Kandivali seems an unlikely location for a music collector to set up shop, especially a store that deals in niche vinyl records. Located on the first floor of V Mall in Thakur Complex, Music Circle is a tiny record store with little space to move around but it boasts of over 5,000 vinyl records - including RD Burman hits, songs by Pink Floyd, and rare collections of songs by Gauhar Jaan and Ustad Akbar Ali Khan, among others.
The store is divided into two floors - the bottom floor houses a turntable, two vertical cabinets filled with records and a few boxes containing records featuring popular artistes such as Carlos Santana, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and a few hard-to-find albums of artistes like Biddu. The top floor serves as a storeroom with boxes of freshly arrived records stacked on top of each other.
The owner of the store, Pilak Bhatt, a well-known vinyl record collector and seller of pre-owned records on eBay, sits at the end of the store with a turntable on his desk. The wall behind his desk is adorned with posters of Santana, American Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and his favourite band - The Beatles.
“Records have stood the test of time. Even after 100 years, LPs sound much better and more pure than digital forms. It has warmth that you won’t find in any other medium,” says Bhatt.
Now in his 50s, Bhatt started collecting records at the age of 12, and today, he owns a personal collection of over a lakh records. The store is a result of his hard work and dedication over the years. The footfall in the store is quite moderate and there are just a few occasional visitors including ones to whom Bhatt had sold records in the past. Yet Music Circle comes across as a living museum of music history and Bhatt is an apt guide, as he shares trivia about Indian music history, every now and then.
“The Indie music scene was very vibrant in the 70s. I remember going to places like Gazebo in Bandra and Gaylord in Churchgate with my dad; they would host local acts like Atomic Forest and artistes like Hannibal Castro, drummer Leslie Godinho (who was also RD Burman’s drummer) and Nandu Bhende, among others. The Simla Beat Contest was also very popular at the time. Unfortunately, most of the artistes moved to Bollywood, but it was because of them that I got into collecting vinyl records,” adds Bhatt, who is also a trained drummer.
The collection of pre-owned records available for sale is categorised into four sections - Bollywood, Indian Classical, Western Classical and Western Commercial music. Some of the records, including a 1904 Gauhar Jaan record, are as good as new. “If you listen to that record, you will feel that she is sitting right next to you. That’s the kind of liveliness you find in records. And if you preserve a record carefully, it lasts really long,” states Bhatt.
The store also offers a sizeable number of records from Japan, China and the Middle East featuring artistes like Fairuz (Lebanon), Umm Kulthum (Egypt) and Spanish guitarist Paco De Lucia among others. The record prices start from R40 onwards for Single Plays (SPs) and R200 onwards for Long Plays (LPs). Also, you can play to test the record at the store itself before buying it.
For vinyl enthusiasts
>> The records available at Music Circle are either second or third copies. It sells as well as purchases LPs, 45s and 78s.
Pilak Bhatt also organises regular music listening sessions at his house in Kandivali for music lovers.
Did you know?
>>Simla Beat LP is one of the most sought-after LPs among Indian music fans, and is priced over Rs 20,000 in the international market.
>> Drummer Leslie Godinho was RD Burman’s favourite and featured in most of his songs.