Some may know Rony Seikaly as a former NBA Miami Heat player, but younger generations may best recognize him as a DJ since he transitioned into the electronic dance music world in 2009.
The music producer has since performed at Burning Man, BPM Festivals around the world and Ultra Music Festival. He even had his own SiriusXM radio show dubbed Sugar Free Radio, which was on the Chill and the BPM channels. Though Seikaly has proved to be successful in his music career, it didn’t come without challenges: he didn’t want people in the underground dance music world to see him just for his background as a basketball player.
“It was a very uphill battle to try to tell people don’t judge me on my past, judge me on the music I’m playing,” he says.
Now, Seikaly says he has gained respect from his peers. He initially got into making music because he couldn’t find the type of sound he was searching for, noting that the music he makes is niche and is sometimes referred to as the “Rony Style.” However, he says he didn’t plan to play his music for the public—he only got into performing at events after multiple people told him that he should play at gigs.
“This was my passion and it wasn’t supposed to be a passion that was shared publicly, because I didn’t want to have to make excuses or try to convince people that this is not something [I’m doing] because I’m trying to stay in the limelight,” he says. “I’m doing the music because I love doing it.”
Though Seikaly wanted to distance himself from being known as a basketball player, he says some of the lessons he learned while in the NBA have been helpful for his music career, such as being disciplined and not being nervous in front of a crowd.
“People would ask me, ‘you’re not nervous about playing?’ And I’d say, ‘no. Being nervous is having millions of people watching you on TV, thousands of people at the game and you’ve got to make a shot to win the game, you’ve got to get a rebound to win the game or whatever it is at crunch time,” he notes. “That’s pressure. Playing music for people is not pressure at all. It’s something that is a gift that I have that I share. And if people like it, they enjoy it. And if people don’t like it, they’ll go on and listen to somebody else. In basketball, you don’t have that choice. You have to deliver.”
In 2018, Seikaly founded his own label, Stride Records, as a way to put out music with his distinct sound.
“When I was giving my tracks to labels, they never really fit into what these labels look for,” he adds. “I was left with a decision to make: I either stop making music or I’m going to start my own label and just put the music I make on my label. At least people can hear a different sound and a different style. It’s very niche. It’s not what you hear all the time, but that’s what makes me proud that it’s completely different from electronic music. I’m just trying to be myself.”