The revolution was electric. Talvin Singh and Karsh Kale may have helped make Brit Asian Electronica famous, but it’s electronic maestro Cheb i Sabbah who really developed this sound as being global.

dj cheb i sabbah

We caught up with Cheb i Sabbah in Vancouver, where he’s getting ready to spin at the Red Room with Beats Without Borders on October 21.

Algerian-born Cheb i Sabbah has come a long way from spinning American Soul in Paris nightclubs during the 1960s. After 30 years of tracing the vibrations of different sounds and fads around the globe, he came to a realisation: why not make music I want to hear? The result has been a revolutionary 15 years of eclectic mash-ups and production in diverse music genres covering everything from devotional bhajans to Bhangra beats – all with an electronica sound.


It’s All About the Music

Cheb i Sabbah started his career in the time of hippies, flower power and excessive ganja use, but his music is still relevant today. His sound has shifted and evolved, but keeps the rhythm of the many global sounds and passions that make people buy his CDs today.

“We don’t just sample little sarangi and tabla beats and make a song from that. We actually start with musicians and then we build from there,” says DJ Cheb. “Although songs can now be made by an individual sitting at a computer, I still emphasize the live musicians.”

With several albums under his belt, the lure of live DJing is still strong. In a way, both provide different avenues for sharing a part of himself with the audience. “With a band you play your own music but as a DJ, because you love music, you play anything and everything that you love.”

And the man is as diverse as his global sound. His passions are many; he reads and reads (currently sci-fi book, Mass Control: Engineering Human Consciousness, as well as The Invention of the Jewish People and Dawn of Indian Music in the West, in which he’s featured). He also collects Indian Ragamala paintings, and when prodded, he’ll speak eloquently to the beauty of a half hour raga introduction where the singer tries to embody the emotion of the song before the percussion begins.

Cheb i Sabbah is reluctant to see himself as an ambassador for Global Electronica, but whether it’s listening to his CD or attending a live show, his music puts us in touch with something; a global electronica sound that is a part of our global culture.

Beats Without Borders present Cheb i Sabbah with special guests. Head to The Red Room on Thursday, October 21, 2010, to experience pure global electronica. Tickets are only $15 in advance and $18 at the door – a steal to see a legend do his thing.

Story By: Naveen Girn  |  Photographs: Cheb i Sabbah