I’m an Armenian-American filmmaker, podcast producer, and writer. I’m also a DJ and music journalist. One of the podcasts I’m currently producing started in Beirut in 2021 with host and creator Angela Brussel, called “This Diaspora Life”. Its first season is about the Armenian diaspora, so Beirut was a natural starting point because of its considerable Armenian diaspora population.
I moved to Beirut in 2006 in part because of the memories that tied me and my family to Lebanon as they spent summers in Beirut away from the heat of Baghdad, my mother’s hometown. I met Ernesto Chahoud, co-founder of the Beirut groove collective (BGC) in 2009. At the time, the BGC was hosting their inaugural parties at an artistic community hub called Zico house. At that time, when Ernesto discovered the collection of rare soul and funk records I had brought to Lebanon, he immediately asked me to spin. Up until that point, I’d seen the power of the techno scene in Beirut and been involved with other scenes through my own music journalism and my friendship with Zeid Hamdan. Still, I knew I had come across something special that night at Zico house – an event that complimented my own musical background, and celebrated music genres I believed the Lebanese nightlife scene was lacking.The BGC eventually became an all-vinyl party and welcomed another core member – Natalie Shooter.
By the fall of 2017, it had become a weekly rendezvous point with its very own underground music community. We held these events for four summers, and at some point realized we had created a sort of an anchor effect for the scene; people knew the BGC was a place to dance every week without pretense or stress. We were an underground party that was queer-friendly, affordable, and socially aware.
At the beginning of the 2019 revolution, we stopped hosting to support the people on the streets. However, after increasing requests from protestors and longtime supporters, we realized one thing needed for a political movement was a safe space for people to connect and let off some steam. So the BGC managed to host a few free parties before lockdown was imposed. It was a beautiful thing to witness in the midst of all the conflict. People knew they were in both a political and celebratory space. We noticed this sentiment the most when we’d play revolutionary music from the 70’s and people of the now generation would relish in it, even bringing their parents along at times to enjoy it with them.
Unfortunately, like many things that have unceremoniously ended since October 2019, the BGC had to move elsewhere,continuing its party tradition in London where Ernesto and Natalie are the hosts. As for me, I returned to my birth city – Houston, Texas. That doesn’t mean I’ve disconnected from the communities that I helped cultivate back in Lebanon. I’m still there in so many ways, just not physically.
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