|Origins:||Algeria, France, U.S., India|
|Styles:||Indian fusion, chillout, ambient-bright, devotional, ethno techno|
|Discography:||2012 – Samaya: A Benefit Album for Cheb i Sabah
2008 – Devotion
2006 – La Ghriba: La Kahena Remixes
2005 – La Kahena Remixed EP
2005 – La Kahena
2003 – As Far As: A DJ Mix
2002 – Krishna Lila
2000 – MahaMaya- Shri Durga Remixed
1999 – Shri Durga
|Based on his music, people assume Cheb I Sabbah is Indian until they hear he is Algerian. Then they assume he is an Arab Muslim when in fact he is Berber and Jewish. By the 2000s he lived in San Francisco, the dean of the world fusion scene there.
Born in Algeria as Haim Sérge El Baaz’ he moved to Paris in the 1960s, and, more or less by accident, became a club DJ. His complex cultural background may have prompted him to mix musical styles. By the late 1980s, he was pushing boundaries on the dance floor, seeking ways to work African, Asian, and Arabic music into the mix; using instruments such as the doumbek, sarangi, harmonium, oud, violin, and mrindangam. Then, as the world fusion music movement unfolded in the mid 1990s, Cheb-i-Sabbah began recording traditional and classical musicians himself and used those tracks to create his own works.
He has been a mainstay on Six Degrees Records, since its inception, his 1999 classical Indian-themed ‘Shri Durga’ being one of the label’s first release. The Maha Maya remix CD soon followed and the mysterious and devotional Krishna Lila continued the Indian fusion. In 2003 he issued a DJ mix CD, only four of the fourteen tracks being his creations. Sabbah returned to his native North Africa to gather the raw material for La Kahena, a set of eight pieces created from music by eight different acts, all featuring women singers. Two remix CDs followed. Sabbah’s ‘Devotion’ of 2008 is deeply spiritual music based on classical Indian religious mantras.
I met Cheb-ji, as he is affectionately know, only once, at a gig in Chicago. Lovely man. Small of stature but strong in spirit with a noticeable warmth.
Cheb i Sabbah died 7 November, 2013. I am forever indebted, forever grateful, and forever blessed to have heard the love and joy of Cheb i Sabbah and wish his soul every peace and joy forever.
- Martyn Bennett