel, was a definite return to roots (and Egyptian popularity), while Yaho, released in 2000, went over the million mark at home. The record of the same name released in the U.S. on Mondo Melodia was a somewhat different beast to the Eyptian model, however. It included two brand-new cuts and four of the Transglobal remixes in with some of the album cuts, making more of a compilation that a single entity. Hakim toured the U.S. in spring 2000 and Mondo Melodia announced plans to release the Live in Brooklyn album in the fall. ~ Chris Nickson