dj Cheb i Sabbah
As Far As : a DJ Mix
As Far As : a DJ Mix cover
The continuous DJ mixed AS FAR AS is
the fourth release from San Francisco based musical legend dj
Cheb i Sabbah and it comes at a good time. The world needs some
healing right about now. His masterful trilogy of recent albums
on Six Degrees Records: Shri Durga (1999), MahaMaya
- Shri Durga ReMixed (2000), and Krishna Lila (2002),
are cult classics that have established him as a unique artist
who creates bridges between cultures with a deeply moving sound
drawn from DJ wizardry and world music aesthetics. These iconoclastic
records have made Cheb i Sabbah (or, Chebiji, as he is referred
to respectfully), a touchstone of hip spirituality in the far
reaches of Europe and Asia and brought him cult status in the
club land underground of the U.S. His long-running Tuesday night
residency at Nickie's in San Francisco's Haight district has created
tribes of hardcore"Cheb-i-ites."
Unlike some DJs, Cheb i Sabbah does not often
put out DJ mixes or compilations and is known to be wary of the
bootleg mix-tape. On AS FAR AS, his first official DJ mix,
the selections hail from the traditions of Asia, Arabia and Africa,
dj Cheb i Sabbah's main sources of inspiration, and with it we
finally have a legal way to score the elusive Cheb i Sabbah playlist.
It instructs us in the fascinating journey of this techno-spiritualist.
DJ Cheb I Sabbah:
Krishna Lila album cover
DJ Cheb I Sabbah has recently released Krishna
Lila on Six Degrees Records, the final piece of a trilogy
that began with Shri Durga and MahaMaya. Krishna
Lila is an excursion into bhajans, the devotional music of
India, South and North, which features Bill Laswell, Karsh Kale,
K. Shridar, Deepak Ram and others.
Born in Algeria, dj Cheb i Sabbah might be best
described as a ritual music "hajji" a musical pilgrim of the spirit.
He began spinning in Paris in 1964, and by 1968 had hooked up
with The Living Theatre. His work with Julian Beck and Judith
Malina's groundbreaking theater troupe led him to some of the
earliest attempts at turning the spinning of discs into a dramatic
art. In the late'80s he became a fixture on the club scene in
San Francisco. Throughout his multifaceted creative life: he has
presented world music concerts including performances by Nusrat
Fateh Ali Khan and jazz trumpeter Don Cherry; and has produced
an album for the Sub Rosa label, as well as tracks for Asphodel
and Meta, and remixes for Triloka and Cleopatra Records.
of Cheb i Sabbah
Cheb i Sabbah's nom de disque is another reference
to his pilgrimage. Cheb is a nickname used by Algerian rai singers.
Sabbah means morning, but the link is actually to Hassan i Sabbah,
the Persian mystic whose legendary library is rumored to be the
largest in the world.
Cheb i Sabbahs latest tribute to the Gods,
Krishna Lila (The Divine Pastimes of Krishna), is an album
of bhajans sung in praise of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality
of Godhead, and traces the evolutionary arc of this gifted and
spiritual artist to a new high. A bhajan is a simple song sung
in praise of God that conveys complex truths, and Krishna Lila
presents this devotional style of classical Indian music in a
modern context that is easily accessible, soulful and liberating.
Most bhajans were written in India between the 14th and 17th century
and cover a spectrum of musical styles that range from chants
(dhun) to the more sophisticated thumri, a light classical style
of singing practiced in North India. The best traditional bhajans
are distinguished by their poetic content and were made famous
by the great saint-musicians like Mirabai, Surdas and Kabir.
An attempt to reinvent an ancient and evolved art form that celebrates
the Gods would be a daunting task even for a trained local musician.
For an "outsider" to succeed in this project would be unlikely
at best. Yet, Cheb i Sabbah has crafted a classic that is deceptively
simple at first blush but underneath its skin has the skill and
complexity characteristic of a true work of art. Krishna Lila
has a fragile, fragrant beauty that lingers long after the disc
has stopped playing. Like all his projects, Cheb i Sabbah has
approached this one with reverence for the culture it represents
and has taken no shortcuts.
The album has been in production for two years.
Most of the musicians were recorded in Madras, Bombay and New
Delhi, India, and others in New York and San Francisco. Sung in
five different languages, it is strewn together like acoustic
jewelry, the common thread being bhakti yoga (devotion) to Krishna.
Lustrous, new gems are interspersed with uncut traditional pieces
that echo timelessness not often heard on a CD. Krishna Lila is
organized in two parts. The first five tracks recorded in South
India are evocative of Krishnas pastimes in the garden of
Vrindavan. Dressed in garments of gold, and with an orange flower
tucked behind his ear, he wanders through the garden playing his
magic flute. The gopis (cowgirls) are entranced by the sweetness
of the music. Some are bathing in the nearby pond. They emerge,
still wet and askew. Others are breastfeeding their babies but
cannot wait to set their eyes upon Krishna. They trip through
the cool grass. Drunk on the melody of the flute they sway through
the trees until they finally feast their eyes upon him and fall
to the ground to kiss his feet. The next four tracks are recorded
in North India and include vocals and some instrumentation in
the distinctive thumri style.
During the making of Krishna Lila, as
with his earlier Shri Durga, Cheb i Sabbah embarked on a two year
odyssey. The results more than justify his considerable efforts
as Krishna Lilas reverential ambience is immediate
and unforgettable, being nothing less than the timeless sound
of India itself. A complex blend of cultural, technological and
religious components informs Krishna Lila. Listeners will
find themselves transported to a realm of celestial beauty, making
occasional stops along the way at a dance club whose turntables
spin ragas and electronica with equal grace. A singular imagination
is responsible for this ultra-eclectic mix, one that could only
belong to dj Cheb i Sabbah.
TUM BIN SHYAM
Critical praise for Shri Durga:
"No words can accurately sum up this album's
divinity, you must hear for yourself its impeccable form."
"Samples be damned! This is the real thing.
The result? A seamless melding of cultures. A peaceful meditation
on the power of music that gives new meaning to 'trance.'"
- Mix Magazine
"This album is one of the few weve ever
heard where you feel the music and not the process behind it.
- Transglobal Underground