Darsko Records

Cratediggers' delight in the heart of Beirut's Little Armenia

Beyond the Beirut River, in the bustling Armenian neighbourhood of Burj Hammoud, among textile stores, shoemakers, artisans and craftsmen, repair workshops, small eateries and restaurants, is a gem of a vinyl store: Darsko Records. Besides an eclectic collection of vinyls, including some 45 rpm, the owner, Ernesto Lahoud, has displayed some old juke boxes as well as old, framed Middle Eastern Airlines ads. Visually and aurally, this store is retro, takes you on a journey to what is generally regarded as Lebanon’s “golden era”, the 60s and 70s.

Open since 2014 on Marash, the main strip, and owned by Ernesto, a DJ, founder of the Beirut Groove Collective (BGC) and veteran cratedigger, Darsko mainly offers Funk, Soul Disco, obscure progressive rock, and some Arabic music.

“Hipsters won’t find anything here but the DJs that I bring from abroad dig it and people looking for special stuff. It’s really a journey through my records,” Ernesto states. Flipping through the records is a treat and brings up a range of memorial albums, notably Eric Clapton, The Cream, Led Zeppelin, Grace Jones, and even the music of Kurt Weill and South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela.

Close to the counter is a small stash of Turkish, Arabic – Egyptian and Lebanese – 45 rpm records. Part of his personal collection, Ernesto has some Ethio jazz records that he went to get in Addis.

For the past 10 years, Ernesto has been promoting Funk and Soul music in Beirut, which to him have always been the perfect clubbing sounds. “Beirut has always offered alternatives. I thought this was the alternative to House and the mainstream. It’s nice that now some small bars play James Brown – a bit of a change has occurred,” he points out, dragging on his Villager cigarillo.

Having sort of grown up here, spending much time looking for tapes at a tape store in Dora, Ernesto chose to open his store in Burj Hammoud. “It’s good for the food, you get the Armenian food, my favourite is Varouj, and kebabs. People come here looking for specific stuff and to hang out.”

 

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