Perseverance, Authenticity, and Artistry: How Farrah Sabado Found her Purpose Through Dance Music
Art has the power to describe reality in new ways, illuminating and revealing truths unseen and unspoken. Art also has the power to posit a transformed version of reality, creating new perspectives on old ideas and existing norms through a sincere grappling of what the world is and what it could be. It is in this power to both uncover and transfigure reality that art liberates the artist and society at large.
However, while our modern technologically enabled world presents artists with more opportunities than ever to connect with potential fans and patrons through streaming services and social media, the landscape is unfortunately saturated with the lowest common denominator incentives. Artists are rewarded for catering to an algorithm ruled by herd mentality, profit motives, and a desire to increase views and followers instead of innovating artistic content and form. Simply put, it is too easy to do what “works” instead of what is authentic, inspirational, and original. Even artists and art consumers who wish to separate the signal from the noise find it difficult to exit the echo chamber.
Understandably, everyone — from casual fans of the arts to enthusiasts — is jaded. Mix in the internet’s commitment to misunderstanding intentions, lack of political nuance, and tired post-modern discourse about what is and is not art, and it is a surprise that we haven’t fallen into a creative dark age. Or have we?
One artist, however, a classically trained musician and genre-blurring DJ, is bringing authenticity, high-performance art and a historical reverence back to music and live performance. Farrah Sabado, also known as Miss Sabado, is a New York City-based DJ and musical artist intent on disrupting the status quo with her unique melange of NYC’s underground dance music (rooted in the legacy of the Loft and Paradise Garage) combined with influences from her past growing up in the 90s in the rough streets of LA. Farrah’s music and her carefully crafted fusion show that she calls “The Farrah Special,” which combines DJing with original live performance, choreographed dance sequences, visual arts, and curated stage production, is designed to demonstrate the capacity of what she believes is her greatest instrument – the human body.
Her parties, gatherings, and events are social experiments sitting at the intersection of dance, music, history, culture, freedom, belonging, and bliss. She believes the dance floor is the perfect meeting place for those seeking connection to transcend themselves through a shared love of music and community. This is something that the early dance music pioneers from the glory days of the Loft and Paradise Garage implemented. “Everyone danced well together, but they had their own style,” Michele says in Vice, “We were responding to the music…songs became waves, swelling, cresting, and sweeping revelers away — an experience equal parts sacred and profane. It was spiritual, but it was physical, too. The music touched your body, your energy, your brains. It was a hell of a trip. It was sexy too. All this stuff happened behind the speakers. It was pretty wild.”
Farrah’s music does not only position itself in the storied history of dance music, but it also pays homage to the variety of Farrah’s musical influences from her humble beginnings.
Born in San Fernando Valley, California to immigrant parents from Pampanga Philippines, Farrah Sabado did not have the easiest childhood, to put it lightly. As an immigrant family, the Sabados had a difficult time adjusting to American life. Farrah’s mother quickly recognized her as a prodigy due to her natural talent for classical piano. Farrah struggled to maintain her love and passion amidst countless hours of practice, abusive motivational tools, and many traumatic experiences throughout childhood. Ultimately, she quit at 13.
While she developed a complicated relationship with music during this time, the art form has always been and continues to be her guiding light.
She continued to expand her musical palette moving beyond her classical piano foundation into a musical odyssey exploring jazz, R&B, 90s hip-hop, old school punk rock, and 80s new wave… eventually landing on underground dance music. Unbeknownst to her, this journey would lead her down a path of finding her true musical identity and sense of self.
Since her traditional parents did not support Farrah’s desire to enter the arts, dance music became both an outlet and an escape for her. Farrah dedicated her life to music and the scene as she found an unparalleled sense of liberation on the dance floor just like the outliers who found community at the Garage. Farrah found her spiritual home.
Over time, Farrah became more ingrained in LA’s underground dance music world. Circa 2006, she became an integral player in a movement activating the Artist District in Downtown LA near Skid Row. This movement brought the neighborhood back to life by tapping into her growing network of dance music DJs and colleagues to throw music-centric events in partnership with emerging local businesses. This became the precursor to Farrah starting a music blog dedicated to all things underground, using the moniker Miss Sabado.
These early “Wild Wild West” years of blogging not only put Farrah on the map as one of dance music’s first — dare we say — “influencer” but it also helped grow the genre’s digital presence and push the needle beyond LA. The Miss Sabado blog was a one-stop-shop for fans, DJs, and producers who read the blog for new music and artist updates, insider stories of LA’s best parties, and Farrah’s musings.
With a desire to make a bigger impact globally in the dance music blogosphere, Farrah embarked on a solo backpacking journey hitting all the iconic dance music scenes throughout Western Europe culminating in a life-changing night at Berghain in Berlin.
She returned to the States in 2009 amid the recession only to be laid off. With invigorated purpose from her travels, she took every penny from her severance package and made the jump from dance music blogger to dance music DJ — from critic to artist. Reminiscing on how predominantly white and male centric the DJ industry was (and still is), Farrah became determined to be the first, and much needed, intersectional woman DJ. Six months later, Farrah debuted this dream at her first gig at The Landing, a secret after-hours spot party at The Landing, a secret loft space in Downtown LA, under the name Miss Sabado.
From there, she discovered the Burning Man community. Quickly recognizing she found her people, Farrah leveraged her entrepreneurial savvy and online presence to secure a DJ slot at the SF-based Nexus Camp that year. It was a mind blowing experience that left her buzzing for more and high on life. Upon returning to LA from the burn, however, Farrah fell into a new low due to family issues, a fatally sick father, no support, and no security.
Trying to cope with her situation, Farrah filled her days at cafes and libraries, burying her head in books and music. This is where she came across a W Magazine front page article titled “Invasion of Dilettante DJs” about the rise of socialite DJs in NYC who had no real connection to the music yet continually hijacked opportunities at the expense of less commercial DJswho actually DJed for a living. As one of those DJs, this triggered Farrah to embark on her own invasion, buying a one-way ticket to NYC with a plan to disrupt the status quo.
Landing in Hell’s Kitchen in 2010, Farrah found herself isolated on a concrete island with little resources and no community. Despite the trials and tribulations, she stayed the course with DJing, tapping back into old industry side hustles like acting and modeling to make ends meet. However, living in a constant state of survival mode triggered her anxiety and sparked a search for a new way to deal with her childhood trauma.
After discovering the healing and therapeutic powers of psychedelic plant medicines, well before research institutions and tech CEOs caught on, Farrah’s craft and self-discovery took another leap forward. In 2012, during her first ayahuasca ceremony, Farrah had a major breakthrough channeling messages to cultivate and share her voice with the world. She found the Vocal Workout Singing School where she spent the next two years diligently working on stripping away and building back up her inner most authentic expression. To this day, Farrah leverages these medicines as a part of her healing journey and to inform her music. As Terrance McKenna puts it, “Each artist is an antenna to the transcendental.”
In truth, all the answers to all our questions lie deep within the self. Wholeness, fulfillment, safety and love is what we innately crave, and seeking to fill these voids outside the self does not bring us closer to source, rather it begets separation. Farrah woke up one winter morning in 2017 with this epiphany and decided the approach to her art and music needed a major shift.
West coast 90s hip hop, freestyle, R&B, soul, new jack swing, 80s new wave, punk/post-punk, classical – all the musical influences that colored her childhood were intentionally missing from her sound due to the guilt and shame attached to those early formative experiences that the music triggered. She realized the little girl who grew up in the Valley in the 90s with little money, a father who abandoned her, a physically abusive mother, familial sexual abuse, and other traumatic memories had not yet healed. In order for her to truly breakthrough, she needed to restore the broken little girl inside her and reunite with this inner child in order to transcend.
This sparked Farrah’s artistic rebirth as Miss Sabado. The music is the culmination of all her influences while still maintaining a genealogical throughline to NYC’s rich and historical dance music culture epitomized by the Loft and Paradise Garage.
Outside of her genre-mixing yet historical sound, this spirit is precisely what differentiates Farrah in the oversaturated scene of modern DJs. The use of her meticulously crafted voice and her commitment to creating a safe space through music puts Farrah in a category of her own.
Throughout her time in NYC, Farrah found success and community first DJing at burner parties then with various residencies throughout the city, while cultivating her unique musical and performance work in tandem. Pre-Covid, Farrah’s art culminated in her debut single “Rendezvous.”
Farrah reimagined the traditional DJ show by developing a full-sensory spectacle fusing DJing with dance choreography, live original vocals, visual arts, curated stage production — wholistically displaying her multifaceted artistic talents to the world. With a plan to tour the show across the country, Farrah only had the opportunity to perform the show once, to a sold-out crowd, at the Paradise Club in NYC before the COVID-19 lockdowns began.
Despite the limited run, Farrah’s performances have garnered a bit of a reputation for those in the know. Affectionately dubbed the Filipino Peggy Gou, Farrah’s ability to create multi-layered musical performance art and curate a dance floor environment is, in reality, unmatched.
Now, a few years removed from the pandemic and NYC’s nightlife scene is in dire need of a resurgence. Is Farrah Sabado — the artist formerly known as Miss Sabado — the artistic savior that dance music and the city need? As Farrah Sabado explores restarting her tour and releasing new music in 2024, we are excited to find out.