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Beirut Groove Collective
Photograph: Gobinder Jhitta

Meet Beirut Groove Collective – the vinyl DJ group who just want to make Londoners dance

Since 2009, vinyl DJ group the Beirut Groove Collective have built up a following in the Lebanese capital. Now, they’re making a home for themselves in London. The founders explain why

Written by
Chiara Wilkinson

In August last year, a devastating explosion destroyed a huge swathe of the Lebanese capital Beirut. At the time, Ernesto Chahoud, founder of vinyl-only DJ group the Beirut Groove Collective (BGC), had already made plans to move to London with his partner and BGC member Natalie Shooter. ‘Luckily, we weren’t in the blast,’ says Chahoud, ‘But the explosion accelerated things.’

The BGC established themselves in 2009, throwing parties in a silver factory, an abandoned villa and other underground spaces in Lebanon. ‘The collective brought a lot of good things to the music scene,’ says Chahoud. ‘We were vinyl-digging all this music from the Armenian community, or hunting obscure music from Ethiopia, Egypt or Sudan.’

The raw funk and rare soulful grooves offered an alternative to the trashy pop typical of Lebanese nightlife. Over the last 12 years, the BGC have become something of an institution in Lebanon. But for the past few months, the collective have been working to make a name for themselves in London. ‘It’s tough contacting clubs here,’ says Chahoud. ‘No one replies. A lot of bookings depend on how many followers you have.’

But connections in the global music community linked them up with London’s small venues: Finsbury Park’s The Night Owl, Finch Café in London Fields and Dalston’s Servant Jazz Quarters took them in. ‘I think [community] exists in London, but it takes time to find it because it’s such a big city,’ says Shooter. ‘Beirut is more compact; it’s a smaller music scene.’

To Chahoud’s surprise, their first nights in London sold out. He says their residency at Finch Café, a Middle Eastern eatery turned spirited dancefloor, ‘felt like home’. While they’re ‘still at the beginning’, Chahoud feels good about finding their place in the city. ‘In London, if you’re serious about what you’re doing and bringing something new, you can make it happen.’

Ultimately, Chahoud and Shooter just want to share their music and see people dance. ‘Since things have reopened, I feel like there’s this new kind of energy and thirst for dancing and human connection,’ says Shooter. ‘London has always been open to so many different subcultures and scenes, so it’s a great place to do our night.’ 

The Beirut Groove Collective are playing at The Jago on Oct 22.

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