Dancefloor Classics with The Beirut Groove Collective

Roland Ragi 8 copy

If you’ve been throwing parties for a while, there’s probably a few select records you keep coming back to.

A calling card; a dance floor classic; a party anthem, call it what you like, but we can all agree that, as a regular punter on the other side of the decks, there’s a quiet comfort that comes with hearing those sweet, vaguely familiar melodies pulsing through the sound system.

DJ collective and all-vinyl club night Beirut Groove Collective know a thing or two about luring people to the dance floor.



Now, they’re not all about dropping classics left, right and centre (though this is the crux of this here playlist), the night is a space to share the rarities that co-founders Ernesto Chahoud – a DJ, radio host and compiler – and Natalie Shooter – a journalist, editor and DJ – have unearthed in their former home of Lebanon and on their travels in other parts of the world.

After throwing their parties in Beirut for 12 years, the pair have now relocated to London bringing the BGC spirit with them to new locations like The Jago and Well Seasoned. The music policy swirls around soul-fuelled finds from the Middle-East, Africa and across the globe: you can hear everything from Bellydance psych to Lebanese garage and Ethio jazz – but more importantly you’re likely to hear music you’ll never have heard anywhere else before – the “unshazamble” as Ernesto claims.

As they get into the swing of setting up shop in London – there’s already a bunch of dates in the diary at Servant Jazz Quarters, Well Seasoned alongside Charlie Bones, and The Jago – we asked them to share some of the tracks that have become their go-to BGC classics over the last 12 years.

Photo credit: Roland Ragi

Hirut Bekele - Ewetegna Feker

Ernesto: When I first heard this record 14 years ago, I set my mind to go on a digging trip to Addis Ababa to explore more of this immediate addictive music! I never thought that this will become a BGC dancefloor classic the same way that I never imagined how Hirut ended up quitting music for Christianity, living outside the spotlights in a tiny apartment in Addis Ababa.

  • Hirut Bekele - Ewetegna Feker

    Ernesto: When I first heard this record 14 years ago, I set my mind to go on a digging trip to Addis Ababa to explore more of this immediate addictive music! I never thought that this will become a BGC dancefloor classic the same way that I never imagined how Hirut ended up quitting music for Christianity, living outside the spotlights in a tiny apartment in Addis Ababa.

  • The News - From the Moon

    Ernesto: I’m not sure how many copies of this one survived, but this is one of the best singles to come out of Lebanon and most probably one of the best psych / garage records out there. It was written by Elias Rahbani for the short lived Lebanese / Armenian rock / prog group The News, who had some international fame, at least for five minutes, touring in the UK and The States before they vanished right after the ignition of the Lebanese Civil War in the mid – seventies.

    They released a series of singles independently, which were later gathered in an LP in 1974 and released on the Lebanese label Voix de l’Orient. However ‘From the Moon’, which is my favourite, didn’t make it to the LP. Yes the LP is very rare but this one is ultra rare. A great piece of exclusive BGC dancefloor madness!

  • Addis Harmandyan - Noune
    Ernesto: ‘Noune’ is a monster! An electrifying blend of mod / ye ye and Armenian pop music, a style that was introduced to the world by Addis Harmandyan, where his music was originally intended to address the Armenian Lebanese community. Hence his records were not made in big numbers and rarely left the northern suburbs of Beirut where the Armenian community is based. I would always hear his music coming out loud from the inside of a row of tiny houses in the narrow streets of Burj Hammoud from behind residents’ Sunday BBQs. I was lucky to have my family house in Burj Hammoud and it’s where my record store is – this meant I was introduced very early to this great music heritage of the Lebanese Armenian community. It’s very unique yet still to be unearthed.
  • Taroub - Tiki Tiki Tak
    Ernesto: An early BGC Arabic pop classic that later invaded more international diggers clubs dancefloors. It has a hard hitting intro with great drums that was very unusual to Arabic pop of that time. It’s an ultimate favourite of mine, that always paves the way for a great dancefloor.
    I would say that at our nights you will mainly hear obscure and exclusive records, many of them which were exposed on our decks. Hence, this is why the Beirut Groove Collective clubnights has an original sound, as many of these songs are not yet available on internet music platforms, including Shazam!
  • Mayada - Ya Ya Ya

    Natalie: This is a super fun 60s pop record by a Jordanian-Syrian Circassian singer called Mayada written by the Lebanese composer George Yazbeck. It’s got cute kitschy vocals in Arabic, English & French – that classic cultural melting pot of a record made in Lebanon at that time. I love that call and response chorus! Yeah yeah yeah, yeah baby yeah!! Hello sugar.. hello baby! & I love the clumsy trumpet solo. The song has a great rhythm to dance on. The whole thing just works perfectly.

    I found a lot of copies in the flea market in Lebanon over the past ten years, but always scratched up like hell. Her sister, Taroub, is also a famous pop singer and actress, now in her 80s and long retired, though with a much more prolific career, but Mayada had a handful of great, fun and a little bit cheeky pop / rock and roll songs.

  • Tony Francks and the Hipping Souls: 'Keep it'

    Natalie: Ernesto first played this record to me years ago from his special box of rare Lebanese 45s and I fell in love instantly and wanted it to be mine! It’s a beautiful raw and very soulful 60s garage / beat 45 from Lebanon, though it came out in 1970 (definitely sounds like it was recorded in a garage though!). Its a pretty underground record by an obscure Lebanese artist called Tony Francks who only released two singles on independent labels and then disappeared. We asked a lot of 60s generation musicians in Lebanon about him, who said he used to play live a lot on the 60s beat / rock scene in Beirut, but nobody knew what happened to him – probably left Lebanon in the 1970s with the civil war like so many artists.

    I love his vocals – super deep – and the slow build through the song, it’s kind of controlled at the beginning, but just totally let’s loose at the end. It’s already a BGC classic, it’s had a good spin out at our parties in Beirut over the years but after all this time, I finally got my hands on a copy when it came up for sale a month ago at our friend’s record store in Beirut, Chico. Happy Christmas to me!

  • Belkis Ünluses - Lâmbaya Püf De

    Natalie: This song comes from a folklore melody, first popularized by the Turkish tanbura player Osman Pahlivan before the great Baris Manço adapted it into an Anatolian psychedelic-dripping rock classic in 1973. After that it was covered by a whole string of Turkish rock, pop and folk artists in the 70s… but this one by Belkis is probably my favourite. There’s so much drama in this record – that powerful hypnotic, psychedelic saz melody, the build ups with whispering sensual vocals – (Which translate to something like: Girl, I’m burning, I’m burning for you. Say puff to the lamp… Draw the curtain, girl.)

    I would love to say I picked up this one of the times I went looking for records when I was in Istanbul or Ankara, but that would be a lie because I never found any of my Turkish want list there for under maybe 50 euros that didn’t look like it had lived under a bridge since the 70s! Luckily a lot of Turkish 45s ended up in Beirut!

  • Bob Destiny - Mahna (Troubles)

    Natalie: I love everything about this record, and especially the story behind it. It’s by an American R&B/soul composer and singer and Broadway performer who travelled to Algeria in the late 1960s to teach music at the National Theatre and ended up recorded a few singles there and setting up the first pan-African festival, before moving on to Morocco where he collaborated with many famous musicians. It’s a beautiful story of musical cross-culture collaboration that produced this unique record – you can hear the north African influence in the percussion and it starts with some spoken word in Arabic before these soulful vocals hit full force. It’s almost too deep that it doesn’t always work on the dancefloor, people either go crazy on it or just kind of shift side to side not knowing how to move on it. But I’ll never stop playing it. Ernesto was so jealous when I bought it that he immediately headed to discogs and bought a copy himself!