Cheb i Sabbah, Algerian Jewish DJ, Dies at 66

This post first appeared on The Arty Semite blog at the Forward.

blog-chebisabbah-111313Cheb i Sabbah, a DJ, producer and composer known for combining Asian, Middle Eastern and African influences into his global electronica music, died November 7 at age of 66. The San Francisco-based Sabbah was born Haim Serge El Baz in Constantine, Algeria to a working-class Jewish family with some Berber ancestry.

Major music publications have published articles mourning Sabbah’s passing from stomach cancer and celebrating his artistic contributions. Billboard referred to him as “the Godfather of global house” in its memorial piece. The San Francisco Chronicle called him “a master of music and life.”

Sabbah, recognizable by his long hair and round Ghandi-style glasses, got his start in 1960s Paris, where he would spin American soul records. From there, he went on to New York, and finally on to San Francisco, settling there in 1984. In 1989, he assumed the “Cheb I Sabbah” moniker, which means “young of the morning” in North African Arabic. Friends called him Chebiji, adding the Hindu honorific to the first part of his name.

His debut album in 1994, “The Majoon Traveler” consisted of cut-up remixes of pieces by jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, jazz musician Ornette Coleman, and Velvet Underground drummer Angus Maclise with the poetry of Ira Cohen. (He had met Cherry in New York and was greatly influenced by him.)

Click here to read more and listen to some of Cheb i Sabbah’s music.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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