Remembering Samir Hachem and His Gift of Arabic Music

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During my “Morning Becomes Eclectic” days, I used to invite many guest hosts to come in and share their musical knowledge. Charlie Haden was the most frequent visitor, bringing in sweeping classical albums as well as old-timey mountain music that he grew up with in Missouri. Don Cohen, a busy attorney and passionate fadista–follower of Portugal’s great fado music–turned me onto Amalia Rodrigues, Carlos do Carmo, and other greats. I received an inestimable musical education from all of them.

Samir Hachem (1958-1992), a Lebanese-born film writer for the Hollywood Reporter, was one of my guest hosts and teachers. Samir gave me the gift of Arabic music, beginning with the great Lebanese diva Fairouz, who is still the most popular Lebanese singer in the world and capable of filling Las Vegas’s MGM Grand Arena in a heartbeat. Samir told me of how Fairouz could perform for one faction in the Lebanese civil war of the 1970’s, then cross over to the other side and perform there, too. Such was her fame and the respect she commanded. Samir also helped me understand the greatness of Oum Kalsoum when I didn’t know that much about the woman known as “The Voice of Egypt.”

Samir sadly succumbed to AIDS in 1992, long before there were retrovirals, and was just 33 years of age in the prime of his life and career. He was a prolific contributor to the Hollywood Reporter, although I couldn’t find any of his articles online. I remember him fondly as a fellow music traveler, and I will always be grateful for what he taught me about the rich treasure trove that is Arabic music.

current U.S. tour of Lebanese superstar and oud maestro Marcel Khalife. He performs in Los Angeles this Friday, December 16, at 8 p.m. at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Hancock Park. Click here for ticket information. His new album, a beauty, is called Andalusia of Love. (Read the recent NPR review.) I’ll be featuring Marcel Khalife’s music on this Friday’s show.

Here is a video of Marcel Khalife in performance. The music aches with pain and desire, and exudes plenty of beauty whether you understand the lyrics or not…the music transcends language.

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