The prominent singer and leading figure in the Saudi music scene Tarik Abdul-Hakim has passed away. He was a wonderful man from a wonderful artistic period, admired by many people of different backgrounds. He was a resident of Taif, a beautiful mountainous city known for its gentle winds, pomegranate trees, grapes, and of course, singing.
Tariq Abdul-Hakim, an icon of Saudi art and entertainment, opted to become a “professional” singer to master the skill he loved, which he also excelled at academically, further cultivating his talent. He was highly proficient in the art, and achieved great fame after he produced his vibrant and successful songs one after another. Part of his repertoire was sung in the old traditional Nabati and Hijazi style, which later on became one of his defining characteristics. Perhaps his most famous work was “Ya Reem Wadi Thaqif”, a typically romantic Taif ode in which he paid tribute a passionate, platonic love. Of course, he had a sizable number of other hits including “Ta’laq Qalby” and “La Yalkhayzranah”.
Abdul-Hakim was also a significant contributor to the establishment of the Saudi military band, which was sponsored and even encouraged by the government despite the strong objections it received by some people at that time. With such accomplishments, he laid the foundations of a cultural heritage that deserves to be maintained. He was also generous in the songs he penned for others, thus leaving his mark on Saudi culture in terms of the music it produced. Among the artists who sang his work are Tallal Maddah and Mohamed Abdu, the latter of which everyone still remembers singing “Min Aynak Waldalal”. In that song, Tariq Abdul-Hakim was successful in integrating the music and rhythm of the flute into a modern love song. It received widespread acclaim and was the subject of great demand at music festivals, especially in the Gulf region.
Tariq Abdul-Hakim was especially interested in cultural heritage and was always keen to collect antiquities and masterpieces relating to the art and artists of the Arab Peninsula. He had a longstanding dream which he sought to fulfill in his later years: namely to establish a comprehensive national art museum, which he initiated with his own funding and spared no effort to establish. Unfortunately, his endeavors ultimately reached a deadlock and were hindered by bureaucratic and administrative obstacles, for he received no encouragement or protection from his hardline critics.
I once had a wonderful evening in Jeddah with the late singer, during which he spoke extensively about the history of art in Saudi Arabia and the various icons, schools and styles of Saudi singing. Indeed, I was amazed by the awareness and mental fitness of a man his age, and I realized that I was sitting with someone who loved and mastered his career. I could see his bright eyes when he lovingly and admirably recalled the singers he had worked with. He spoke of his art in a manner that sounded as if he was talking about his children or grandchildren. However, a sad tone prevailed over our chat, a tone tinged with a sense of denial and neglect of a cultural icon, who had he been born in another country would have been celebrated greatly and his art better appreciated.
Tariq Abdul-Hakim was a hugely talented icon who the Saudi people will miss. A wonderful man has passed away having given so much to his country, for which he deserves to be honored and his memory deserves to be immortalized. Streets and halls must bear his name, his biography must be published, and an award should be inaugurated in his honor. Yet, what matters most is that he is not considered an exception, for he is part of society’s collective mindset and should be celebrated without any feeling of shame or defect.
May God rest the soul of Tariq Abdul-Hakim, for he was a distinguished artist who performed a key role. He was always an honorable ambassador for his country, and never brought shame upon the Kingdom.
We pray that God Almighty bestows heaven and mercy upon Abdul-Hakim, and provides patience and solace to his relatives. My greatest condolences go out to his family and admirers.