R.I.P. DJ Cheb i Sabbah, San Francisco's Godfather of World Music
Cheb i Sabbah, the Bay Area DJ, composer, and producer who brought traditional African, Asian, and Arabic music to a mainstream American audience, passed away Wednesday at his home in San Francisco, according to a post from his family on his Facebook page. He was 66.
Born in Algeria in 1947, Sabbah launched his career spinning American soul records in Paris in the '60s. He moved to San Francisco in 1984 and quickly made a name for himself in the burgeoning global music scene; from 1990 through 2005, Tuesday nights would find him spinning for and educating devoted audiences from around the Bay at Nickies in the Lower Haight.
By 2008, he was categorizing his sessions at Bollywood Cafe as "global electronica" -- but no matter what he called it, he was well-loved and widely respected by fans and fellow musicians alike. The local music community rallied around Sabbah when he was diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer in 2011; his label, Six Degrees Records, put out a fundraising album featuring a who's-who of the world music scene in order to help pay for his treatment. Less than four months ago, crediting a healing regime in India and Germany as well as surgery and chemo, Sabbah felt well enough to open for Bauhaus' Peter Murphy at the Fillmore.
According to Sabbah's family, he was with his partner of more than 18 years when he passed away, and leaves behind two children and three grandchildren. "We have lost a Master," reads his website. Check back there for information on a memorial.
Below, a track off his 2007 album Krishna Lila and a 2005 live performance at Amoeba Records in Berkeley: