Local Music

Miami's DJ Stingray the Tribal King Invades The Vagabond Miami on May 12

While you may think you've seen all that electronic music has to offer, there is Ray Sabater, Miami's own DJ Stingray the Tribal King.

For 30 years, Sabater has used drumming in his live performances, incorporating a variety of percussion instruments, from the tambourine to congas. So when you come to one of his performances, you'll find yourself strangely seizure-dancing into another dimension.

Within the broad swath of electronic tuneage, Sabater's stuff falls under that sub-genre known as tribal house. True tribal music can be produced with either live percussive instruments or digitally, but Sabater does it both ways.

Now 39, Sabater became part of the tribal house scene in New York City in the early 1990s. Originally from the Bronx, he learned how to DJ at the age of 10 during a party at his uncle's house.

While the other kids were playing, Sabater was messing with his uncle's DJ equipment. After being scolded by his father for doing so, his uncle -- who was a Puerto Rican percussionist -- encouraged him. The result: A total passion for house music and percussion.

By the age of 15, Sabater started DJing with his uncle at clubs in Brooklyn and the Bronx. One night when his uncle got too drunk to finish the rest of his set, Sabater stepped in. The club owner decided that he liked Sabater better and it was the beginning of DJ Stingray's career.

"The first time, I felt how a DJ can control a room. It was like nothing that I've ever felt before," says Sabater. "It was exciting and happy at the same time."

After becoming well-known on his neighborhood scene, Sabater decided to move to Miami with a high-school friend in 1996. He soon landed at gig at the now-defunct Lua on Espanola Way. Then in 1998, things took off when he produced his first track, "Get Up and Work."

While manning the decks at Club Space in 1999, a friend introduced him to his now-manager Javiel Fernandez who was looking for someone to DJ in Colombia. From this point, Stingray began touring all over North and South America, Europe, and elsewhere.

His touring waned after his first son was born in 2002, only picking up again six years later when he played for a crowd of 10,000 in Costa Rica. But Sabater hasn't stopped, maybe just slowed down a bit.

In recent months Stingray's career has been picking back up, performing at Artopia, and other venues. His next gig is this Saturday at The Vagabond.

"Trying to maintain a family and a music career is hard," says Sabater. "To be successful in music, you have to be selfish and it's hard because I can't be that way."

"If I wasn't a DJ ... Shit, I'd still be in New York," he says. "After 30 years, it's the type of thing you do in your sleep."

DJ Stingray the Tribal King along with Carlos Mena and Arnaud Pages. Saturday, May 12. The Vagabond, 30 NE 14th St., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. Call 305-379-0508 or visit thevagabondmiami.com.

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David Minsky is a U.S. Navy veteran and Tulane graduate who has experience reporting on stories from California, South Florida, and the Deep South. He has also won some journalism awards. Email or tweet David with story tips and ideas.
Contact: David Minsky