Algerian-born, San Francisco-based global house DJ, producer and musician, Cheb I Sabbah has died, according to numerous reports. Sabbah, whose omnivorous, globe-spanning traditional beats and sounds culled from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and beyond earned Sabbah the nickname “the Godfather of global house," passed away on Wednesday, Nov. 6 after being diagnosed in 2011 with stomach cancer.
Sabbah was born Haim Serge El Baz to a working-class Jewish-Algerian family in 1947. He moved to Paris in the 1960s where he would spin American soul records. He relocated to New York and worked at Julian Beck's Living Theatre troupe before making his way to the Bay Area in 1984 where he would call home for the rest of his career. He took the name Cheb I Sabbah, which translates to "young of the morning."
In 1994, "Chebiji" (as he was nicknamed) released his debut album "The Majoon Traveler," which featured cut-up remixes of pieces by Don Cherry (whom he met in New York and was greatliy influenced by), Ornette Coleman, and Angus Maclise with the poetry of Ira Cohen. He would go on to ecord seven albums for the Six Degrees Records label and appeared on that label’s two “Asian Travels” global compilations series in addition to many collaborations, incluidng with Bassnectar on “Cheb I Sabbah (Alkher Illa Doffor)” for his 2007 “Underground Communication” album.
When he wasn’t touring, Sabbah held a weekly Tuesday night residency from 1990 and 2005 at Nickie's in San Francisco’s Lower Haight neighborhood called 1002 Nights. Other venues he performed at included Blue Cube, Bissap Baobab and F8.
According to the SF Gate, Sabbah had begun work on a new album called "OptiMystiK" and recently produced his son Opium Sabbah's album "Freedom Is Free."
Sabbah was diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer in 2011. According to a the posting on his website, he was “surrounded by his life partner of over 18 years [Suzanne Thomas] and is memorialized by his two children and three grandchildren."
The following statement was posted on his website.
We have lost a Master.
Cheb I Sabbah 1947 - 2013
Dear friends, family,
fans and fellow beat followers;
It is with a heavy heart that we, Cheb i Sabbah’s family, announce his peaceful passing yesterday morning in his home in San Francisco.
He was surrounded by his life partner of over 18 years and is memorialized by his two children and three grand children.
We ask that we be allowed the time to grieve and mourn our loss and will be announcing any memorial services in the near future…..
When dusk falls this evening, and the stars begin to swirl, our father is spinning for all the great ones who passed before him and were awaiting his arrival -