You could say Diran Mardirian's passion for music started in the womb. “When I was in my early teens," the owner of Video Chico tells, "I set up a little sound system and got out the records and started listening to them. I listened to Rare Earth’s Get Ready, a 23 and a half minute song; big hit in 1970. I got a strange butterflies in the stomach de-ja-vu feeling; I was in a kind of trance. That was interrupted by my mom walking into my room, and starting to dance. I looked at her and she went ‘You know, I danced to this track when I was 8 months pregnant with you’.”

(Photo via Facebook)

Established nearly a half century ago in 1964 by Mardirian’s late father, Chico’s began life as a discotheque selling vinyl records, but was revamped into a videotheque in 1982, after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Mardirian had already been working in the store for 30 years when he took it over. A year ago, the music enthusiast decided to bring the shop back to where it all started: the records. “I had a small collection of several hundred records which I had kept since the 1970s, when we stopped selling records. I had a renewed interest in procuring new records, stuff that I didn't have, and was finding great difficulty in doing so,” says Mardirian, adding “There was no serious record shop in Beirut, so I thought, what better place to be a serious record shop than this?" And so he revived the shop’s original service, inaugurating the new venture with a humble sale in December 2012 at Metro Al Madina.

Mardirian’s initiative has now come to encompass all aspects of the vinyl experience: the records themselves, which include a wide array of genres and artists, even the much sought after discographies of bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and The Beatles, record player components such as needles, preamps and protective sleeves. Additionally, Mardirian soon hopes to offer cleaning services using a state-of-the-art ultrasonic cleaning apparatus that can clean several records at a time, and sell proper record players, because as he believes “the new ones are trashy”.

Compared to other "mom and pop" music stores and dusty antique shops tucked away in the crevices of Beirut’s streets, not to mention the merchants at the Souk el Ahad flea market, Video Chico is one of those rare establishments that cares about the items it carries, not just as products, but as works of art. "[People] can't believe there's a place [in Lebanon] that doesn't display their records on the floor, but instead categorizes them on stands and nurtures the collection," says Mardirian.

According to Mardirian, a huge chunk of his visitors are high school and university students, curious about this bygone medium, as Mardirian explains “They’re jumping on the bandwagon; they love it.” Does this mean Lebanon could be seeing a new wave of popularity for vinyl? That might not be the case. “It’s barely on the map. It’s a niche thing that I certainly hope will gain ground, not just for my own benefit,” says Mardirian.

(Photo via Facebook)

One of Video Chico’s longtime patrons is musician and producer John Imad Nasr, 32, who has been frequenting the establishment for years and collecting records for sampling in his music and also for the general listening pleasure.

Nasr regards Chico’s as “the only highly self-respecting record store and voluminous videotheque in the country”, adding, “They have really well-preserved, high quality records and won't rip you off; ever... a lot of my prized records by The Smiths and Marcel Khalife I have now are from Chico's.”

Mardirian says the beauty of vinyl lies in the art of discovery. "The point with records is: the music that you like, buy that on record, a record that you know you’ll listen to today and tomorrow and in a year. You don’t have to go overboard, it’s not a status symbol or anything; it’s just the music that you love.”

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Thank you for this Omar.

Diran Mardirian on Nov 26, 2013 via web