Naji Hakim

Naji Hakim

Composer • Organ

• Born 1955


The Lebanese-born Naji Hakim is a contemporary representative of the long tradition of French organist-composers.

Hakim was born in Beirut on October 31, 1955. Both his parents were musical, and Hakim and his three siblings all took music lessons; Hakim played the cello at first. Entering Beirut's Collège du Sacré-Coeur he encountered for the first time the sound of a French Romantic organ in the grand tradition, and was instantly transfixed. By age 15 he was giving concerts of organ music. However, with conditions deteriorating in Lebanon, his father insisted that he pursue an engineering degree, a goal he continued to pursue in Paris after, as he was quoted as saying by Pro-Motion Music, "the evil destroyers elected Lebanon for 25 years of civil war." Once he was in Paris, his musical dreams were only strengthened. He applied to the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris in 1976, was turned down by a 4-3 vote of the admissions committee, and cried all night, but then took the advice of a friend and began studying with organist Jean Langlais. Those lessons continued for a decade, and Langlais became an enthusiastic backer of Hakim's career; finally he was admitted to the Conservatoire and took seven first prizes in various performance and counterpoint study categories.

In 1985 Hakim became the organist at Sacré-Coeur, Paris' 1914, hilltop monument to the Catholic faith. In 1993 he moved to the Eglise de la Sainte-Trinité, a seemingly even more prestigious position -- his predecessor there was Olivier Messiaen. However, Pro-Motion Music quoted Hakim as saying, "The true reason is that Rector Hazemann didn’t want to amend my contract -- my family needed my presence more. I buried my heart at the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur and regret its organ and liturgy as a part of my body and soul." Hakim remained at Sainte-Trinité until 2008.

Since then he has been devoted full-time to composition, writing not only organ music, but also music for other instruments and ensembles, not all of it sacred. Performances and commissions of his music have ranged far beyond France; he has enriched the sparse repertory of concertos for organ and orchestra with the Seattle Concerto (2000). Some of his music, such as the Ouverture Libanaise for orchestra and various organ pieces, has begun to reflect his Arab background. In 2017, the Signum label issued an album of secular Hakim compositions, including a solo cantata with texts drawn from Racine's tragedy Phèdre and a recording of the Piano Concerto with Hakim himself at the keyboard.