Label of Love: Disco Halal

Moscoman's influential imprint

Words By Ciara Cunnane
Photos By Estelle Reynier

With the democratisation of the music industry, it has never been easier to set up your own boutique record label. This breakdown in barriers has encouraged many electronic producers to launch imprints that serve as vehicles for their own music. But while some artists have become more self-focused in an effort to raise their voice above the online din, Moscoman achieved his artistic breakthrough by putting all his efforts into promoting others on his record label, Disco Halal. 

Chen Moscovici has been DJing for more than 20 years and producing for nearly 10, but rose to international acclaim after the successful launch of his record label, Disco Halal, in 2015. After various false starts at making a living from his musical passion, it all came together for the 36-year-old when he embraced ‘tikkun’, the Jewish concept of working for the benefit of others. Chen set aside his own desire to be recognised as a producer to launch a label that showcased the talent in his hometown of Tel Aviv. In keeping with that, he refrained from releasing any of his own original music on the label for the first three years (until the single ‘I Ran’ in 2018, which he says he included because “there was no other label it would have fit”).

“I set up the label because my friends didn’t have anywhere to release music and I always figured that it would be best to create our own thing,” says Chen, lounging on the huge sofa in his top-floor Mitte apartment, which he moved into in 2014. “I was lucky enough to meet Oye Records in Berlin, who were willing to help us with distribution. I’ve created a lot of careers for a lot of people and that was my point.”

Chen continues, “the reason that everything changed in my life was because I started to apply myself for other people. In Hebrew we say ‘tikkun’. In my case instead of focusing only on ‘Mosco, Mosco, Mosco’, I shifted the energy I used for myself to promoting the artists on my label. And I didn’t say, ‘I’ll focus on them and I’ll be successful because of that’; I enjoy their success just as much. I’ve always liked for people to listen to the music that I like; it’s a tastemaker kind of thing. I’m the same with restaurants and movies I like.”

I set up the label because my friends didn’t have anywhere to release music.

Disco Halal started out as an edits label but has become synonymous with genre-transcending music from the Middle East. Chen says the name was a joke but he knew he was onto a good thing when he sent the first release, Disco Halal Vol. 1, to Jonnie Wilkes from Optimo and received the feedback: “Terrible name but a great record.” Did he expect the label to grow so quickly? “No, no, the first record, for some reason, FACT magazine wrote about it and a lot of others, which I didn’t expect but I guess I was at the right time at the right place when this kind of explosion happened. I don’t believe I created this genre but I did give it a name. I suppose Tel Aviv as a place is kind of a boiling point so that all informs the music that the guys are making there.”

Disco Halal has grown to the level where Chen says he doesn’t really need to promote the new releases, they just sell because the fanbase is waiting for each one. Does he still listen to unsolicited demos? “Always! All the time. Find the talent, and set them free!” I point out that as record labels gain in stature, it’s common for them to refuse demos from newcomers. “Yeah, and that’s why they look the way they look, because they don’t listen. People need to listen and not think that they know everything already. A lot of bigger artists send me music, which I’m not against, and if there’s a good tune I will put it out but I prefer to focus on stuff that people don’t know; publicise more people. I won’t put out music just to have more exposure. It’s always been music I like and people I believe in and that’s it.”

Chen first came to live in Berlin in 2009 and then returned to live in 2013. Although Chen is fiercely proud of his Israeli roots, he loves living in Mitte as he feels connected to the ghosts of Jewish people who once lived there. The success of his label is intrinsically linked to Chen living in the German capital. He says it would have been impossible to run Disco Halal from his homeland due to the different business culture there and cost of shipping records to Israel. Now, Chencan press records in Leipzig or Austria and hear them the same day. Although he travels regularly around European cities to DJ, he insists: “Berlin’s the best place to live in Europe. And it’s a real hub of electronic music. I always say you need to be close to the tap for the freshest water, that’s how it is.” 

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