Carmel Ophir: The Music Man

Carmel Ophir: The Music Man
Giulio Sciorio
Carmel Ophir

The party never stops for Carmel Ophir. Not for the guy who has single-handedly helped define indie club culture in a town that lives for 5 a.m. backbeats.

"There is an air of freedom in Miami that is very hard to describe. It's probably one of the reasons I moved here," he says. "There is a laid-back approach, but there is an infinite number of opportunities. I think Miami is the last metropolitan city that is still and for the near future continuously growing."

Ophir was toiling in the restaurant industry when his life changed after meeting Tony Goldman, the visionary who passed away this past September after reviving South Beach and Wynwood. Goldman taught Ophir the power of music.

"I was always gravitating toward the music end of things, learning about the volume of music while you're dining and the style of music for the bar," he says. "[I learned] what generated more sales and what kept people there longer."

Ophir went on to work in a multitude of legendary venues and clubs in the Miami area, and as the South Beach mega-club industry began to change, he found himself at yet another turning point in his life.

In 2008, alongside partners John Digweed and Rodney Mayo, Ophir opened the Vagabond in an uncolonized neighborhood at the edge of Overtown.

"I didn't know what to do next or where Miami was going. I became disenchanted where South Beach was going, so it was a matter of heading downtown to an original stomping grounds," he says. "It was gritty, raw, somewhat edgy, and dangerous."

Going into its sixth year, the Vagabond has become the bedrock for a developing arts scene in the neighborhood. Ophir has tried to spread that spirit beyond his hipster demographic by working with the Overtown Music Project, a nonprofit organization that's dedicated to bringing back the history, spirit, and culture that once was.

"Where you have Wynwood and the arts, I believe in Overtown and the music."

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