It makes perfect sense that he’s among the small group of key musicians Daft Punk called on to take the EDM duo’s already famous grooves to the next phase. After all, he’d done the same for Weather Report, Sting, David Bowie, and so many others. Now he’s released his first solo album in a decade and a half, yet another wonderful reminder of his elegant feel and kaleidoscopic vision. Longtime contributor Robin Tolleson, who interviewed the drummer for his first MD feature way back in 1984, catches us up on his latest greatest hits.
You can drop the needle just about anywhere on Omar Hakim’s musical timeline and find a good groove, but now is a particularly fertile moment for the drummer. Hakim is sporting a new self-produced solo album, We Are One, which is heavy on both songwriting and instrumental prowess. He’s been touring with his wife, pianist Rachel Z, in their project the Trio of OZ. And as we went to press he was preparing for a historic series of sold-out Kate Bush concerts at the Eventim Apollo in London.
This work follows in the wake of a widely seen appearance at the 2014 Grammy ceremonies with the year’s big winner, Daft Punk, who from the start envisioned Hakim’s buoyant pocket as a key element in the duo’s game-changing 2013 album, Random Access Memories. If anyone among the several million Grammy viewers wasn’t already familiar with the drummer laying down the groove of death alongside Chic’s Nile Rodgers, Stevie Wonder, and Pharrell, they sure learned fast.
“At the genesis of Random Access Memories was the desire to record live drummers,” Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk tells MD in an exclusive interview for this story. “It sounded like an exciting challenge to bring back the human feel in the rhythm section of dance and pop music recordings at a time where it had been gradually and generally replaced by drum machines. So it all started with drum sounds and a certain groove that we had in mind, a certain idea of a unique organic perfection and a genuine personal musicality that drummers like Omar Hakim and JR Robinson [who also appears on the album] have in their performances.”
At this point, few human beings haven’t been exposed to the disco-funk sizzle of RAM‘s multi-million-selling, Grammy-grabbing lead single, “Get Lucky.” But attention should also be paid to Hakim’s crisp accents on “Beyond,” feathery stickings on “Motherboard,” rocket-fuel injection on “Contact,” and sure-handed slamming on “Giorgio by Moroder.” “Omar is an amazing musician with such a unique, distinctive shuffl e,” Bangalter says. “He’s extremely nuanced and sophisticated yet straight down to the point, which is something [Daft Punk’s] Guy-Manuel [de Homem- Christo] and I love about him. Watching him play in the studio was just so infectious. He brought so much to the tracks, with enormous generosity and simplicity.”
A good number of the drummers watching the Grammys in January needed no introduction to Hakim’s sublime groovesmanship. Many MD readers, for instance, associate Hakim with his stint in the pioneering world-jazz group Weather Report in the 1980s, anchoring its great final rhythm section. Omar followed that gig with a seat in the house band on David Sanborn’s influential but short-lived Night Music show, then touring and recording opportunities with Lionel Richie, Madonna, Sting, Herbie Hancock and Stanley Clarke, Bobby McFerrin, and the Urban Knights (featuring Grover Washington Jr., Ramsey Lewis, and Victor Bailey), before enjoying a decade-long run in Chic with his boyhood friend Nile Rodgers.
One of Hakim’s former Weather Report bandmates, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, once related how so many fans continued to ask about the group years after it had broken up. Shorter would explain that in his and keyboardist Joe Zawinul’s subsequent solo material, listeners were getting, in a sense, the “best of” Weather Report. A similar metaphor can be used when discussing Hakim’s third solo album, his first in fourteen years.
Listening to We Are One, longtime fans will no doubt be reminded of many facets of the drummer’s amazingly well-rounded career. And we’re not just talking “spot the chop” here. Though Hakim consciously doesn’t shy away from drum features this time out, We Are One is about much more than flexing musical muscles; it’s about communicating, which Omar can do so effectively, in so many ways. “Carpe Diem” hits with joyful vocalizing, harmonica, and warm V-Drums sounds. “Listen Up!” raises the bar of smooth jazz several notches. And “With Every Breath” is four minutes of egoless instrumental joy. Meanwhile, the accented hi-hats, cymbal jabs, and tuneful toms on “Remember to Remember” connect many of the dots of Hakim’s decades-long creative streak.
Taken as a whole, it’s as if Hakim has arrived at a place where he’s taking stock of all his skills and interests in order to build upon a total artistic concept. “I’m at a point in my life where I want to spend time working on my own music,” he says. “My hope is that people get excited about the project, and I’m psyched to get the band on the road!”
MD: Since we last talked, D’Angelo’s Voodoo record came out and beats got all messed up.
Omar: It’s true, man, the whole approach to groove drumming has changed, particularly in that kind of hip-hop/R&B vibe. D’Angelo and [producer/drummer] Questlove made a record with genius and vision that influenced a whole new generation of musicians. But then some things haven’t changed. Rock ’n’ roll hasn’t totally changed. In many ways American rock music is still doing its thing. It still has that consistent sound. I’m thinking about bands like Foo Fighters that expand on the rock tradition but in their own unique way. However, it’s interesting how certain genres change, morph—disco to dance to house to EDM, soul to funk to R&B to rap to hip-hop to neo soul.
It seems like rock, gospel music, and country music are staying connected to the instrumentalist craft, because they’re still keeping it tied to the tradition of actually sitting down and playing an instrument. It’s important that young people are still interested in learning to play and develop skills on an actual instrument. Over the last three decades we’ve seen interesting leaps with R&B and hip-hop and rap, because the production tools changed, from live musicians to sampling records and drum machines and all that over the years. Drummers that came back into that arena were emulating some of the drum machine stuff. What I remember hearing about [the current approach to R&B grooves] was that back in the day sometimes people were having a hard time getting loops lined up a certain way. But then they just worked with it anyway, and it’s almost like the feel of displaced loops became a happy mistake. This sound influenced a generation of drummers.
MD: The hip-hop world has always been open to taking samples from different genres.
Omar: It’s a different kind of talent to create music as a collage concept—to hear a preexisting piece of music, an idea, a phrase, and in that moment reimagine it into something else, in the same way that an artist would take snippets of pictures from different places and create a new piece of art with it. So I guess at the end of the day that’s the beauty of art—there don’t have to be rules about how it’s created, as long as it comes out the way that you wanted it to come out.
MD: You’ve been able to be creative across a number of different styles.
Omar: I’ve managed to stay very busy because I chose not to be a specialist in one particular field—jazz drummer, rock drummer, or whatever. I’ve just always followed the music.
Growing up when I did, I was exposed to a lot of music. You know, being a teenager in the ’70s, the radio wasn’t so segregated into specific genres back then. You could turn on one radio station and hear everything from the Beatles to Motown to Earth, Wind & Fire to Grand Funk Railroad to the Mahavishnu Orchestra to Return to Forever to Miles. All of this music was happening on the radio, and people were exposed to a more interesting and open kind of selection. In many ways maybe the listeners were more sophisticated back then. I mean, you know listeners are sophisticated when Columbia Records puts out a 45-rpm single on the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
So it was interesting to grow up during that time period, because I’m absorbing and assimilating all of this musical information, trying to experience it all and add it to my mental tool belt as a musician. Growing up loving rock, funk, R&B, jazz, bebop, fusion, whatever, I was very well prepared for a career that would be eclectic in nature and open, and that’s kind of been my OS throughout my professional life. I wanted to be able to go into different arenas and enjoy the experience and contribute something meaningful to each project that would enhance the artists’ vision of their music. I feel like that’s my job, that I would show up ready to adopt the idea that’s presented at the moment and frame it with the right rhythmic frame. So it’s been a beautiful journey, because I’ve made pop records, jazz records, rock records, R&B records, reggae records. It’s been a journey that’s kept me on my toes for forty-five years. As a result it keeps me fresh too. I don’t have time to rest on laurels. I’m still busy looking ahead in many ways.
Not So Randomly Accessing Memories
MD: It sure looked like fun playing with Daft Punk at the Grammys.
Omar: It’s unbelievable, man. People are still talking about it months later. And it was fun, a magical night. There was an energy in the room that I can’t even explain. It was an interesting flow, and I want to say that, at least for the rhythm section, the take of that song at the Grammys was the best we had done all week. For some reason we were feeling really loose, really in a nice flow with [bassist] Nathan East, Stevie, Pharrell, Nile, [guitarist] Paul Jackson Jr., and [keyboardist/MD] Chris Caswell. Right from the very downbeat of the thing it just felt good to me. And it was really cool to look out and see the whole audience at the Staples Center get up and start dancing.
MD: Some of the segues between sections were a little tricky. Was there a sequence going through it all, or was it totally live?
Omar: Yeah, it was a very deliberate concept to do the mash-up of the Stevie Wonder songs with their hit, and also snippets of some of their other hits that would flow in and out of the mash-up. So the rehearsals were interesting, because I had to play with a click so that certain recorded elements could be flown in—Vocoder effects and other things.
The challenge is to make it not feel like you’re playing with a click, like it’s just swinging like a live show. You don’t want it to have that kind of tense, tight feeling of I have to be right on the click. So after rehearsing for a few days and getting comfortable, mission accomplished. We were able to blend the best of a live performance with the technology. These are beautiful experiences, and they definitely keep you on your toes, man. It was a little nerve-racking; at one of the rehearsals I remember my monitor system went down, and I was like, Oh, God, we cannot have this happen on live TV.
I’ve been on a lot of these kinds of gigs, so I’ve definitely had to draw on my experience to get through moments like that. But thank God that one went without a hitch, and it was a huge night for Daft Punk. I think they got every Grammy they were nominated for, and it was fun to be there to celebrate with them.
MD: Did you sense that Random Access Memories would become so big?
Omar: When I made that record with them in the spring of 2012, I honestly didn’t see that coming. I was familiar with their music from the radio, and I had seen the movie TRON and heard the music they did for that. So when I got a call I was honestly surprised that they were interested in using me, because I was very aware that they were an EDM band, and their way of working is typically with loops and drum machines and samples. So the first thing I thought was that maybe they wanted me to create live patterns using the V-Drums. Then I could pull up sounds that they would want to hear, but I could play with more of a human feel. But they were like, “No, no, that’s actually not what we want. What we really want is acoustic drums.” I was like, “Really? Okay. Acoustic drums it is.” So I holed up in a studio in L.A. with them for about a week.
MD: How did the session go?
Omar: What was interesting about the session was, we didn’t play any songs. There were no songs. I never heard “Get Lucky” the entire time I was there. What I did hear were really cool four-bar and eight-bar phrases—bass lines, keyboard ideas, grooves—that Thomas would show me. We would find a pattern that felt good, and then we would jam on those ideas for between five and eight minutes or so. It was essentially a live sampling session.
There were two main recording sessions, one with JR Robinson on drums, Nathan East, and Paul Jackson Jr., and one with Chris Caswell, [bassist] James Genus, and me. Nile’s parts came after—I didn’t actually hear Nile until the record came out. Same with Pharrell. But the genius of the Daft Punk guys is that they would take all of that material and do such interesting things. For instance, for “Get Lucky” they took my drum track and put Nathan East on that song. This was the genius construction of a pop record.
I also thought it was interesting that they wanted to use live musicians to make this record. Thomas is very thoughtful about celebrating the process of going into the studio and recording music, and the magic that happens when you pull people together in the recording studio. After the Grammy win I went backstage to congratulate him, and he said, “This isn’t just about us—it’s about all of you guys.” The fact that they actually put a recording studio on the stage of the Grammys was a very deliberate statement from them from the standpoint of showing and celebrating the process. Everybody who was in that room, we all start the process in a recording studio somewhere. To put that on stage, and then have it morph into this kind of dance party, I thought was a pretty genius concept. Those guys are really thoughtful. It was fascinating to observe them, not only during the recording process but also during the preparation for the Grammys. It was a really unusual and fun project to be a part of.
We Are One
MD: What was the genesis of your new solo album, We Are One?
Omar: Around 2005 I was doing a lot of clinics for Roland. I’ve always been into drum technology, and when the V-Drums came out, it was the first time I felt comfortable enough to actually do a gig with an electronic set and leave the acoustic drums home. Before then the instruments weren’t expressive enough for me. But I met a guy who worked for Roland, Scott Tibbs, who’s an amazing keyboardist, arranger, and orchestrator, and we hit it off. Scott was the first guy on board with my new record. We started writing together.
In 2006 I was commissioned to do a video piece for Digital Theatre Systems, and I wrote a tune called “Listen Up!” and put a band together with Scott, Gregoire Maret on harmonica, Chieli Minucci on guitar, and Jerry Brooks on bass. We flew to Belgium to record at Galaxy Studios, and that sort of kick-started the project. Sometimes Scott would be in New York and we’d work together. Other times we were working with him in L.A. and me in New York. I’d send him ideas, and he’d send me stuff and I’d finish it, put drums on it, and send it back to him.
What’s cool about this project is that it’s a collaboration of friends and family in many ways, guys I’ve known a long time. I worked with Chieli on several
Special EFX albums back in the day. Gregoire Maret, I was just a fan of his work. I grew up with the sound of the harmonica; it’s a tone that I’ve always liked, from Stevie Wonder to Toots Thielemans to Lee Oskar. So the combination of Bobby Franceschini on sax and flute, the harmonica, the guitar—I found a nice palette for my music and the way I write melodies.
This project means a lot to me because it represents the joy of having total creative freedom. Also, the album was entirely recorded and mixed at my own studio, and it was released on my own label. It’s a great time for independent artists to take control of their art.
MD: The opening tune on We Are One, “Transmigration,” is reminiscent of something off Return to Forever’s Romantic Warrior.
Omar: “Transmigration” was written at a Roland event in Japan. I got the idea for the melody right on the spot and said to the guitarist, “I’m going to sing a melody, and I just want you to play it.” Then I sang the bass line to Scott and he started playing it and harmonizing it. We did a stripped-down version of it for that event, but then Scott took it home and really developed the idea. “Transmigration” morphed into this sort of epic arrangement with a lot of texture and a lot of excitement. Many of the tunes developed kind of organically like that.
My idea was always to write melodies for instrumental music that are singable, but to make them interesting with the harmony that you layer under them. You can have a group of notes, but the harmony that you put under that group of notes changes the flavor and the mood and the emotional atmosphere of those notes. A lot of times—and I learned this from Zawinul and Wayne Shorter—when I write a melody I might get away from it for a day or two and then go back and experiment with how many different harmonic ideas I can put under it.
Herbie Hancock said to me once, “You know, a lot of my hits are only like four or five notes.” We had fun going through them. Take “Chameleon,” for example: The main melody is four or five notes, and the same with “Rockit.” A person can connect with that melody. So I’ve always been interested in making melodic statements that people can hook up with, but when you go to play it you find some interesting harmonic content underneath that makes it interesting to listen to.
MD: You create a lot of spaces on We Are One for the drums to shine.
Omar: I used to get criticized for not playing enough drums on my own records. I guess it goes back to the fact that I didn’t always think like a drummer. One of the first instruments that I was learning at the time I was getting into drums as a kid was violin. My aunt and uncle had a piano and a guitar lying around at their house, and I was always connecting with harmonic and melodic instruments.
I think that experimenting with other instruments made me a better drummer, because I could connect with the emotion of the music, not just hear it as a rhythmic vehicle. I’m hearing music when I go into a session as the whole picture, the entire story. My job is to respond to that as a drummer, and I think that when you’re playing from that place, it opens up your creative thinking to how you would frame the experience rhythmically. I always look at it like: There’s a lovely picture, but if you put the wrong frame on it, it doesn’t complement the picture.
MD: “With Every Breath” is a nice instrumental ballad, and I wouldn’t normally expect a drum solo in a track like that. But the way you set up those montunos to improvise over works well.
Omar: “With Every Breath” flowed out of me in one afternoon. I’ve found that some of my best tunes are the ones that just flow out—you sit down at the piano and you’re singing and playing the melodic idea right on the spot. I’m not overthinking it; I’ve got some chord progressions that feel good to me and inspire a nice vibe, and typically how I arrive at the melodies is that I sing them over the harmony. If I can sing them, that means I’m connecting my heart to the intention.
Some melodies are improvisations and they’re very abstract, and you’re going for something crazy or superinteresting. But then ballads, sometimes they need to just connect. Rachel worked on Wayne Shorter’s High Life record, and he had reminisced that Miles [Davis] told him to “write something romantic.” The idea is that it would get right to the heart.
With instrumental music you have to be careful to balance the yin-and-yang energy. I had a conversation about this with [bassist and Davis collaborator] Marcus Miller many years ago. The vibe that we came up with is that if you look out and there are no women in the audience, something is missing in your music. And it’s not to say that it’s not fun to play for the guys that love the kind of sports element of drumming and all that. But at the end of the day, you would hope that your music would connect with everyone on different levels. If I play a gig and have both men and women connecting with the music energetically, then I feel like as a composer I’ve done the right thing.
MD: “Remember to Remember” has a really serious build to it. There’s a trick to the build, isn’t there, to holding yourself back?
Omar: Absolutely, because you don’t want to force it; you just want to be on the ride. One analogy is when you take a small snowball and roll it down a mountain, it gets bigger and bigger. Another analogy is that sometimes things that are repeated over and over again gain momentum. It’s like a meditation; the mantra gains more power and energy as you keep repeating it.
I’ve almost always applied that concept to playing grooves, but also to being in the moment and just letting the moment unfold. I don’t have to make it be something; I just have to be in it and then let it unfold, and energetically I start to feel that pulse. It’s like the musical moment and the musical energy is much bigger than what you could ever practice. You could prepare for it—but you couldn’t practice it. I had a teacher who said, “Some things can’t be taught; they have to be caught.” And music is very much like that for me.
MD: Your tune “Walk the Walk” is almost like a drum ’n’ bass/shredder hybrid. There’s some great offbeat hi-hat stuff on that.
Omar: I keep a V-Drums set in my control room, and one time I sat down and kind of stumbled onto this rhythm. I was like, Wow, this is fun, and I don’t have anything like this on the record. It’s fast, up around 150 bpm, and it’s kind of a wacky pattern. I recorded it first on V-Drums and then started improvising the bass line on a keyboard. It’s funny that you said drum ’n’ bass, because that’s actually how it started. I sat down, played the pattern, gave myself a break from it by playing a four-on-the-floor dance thing, and then I went back to the pattern again. So within a couple of hours I had come up with a form that included this very simple drum solo.
My idea was to make a solo that a little kid could play. When I was a kid there were a few drum solos on pop records that kids would learn. In the 1960s there was “Wipe Out.” If you said you played drums, somebody would always ask, “Dude, can you play ‘Wipe Out’?” [laughs] Another one was “Frankenstein” by Edgar Winter. That was one of those drum solos—it wasn’t really like a Buddy Rich solo or a Billy Cobham solo, but it was an iconic drum solo that everybody could sort of play. So when I thought of “Walk the Walk,” I thought, What if I had this drum solo that’s not so much chops oriented as much as it’s sound oriented, with more open space, and it’s like you kind of get into the sound of the drum inside this room. So after I did an improv on V-Drums, I liked it, but then I thought that maybe I needed to really hear some air moving. So I called over my engineer Rich Tozzoli, and I was like, “Rich, help me get a massive sound on this,” and I replayed on my acoustic kit what I did on V-Drums over the bass line.
MD: I love how smooth you make the 7/8 feel on “So There.”
Omar: I always felt like, Why do odd time signatures have to sound hard? There are some cultures where a 7/8 or a 9/8 or an 11 actually inspires people to dance. And so my goal with odd-time grooves is to make the listener forget that it’s an odd time signature. If I’m doing it right, they don’t feel the stop-and-go that you could get into if you’re not careful. In Western music we’re so used to 4/4, 2/4, 3/4, that sort of thing, but you know in the Indian culture and in other Eastern music, 9/8, 7/8, 11, 15, it’s very natural.
This tune started off as an improvisation at my old studio in Yonkers. Another engineer I enjoy working with, Chase Culpon, would come by the studio on days that I just wanted to improvise drumbeats. We would do a lot of sessions like that. We’d mike it like it was a real session, and we would just capture grooves that I would later improvise on. I would have a lovely multitrack recording of the thing. The idea was that, you know, sometimes you record something and you have demo love, and you can never get back to that original feeling. Having my own studio meant that I could record the original feeling, but as a beautiful hi-res document that would get used in the final production. And so those drums were just me sitting down and improvising.
MD: The tunes “Listen Up!” and “Forever Friend” lend a great hip-hop jazz vibe to We Are One, and the harmonica is such a great color.
Omar: Once again, there’s a singable melody on “Listen Up!” And on both of those songs I would say the melodies are playful—the harmonica really gives that spirit. Gregoire Maret can play simple melodies in a superexpressive way, but he can also play the instrument like a jazz saxophonist, harmonically and melodically.
Even though I’m using hip-hop rhythms and simple, expressive melodies, I’m also calling on jazz elements, blending a lot of concepts together. I’ll use rock guitar sounds with a harmonica, with a flute, with hip-hop grooves. On “Forever Friend,” there’s a lot of percussion in the B section, an Afro-Cuban kind of feel for a moment. My hope with this record was to feature the drums in a tasteful way but balance that with interesting harmonic information and the use of my voice as a flavor, for texture.
MD: I always liked your tune “Molasses Run,” and you recorded a great new version for We Are One.
Omar: I wrote that song for Weather Report, and it was recorded on the first album I did with them back in ’83, Procession. I decided to dust it off because when Joe and Wayne did it, they cleared out a lot of the harmonic information so that the harmony was more implied than actually spelled out. It was a very open production, but on this one I decided to go with a more lush harmonic version. Scott did a lovely job, and Chieli played a really interesting statement—it was an unusual solo for him. It’s fun to try to get everybody inspired to play different stuff.
MD: “Carpe Diem” and the other song titles point to a spiritual meaning in the music.
Omar: My idea was that while we are here, the soul feels the urge to make the most of its life, through hope, desire, goals, activity—whatever we’re doing. The idea is to hopefully do the best that we can with our time here. That’s why I like the title “Carpe Diem,” as well as the mood of that song. I imagined that if it came on the radio in your car in the morning, it would put you in a lovely space for the day. It’s an uplifting kind of feeling, a hopeful feeling—a melodic representation of potential and what we could possibly accomplish.
The sentiment behind the entire project is to celebrate that oneness of people, through melody, music, and rhythm. And hopefully, energetically, they would feel where I was trying to go with this thing. My dad would say the phrase “The creation is one.” He was always interested in spiritual writings. His dad was a Baptist minister, but when he grew up he decided to get into mystic Islam. So I grew up with a family where I would hang out with my Christian Baptist cousins and go to church with my aunts and uncles, and then the other part of the family was Muslim and would attend a mosque. So I was getting an interesting overview, and because my family was essentially two religions, I just got to the point where I would adopt the best of everything that I was seeing. That made sense to me as a young kid. And the more reading I did, the more I noticed that everybody’s sort of saying the same thing, just in a different way, and that made sense to me. And then my musical life introduced me to cultures all over the world, so it was very difficult for me to look at the creator and the creation, if you will, based on one religious idea.
When I go all over the world, it doesn’t matter who’s in the audience—everybody speaks the musical language and understands it. So what I’m seeing, not just as a musician but as a human going through this experience, is that I got a chance to experience the beauty of people all over the world, and essentially everybody wants that connection that makes them feel whole. They want intimacy and love with somebody that matters to them, and with their families.
So that’s why it’s like, yeah, we are one, actually.
Hakim plays Pearl drums and Zildjian cymbals, choosing from various sizes and models to configure the proper kit for the music he’s working on at any given time.
From Pearl’s Reference or Reference Pure series, he’ll pick from 18×20 and 18×22 bass drums; 8×10, 10×12, and 11×13 toms; and 14×14, 16×16, and 16×18 floor toms. His snares include a 6.5×14 Steve Ferrone Signature model, 6.5×14 steel and brass Sensitones, a 5×14 Reference, a 5×14 Maple Free Floating or Brass Sensitone, and a 5×13 Omar Hakim Signature model.
His cymbals of choice include a 20″ K Custom Hybrid ride, a 22″ K Custom Left Side ride, 17″ and 19″ A Custom Medium Thin crashes, a 19″ K Custom Hybrid Trash Smash, a 19″ China Boy, a 13″ Thin crash, 10″ and 11″ Hybrid splashes, and 13″ and 14″ Mastersound hi-hats.
Hakim’s hardware includes a Pearl DR-503C curved ICON rack, a P-2002B belt-drive double pedal with blue cam, and an H-2000 hi-hat stand.
His Remo heads include Coated CS snare batters with a black dot underneath (Coated Ambassador on his signature snare), Clear or Smooth White Emperor tom batters (Coated Ambassadors for jazz) and clear Ambassador bottoms, and Powersonic bass drum batters.
He plays a Roland TD-30KV V-Drums kit with an extra V-Snare and two additional V-Cymbals, as well as a Roland SPD-SX sampling pad, all of which he runs through QSC KW152 and KW181 powered speakers.
Omar plays Vic Firth sticks, mallets, and brushes, including his SOH signature model and the Rhythm Scepter (based on the AJ1).