Unique Club Sounds of DJ Cheb i Sabbah
World renowned DJ Cheb i Sabbah was born in Algeria and moved to Paris, France, in the early 1960s. He began exploring his talent and love for music when he started spinning discs in Paris in 1964, soon bringing his unique sound to the attention of the music world. Heavily influenced by his Berber, Jewish and Algerian heritage and with an appreciation for a wide variety of music genres, Cheb i Sabbah continues to break the mould of the stereo-typical club DJs.
Starting in the 1960s Cheb i Sabbah spent some time working with unconventional theater troupe, The Living Theater, during which time he experimented with the concept of making the spinning of discs into a dramatic art form. He acknowledges that working with The Living Theater taught him the importance of connecting with an audience and credits the founders of the theater, Julian Beck and Judith Malina, with helping to mould his musical philosophy. He also views jazz trumpeter Don Cherry as a mentor and a significant influence in his career.
Rather than using the manipulation of vinyl records in his music, Cheb i Sabbah commissions highly talented traditional and classical musicians for his albums. He then goes on to blend overdubs and beats into the original music in a mix which is loved by the club scene, despite being very different from most club music. His first album in 1999 named “Shri Durga”, where he collaborated with Pakistan’s Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, was very well received.
In 2005 Cheb i Sabbah returned to the land of his birth, Algeria, to develop the range of his music. The result was “La Kahena”, eight tracks featuring exclusively female vocals in a mix of traditional North African music with modern percussion and jazz instrumentation. The name of the album is in honor of a legendary seventh century Algerian freedom fighter with Berber/Jewish ancestry who gave up her life for peace. Although the inspiration behind the album is traditional, La Kahena is not folk music, as Cheb i Sabbah uses jazz bass lines, techno beats, the voices of children and adults and hand clapping to create catchy rhythms which are hypnotic but never monotonous.
Although Cheb i Sabbah no longer lives in the country of his birth, there is no doubt that the people, traditions and culture of Algeria continues to have a profound influence on this gifted artist – a fact that is very evident in his music.