Their creator was born in Lebanon, raised in Greece, and resides in Miami, and the warm, high-octane trappings of Rony Seikaly's music seem to grab inspiration from them all.
Seikaly can trace his DJ origins back to his teenage years, playing in his garage-turned-impromptu-club for his friends. Forty-one years later, Seikaly is still keeping the world locked in a groove with his latest EP, Flying Circles.
Is it house? No. What about deep house? Not entirely. Flying Circles is confidently Rony style.
"It's right in between the Tulum, Mexico, sound and the big-room underground sound," Seikaly explains. "A little more energy than what deep house is playing."
Ever elusive, "Rony style" is said to have been named years ago by house legend Erick Morillo.
"Back in the day when Morillo played on CDs, he would write 'Rony style' on them if he got a promo that sounded like the stuff I would like," says Seikaly. "'Rony style' became a little secret between producers."
Before becoming a DJ, Seikaly put his 6-foot-11-inch frame to good use during an 11-year NBA career. When he debuted with the Miami Heat in 1988 as the first Lebanese player in the league, his teammates dubbed him the "Spin Doctor" for his moves on the court. The Syracuse University grad played six seasons for the Heat before moving on to stints at Golden State, Orlando and New Jersey.
After retiring from pro basketball in 2000, Seikaly returned to Miami and toiled in the club scene as a partner in Mokai, Mynt, and Wall Lounge, among others. Eventually, he made the leap to professional DJ in 2010, releasing his debut EP, House Calls, on Morillo's Subliminal Records.
After years of releasing records on others' labels, Seikaly felt it was time to start his own imprint — a decision rooted in his frustration that labels couldn't find a niche to accommodate the "Rony style."
"My music never fit into someone else's catalog," he explains. "I got frustrated after a while because I used to play music that people really dig, but the labels would always say, 'No.' So I said, 'I'm going to make my own label, and I'm going to put out tracks that are my style.'"
Since its debut in 2018, Stride Records has logged three number-one deep house tracks on Beatport.
Seikaly hopes to match that hot streak with Flying Circles. Released last month on Stride, the three-track EP kicks off with the groovy euphoria of "Feels Right." Hi-hats sizzle off of bongos rifts, and a lighthearted bassline spews electronic happiness. Vocals saturated with a delay effect sing lightly, "Tell me if it feels right/Do you want to go tonight/I don't think I feel right," while hovering over a vivacious piano melody.
"This is the vibe I enjoy — a deep, sexy vibe. That's where those tracks took me," Seikaly says.
A remix of the EP's title track by Italian producer Ruben Mandolini follows. Going darker, Mandolini produced a knock-'em-down bass and hypnotic clap. A misty melody is played off a synth, and a distorted, child-sounding vocal glues "Flying Circles" together.
"What I have done so far is gotten a few guys to remix the story I'm telling," says Seikaly. "I've been lucky to get all these amazing producers to give their version of my story."
The original mix for "Flying Circles," produced by Seikaly, closes out the EP. With its intensity falling somewhere between "Feels Right" and Mandolini's remix, it's both hazy sounding and airy thanks to the use of hi-hats and a club-style bass.
Seikaly hosts his own station on SiriusXM and SoundCloud called Sugar Free Radio. When it debuted in 2013, it rivaled the EDM explosion with proper underground vibes. Today, Sugar Free is playing less on the airwaves as Seikaly aims to focus more on production.
The art of beatmatching — making the beats of two different tracks link up — can be an anxiety-inducing task when DJ'ing in front of thousands of people.
"It's two different kinds of pressure," Seikaly says, comparing the activity to playing pro ball. "The pressure you get as an athlete is something 99 percent of people won't be able to handle. DJ'ing is a lot of pressure in the sense that you have to satisfy the fans who come to listen to you."
After find success both as a professional basketball player and DJ, Seiklay knows that in addition to the hard work he's put in, luck also comes into play.
"In order to shine, you have to be lucky," he says. "If you're shining and you haven't done the hard work, you're not going to get anywhere. But if you shine and you're hardworking — that's the recipe of success."
The recipe is simple enough: Seikaly loves playing his music and hopes listeners will like it too.
"To me, I love music, and this is the story I'm telling," Seikaly says. "If it can hit a few people and put a smile on their face, I'm super satisfied that I made someone smile during these hard days — I made someone happy with a tune I created from my heart."
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