With Record Store Day on 21st April, Verus Ferreira explores how the invention of Thomas Edison’s marvel of the phonograph and Emile Berliner’s invention of the disc, is making a comeback in today's digital age.
Rhythm House was the last surviving record store that stocked LP records. When it shut in early 2016, Mumbai saw its first ever Record Store Day take place, albeit on a small scale. But in today’s day and age, music lovers around the world have adapted to the convenience of downloadable and streaming music and in many instances getting it for free. With CD sales having plummeted, vinyl's sales figures have been moving in the other direction with even GNext warming up to an old music form - vinyl, proving the adage correct ‘Old is Gold’.
Despite the closure of his store, Mehmood Curmally, former MD of Rhythm House says that LP reocrds are available if you really look for them. “When we closed the store there was a void felt among the older people who like western classical titles, certain jazz albums or some genres not easily available. But now as proprietor of JnY Entertainment a store we opened in November last year, we are still keeping the vinyl flag flying high and catering to our old customers who want certain titles. I still believe that the vinyl is making a comeback. Records are niche business; I know the value of it for I have been selling music all my life.” At the store, Curmally keeps a limited selection of LPs, from old rock, to a selection of Hindi, pop and a few other genres. While he confesses he isn’t a record collector and doesn’t own any LPs, he claims he’s more of a music buff and not a sound buff. “I am happy to listen to music in my car or on the headphones” Would he pick up a few rare collectibles this RSD? “I would get some stuff from RSD but I would concentrate on what can sell”.
The folks from The Revolver Club, which runs a record store in Mahim, were the first to hold The Record Store Day in 2016. After last year’s immense success, this year on RSD, record lovers can browse through over 1500 – 1700 brand new LP records. Jude de Souza, CEO/Co-Founder says that The Revolver Club is the only store in India that been officially recognized by RSD internationally. “The Revolver Club got in touch with the RSD organization and officially managed to get a few especially commemorative RSD releases and reissues of certain classic albums which will be out on sale on Saturday. The titles we are getting are manufactured in limited quantities from 500 to 1000 copies. Though it’s not the scene here, but abroad, people line up before the store can open and literally charge in and buy these records”. Besides live performances at the store, TRC is also holding a lucky draw and a photography contest with the winners walking away with brand new turntables. What’s more, used LP records start at rock bottom price of Rs. 99 onwards. Posters of Run the Jewels the official ambassador of RSD will also be on sale.
Mumbai record collector Pilak Bhatt is an avid record collector with over 1 lac LPs. Name any album however rare it is and chances are he would have it. From rare 78rpms of The Beatles to several colored discs, not forgetting rare speech records of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Winston Churchill, he has them.
While Pilak rues the fact that sales are on the down sling due to the high GST introduced a few months ago, he states “Records are becoming more expensive. The government should remove GST on records and CDs so that they become affordable. We have to try and preserve this beautiful format otherwise people will stick to digital downloads and MP3s. Thankfully turntables are now easily available and many music enthusiasts who were hooked to MP3 sound are turning to vinyl again”. On RSD, besides heavy discounts, Bhatt is offering LP records starting from Rs 300 upwards with offers on buy five or ten records and gets one vinyl free.
In the heart of Bandra lies Adagio a music and lifestyle studio and a space for music lovers promoting and trying to revive everything analogue. The best part of this place is its free for anyone to just come, sip on complimentary coffee, do your work, or just network with friends. But the most fascinating thing at Adagio, who also has a studio in Chembur, is their Thursday vinyl nights, which is essentially a vinyl appreciation and listening session for vinyl enthusiasts and newbie’s alike. Their basement is the music room where music lovers gather and listen to an entire album. Aman Singh Gujral, 24, founder of Adagio tells us that the idea for these listening sessions stemmed from his love for vinyl records, especially classic rock. This RSD, the studio will be screening a 20 minute documentary on the growth of vinyl in India, conducting an interactive session with music lovers and lastly a jam session with singer Luke Kenny and DJ Russel.
Having your favorite album on vinyl is one of the most cherished dreams of many a LP record collector. One of India’s first rock bands Rock Machine, later known as Indus Creed will soon be releasing a limited edition vinyl print of their debut album ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Renegade’. Though not an RSD exclusive, it’s the passion of a fan that took shape. “It’s basically a private enterprise by a fan Aveek Chatterjee who called me last year and was interested in owning a copy of our albums on LP. Since we didn’t release any album on vinyl LP, he took it on himself to do it with a company in France and so we spent almost the whole of last year getting the master tapes together, the cover image and other details to get this vinyl done” says the band’s keyboard player Zubin Balaporia adding that this LP is being released devoid of a record label and purely for promotional and nostalgic value to band mates fans and close friends and who would love to own a piece of history.
Social media has brought together LP record lovers who have managed to keep the vinyl alive. A WhatsApp group Bombay Record Club has over 150 members who discuss everything from the latest releases available on LP record, to a caregivers offering advice on maintaining LPs, turntables and getting their spare parts. Eddie Tauro of Sion is an active member of the group whose collection boasts of around 3000 plus LPs ranging from all genres. Tauro has been collecting LPs since the last 40 years and still buys it through channels like eBay and Discogs, “There have always been LPs records in my house. It’s only if I don’t have a particular title on record, do I set off and buy a CD. I am not caught by the download craze and do not download any music ever”. In his collection Tauro also has a lot of collectibles, including rare Blue Note first issues to picture discs of the Beatles. He is looking forward to RSD to add more LP records to his collection.
There’s also music website www.musicunplugged.in probably the only site in the country that has a dedicated column reviewing new and old vinyl records.
Vinyl records are not for everyone, it’s for someone who can take of it, who yearns for the physical experience that's more fulfilling than a CD or the digital format. It’s the thrill that one gets from it, holding the record with the tips of your fingers, placing it on the platter, lowering the arm, watching it spin and above all the joy to be able to actually feel the music, touch the record while it’s playing, is something you can never get from any other source. Vinyl isn't just music. It's an experience.
Celebrate Record Store Day with some great deals on vinyl at the following locations on Saturday 21st April.
- Music Circle – Thakur Complex, Kandivili – 10am – 9 pm Pilak Bhatt - 9820365979
- The Revolver Club – Mahim – 10am – 10 pm – Jude - 9833182255
- Adagio – Bandra, 12noon – 3pm – Aman - 8879518054
- Vinyl Pop Up at The Quarter - Royal Opera House – 12 pm – 8 pm.
- JnY Entertainment – Bayside Mall, Haji Ali - Mehmood Curmally - 9821872006