Sabo and The Development of His Deep Tribal Sound

LA Based DJ and Producer, Sabo Takes Us Through The Development of His Distinct Musical Ouput
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Harrison Williams
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LA Based DJ and Producer, Sabo Takes Us Through The Development of His Distinct Musical Ouput

Sabo has been a player in the dance music community for over a decade and his Sol Selectas imprint is known for it's quality output. From Boston to New York and onto Los Angeles, his sound has evolved through his experiences in different environments, all the while staying true to the deeper tribal side of dance music. He has a big gig coming up at the Desert Hearts 3 Year Anniversary where he'll be going B2B with Goldcap for 4 hours. We got a chance to pick his brain about the development of his distinct musical style and what listeners can come to expect.

Sabo shares with us his tale from the first record he ever bought in 1993 to DJing underground parties in various cities as well as his time spent within the Moombahton scene. "I just kept on my initial path of making deep tribal tunes and my sound now is just an extension of that progression," he tells us. His sound today is so much more than Moomnahton and he also has presented us with 10 tracks that are on his radar at the moment. This is Sabo's story.

Purchase Tickets to Desert Hearts 3 Year Anniversary

Describe the musical progression of your career. How has your environment influenced your style of music?

The 1st 2 records I ever bought when I knew I wanted to be a DJ were from Miami's classic MURK label, "Get Some Lovin" , and "Believe". This was in 1993, and after those 2 to start, I was buying records from every genre including reggae, jazz, hip hop, funk, soul, disco, breakbeat, acid, soulful house, techno, even some drum n bass. 

My 1st gigs were in Boston at underground warehouse parties, Primary raves, and local college house parties. When I moved to New York in 1999, I connected with Nickodemus and Mariano and started DJing at their Turntables on the Hudson parties, as well as doing my own residencies in Brooklyn at Bembe, and another spot now gone - called Level X - were my friend Eamon and I started a party called Sol*Selectas (which later became the name of my record label) I was playing house, and breakbeat - deep, funky, disco, and tribal. Body and Soul - particularly Joe Clausell, and Masters at Work, were, and still are, a big influence on me. They mixed African, Latin, and Brazilian sounds in many of their productions - and I gravitated toward that naturally.


Tell me a bit about how the Moombahton genre became part of your style. It seems like you always had a focus on tribal rhythms and you were at the right place and time when the genre took off.

I started producing in 2006, working with Zeb the Spy from Cairo, and our earliest productions sampled Jamaican dub, Trinidadian Funk, Gypsy music from Spain, and Salsa records. Moombahton came about in 2010, I was already kinda doing a hybrid version of that sound fusing reggeaton with cumbia, and baile funk, even doing some reggeaton 80's mash ups. When Dave Nada first sent me his Moombahton edits (at the time i think there was only 5 songs) I didn't really like the Dutch house synthy ones. I was so in my deep tribal house world I didn't even know what Dutch house was, or who Afrojack and Chuckie were. But there was a tune in that packet called "Punk Rock Latino Dub" where he took a Gel Abril tune called "Spells of Yoruba" and pitched that down and mashed a Calle 13 a cappella on top. That edit really captured my attention. That was a song that was already in rotation in my sets, but hearing it slowed down really opened up a whole new world for me.

I began searching thru my collection for tracks that had that rhythmic swing, a sort of "dem bow" pattern that I knew would sound good pitched down. All my earliest edits were still very deep and very tribal. One of my 1st official Moombahton tracks to be released was a remix of Dennis Ferrer's "Hey Hey". As Nadastrom and I developed the Moombahton Massive party I made some more "banger" type edits for peak times, but what i most looked forward to was opening the night with the deeper vibier Moombahton tracks. 

As Moombahton kinda went more main stream, or at least got more associated with heavy aggressive EDM sounds, I just kept on my initial path of making deep tribal tunes and my sound now is just an extension of that progression. The techno and house I play now - usually pitched down well below what it was made at - still has that same rhythmic swing. So i guess my sound has always been sort of "Moombahton inspired" even though there wasn't really a name for it until much later.

What do you think makes the LA dance music scene stand out?

Well we definitely have the weather on our side, so there are lots of amazing outdoor parties which in other cities, can only happen seasonally, but happen here, all year long.

There is a long rich history of amazing music from LA, and I think that combined with the laid back lifestyle and weather attracts lots of new DJs and producers (myself included) to move here, which ultimately has increased the creative output within the dance music scene. 

Where do you see the dance music industry progressing in the future?

I think there will be more small "boutique" festivals happening, where you not only get great music, but a full on cultural experience. Festivals will book less DJs, but give them longer sets to really take people on a sonic journey.

Hopefully good quality sound systems will become the norm, and not just a luxury in a few places. I also hope that the machismo attitude will start to fade away, giving more talented women in the industry their long overdue time to shine.

Sabo's Top 10 Tracks

"Alhambra featuring Dirtwire" - KMLN
 [Sol*Selectas]

This the next release on my label Sol Selectas from duo KMLN featuring Dirtwire from Beats Antique on the guitar and this song really takes you on a journey. The percussion programming throughout is incredible, and the guitar work from Dirtwire just gives me goosebumps every time. Been opening and closing sets with this one lately - works either way. Be sure to check out the 2 Nico Stojan remixes on this release too as they are equally as amazing.

"Sittin' Here" - St Germain
 [Nonesuch]

The new album from St Germain was well worth the 15 year wait, and is simply beautiful from beginning to end. This is my favorite track on the album, fusing deep soulful house sounds with the emotional Malian vocals from Nahawa Doumbia. Pure dance floor bliss.

"Between The Notes" - Andre Lodemann
[Innervisions]

I've been a huge fan of Andre's productions for years, but his latest on Innervisions is just incredible. Hypnotic tribal Techno at its best with so many trippy noises coming in and out and the mixing on this record is phenomenal. My friend Dave Nada described it best saying "its almost like each drum sound and every noise as it's own specified plane in the frequency universe, and we can hear all of them so clearly." I couldn't agree more. Added bonus, this tune sounds just as good if not better when pitched down.

"Urpillay (Bedouin remix)" - LUM 
[Crosstown Rebels]

I've been a huge fan of LUM's online mixes for a few years now, his slow subtle shamanic vibes are right up my alley. His 1st original release - on legendary label Crosstown Rebels - is super dope. It was hard to pick just one track, so I went for the Beduoin remix, which really brings those deep ethereal vibes to the dance floor with a hypnotizing groove. Can't wait to hear more from both LUM and Beduoin.

"Kouna Kountoum (Sabo & Goldcap Black Rock Edit)" - Jil Jilala

An exclusive edit I made with my good friend Goldcap for our Burning Man B2B sets this year. Moroccan desert vibes with an added tech feel, at 112 comfortable sunrise beats per minute, perfect for the Playa! And like all things out in Black Rock City, this one is a FREE gift for all… Be on the look out for Goldcap's debut release on my label in 2016.

Kime Ne (Ricardo Villalobos Mix 1) - Insalar

Is it just me of does everything Ricardo touch turn to pure gold? This is the sickest track I've heard in a while, and has that undeniable deep Villalobos sound in the production. This could be the 1st song he's remixed where the remix is actually shorter in length than the original haha! By the way, the original is just as insane - highly recommended.

"Mantis" - Nicola Cruz
[Multi Culti]

This track fuses Andes folkloric sounds with organic percussion and crazy analog synths. Its slow and other worldly and exactly what I seek out. One of my favorite producers right now releasing on my favorite label of the moment. Cannot wait to hear his full length album.

"Waiting For A Surprise" - Red Axes feat. Abrao
[Multi Culti]

Another sure shot from the most interesting label out there right now in my opinion. Red Axes are from Tel Aviv and keep releasing bomb after bomb of weird psychedelic Disco and House that I cannot get enough of. This tune features frequent vocal collaborator Abrao whose Portuguese spoken word over the funky mid tempo groove is a match made in heaven.

"Into the Jungle" - Mikey Lion & Sabo
[Desert Hearts Records]

New deep tech heat from Desert Hearts head honcho Mikey Lion and myself. I always love collaborating with people - especially when it just clicks - because you can always hear the individual styles of each person in the song and how they blend together. Mikey's Tech House vibes came together super nicely with my deep dubby vibes on this one, and I think we maybe had too much fun putting in all those bird noises. Coming soon on Desert Heart's Records with sick remixes from Joyce Muniz and Lonely Boy!

"Pearls (Timo Jahns Remix)" - Sade
 [Get Physical]

So nice to hear a modern Tech House remix of my favorite Sade song of all time "Pearls". There was a time when I had over 20 Sade bootleg vinyls, and at least 5 of those in my record bag at all times. Unfortunately most of those early remixes now sound a bit dated on the dance floor. This new remix is a blessing and I've been playing it often.