Possibly one of the best known Middle Eastern entertainers in this country, Eddie "The Sheik" Kochak, musician, singer, composer, band leader, comedian, and talent agent, was born in the Arabic section of Brooklyn as Eddie Soubhi (Ibn Farjallah) Kochakji. He was the youngest of six children and his father owned the first coffee house on Atlantic Avenue near Court Street. "Our house was a party seven days a week," says Eddie. As a child he used to beat on the pots and pans in his mother's kitchen until finally, at around the age of ten, he was given his first derbeki. He started playing at all the neighborhood functions and later went on to study percussion for eight years under Henry Adler.
Eddie always had problems with his name. In Junior High School the children would often tease him, calling him "Soupy" instead of Soubhi, which means "morning brightness" in Arabic. But it was in the army in 1942 that his sergeant gave him his well-known nickname. "No way can I get your names right," he said. "From now on you're 'Eddie the Sheik.'" The nickname stuck through infantry and Special Services in Italy, Egypt, and Greece. After the army Eddie toured with the USO, where he learned to love the music and dance of Syria, Lebanon, and the Middle East.
Eddie has often been credited with reviving the Debke, a folk dance of the Middle East. He played these Debkes at various affairs, and Arab-Americans would demonstrate the different versions of their native village or town. Eddie's skillful playing lead him to Broadway where he played "Zorba the Greek" with Anthony Quinn for three years, then toured for two more. He has also performed in concerts at Lincoln and Town Hall, and in appearances on the City of Hope Telethons with Dean Martin and Danny Thomas. However, Eddie is probably best known for developing his unique "Amerabic" sound along with violinist and composer Hakki Obadia from Baghdad, Iraq. Together they modified authentic Middle Eastern melodies and rhythms to make them more palatable to the American ear. It is this sound that dominates his "Strictly Ya Habibi Belly Dancing" cassettes.
Current activities include an annual Brooklyn festival, the Atlantic Antic, which features Eddie and his Ameraba Band on a stage near Court Street. Also, in addition to his musical abilities, Eddie is the Middle East Representative of the Musician's Union Local No. 802 in New York City, in charge of the Arabic, Israeli, Greek, Armenian and Persian sectors. "Somehow, when they come to this country, they get my name and they know I will help them." And the list of dancers and musicians he has helped is long. The list includes Hakki Obadia, Mazin Hamdan, Charles Hallal, Ibrahim Farrah, Jemela Omar, and Soraya Melik, just to name a few.
With his great sensitivity to dancers and their musical requirements, it is easy to see why Eddie "The Sheik" Kochak is in such great demand, both for personal appearances as well as through his recordings. His quick wit, showmanship and musical talents guarantee an enjoyable time for all.
Available Music includes: "Strictly Ya Habibi Belly Dancing" vol. 1-6, "Silver Anniversary Album" and "Golden Hits of 3 Great Albums". Order directly from Eddie at http://www.eddiekochak.net.
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This page last modified: February 8, 2008