CHEB I SABBAH (ALGERIA)
Algerian-born DJ Cheb i Sabbah mixes up heady Arabic and Indian sounds into a new fusion that crosses boundaries both cultural and those of live performance and club DJ. Sabbah avoids the dual DJ traps of simply sampling other artists’ recordings or “remixing” ethnic music by adding hi-energy house beats. Instead, he takes real musicians from different communities into the studio and encourages them to concentrate on creating a “trance” groove. As producer he will add his own flavours to these recordings – and he has issued two albums that remix these studio recordings - while keeping the music’s original spiritual vibe intact. Although Sabbah designs his music for Western dancers his sonic creations are supposed to evoke in the listeners a sense of oneness with the universe rather than being the soundtrack to designer clubs and expensive restaurants.
Sabbah is in his fifties and began DJing in Paris in the 1960s. By the late 1980s he had become a fixture on the San Francisco club scene where he created a series of world-music concerts called “1002 Nights”. In 1994 he produced The Majoon Traveller, in which he mixed the music of Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman with the Gnawa and Jilala music of North Africa.
Sabbah’s family moved to France from Algeria in the early-1960s when the Algerian struggle for independence was underway. As Berbers of Jewish descent in a predominantly Muslim population, they had been issued French passports by the French colonial government and Sabbah draws on his culturally rich background to create music that is Oriental with Occidental flavours. Or, perhaps, the other way around.
Sabbah came to wider prominence with his recent CDs Shri Durga, Maha Maya, 2005’s La Kahena and 2006’s La Ghriba: La Kahena Remixed on the Six Degrees label. Maha Maya is a remixed version of Shri Durga - the remixes were created by Sabbah and leading players in London’s Asian Underground scene (Trans-Global Underground, Fun-Da-Mental,) – and La Ghriba follows a similar aesthetic.
The musicians he has assembled for his recent recordings, such as Krishna Lila, include violinist K.Shivakumar and his niece, singer Radhika Rajiv. There’s vedic chanting from P.T.Vijayaraghavan and zither playing by Pandit Ulhas Bapat ("Tum Bim Shyam"). Fusion maestro Bill Laswell plays bass. And ruling over it all is DJ Cheb I Sabbah, master mixer of cosmic Arabic-Indian sounds.
Cheb i Sabbah on the web
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Uma Nahir San Francisco,CA