Cheb I Sabbah: Pioneering DJ and producer who explored spirituality with his fusion of dance beats and world music

 

Cheb I Sabbah was an Algerian-American of Jewish and Amazigh, or Berber, descent whose pioneering work as a DJ and producer found him experimenting with contemporary dance beats and world music. He was born Haim Serge El Baz in Constantine, Algeria, in 1947, and after leaving school at 15 moved to Paris, where he was one of the first professional DJs, playing American soul music during the mid-1960s.

By the mid-'70s he had moved to New York, where he met the world music fusionist, trumpeter and composer Don Cherry, who became his musical mentor and employed him as his manager, encouraging his explorations of Asian and African music. He moved again in 1984, to San Francisco, where he had a long-running club night and worked in radio, as well as promoting a series of world music concerts called "1002 Nights".

In 1994 he recorded his first album, The Majoon Traveller, which featured remixes of pieces by Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman, incorporating Moroccan gnawa and jilala music. There followed a series of acclaimed albums on the Six Degrees label, beginning with Shri Durga in 1999. Most of these albums drew on Hindu musical culture for inspiration, but on the albums Khahena and La Ghriba he worked with musians and singers from Algeria, Morocco and Yemen. Instead of using anonymous exotic samples to spice up his beats, he would typically record traditional and classical instrumentalist and singers, such as Pakistan's Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, and tailor his rhythm tracks to their music.

He was more concerned with spirituality than club culture, and his music naturally found an audience with those seeking more of a "chill-out" vibe. He worked with several British artists, including Natacha Atlas, Transglobal Underground and Fun-Da-Mental. In 2006 he was nominated for the BBC Radio Three Awards for World Music in the "Club Global" category.

In May 2011 he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, although he kept working on a new album. In response to the news that he had no health insurance, friends and colleagues including Bill Laswell, Zakir Hussain and Kailash Kher came up with the album Samaya in order to raise funds to cover his medical bills.

Haim Serge El Baz (Cheb I Sabbah), DJ and producer: born Constantine, Algeria 7 August 1947; partner to Suzanne Thomas (one daughter, one son); died San Francisco 6 November 2013.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital