Rhythm House was my research tool: Narendra Kusnur

Music critic Narendra Kusnur on how a Rs 180 purchase got him hooked to the Kala Ghoda store

It was a time when cassette was king. Through its tie-up with Warner Music, Indian label Magnasound released some great titles in the early 1990s. From Led Zeppelin to the Doors to Bad Company, it was a bonanza for rock lovers. And the only place where you could get the entire range was Rhythm House.

Narendra Kusnur
Narendra Kusnur

Though I had been a music buff for years, I first visited the legendary store only in 1991. As a young man from Delhi, I was used to taking blank cassettes to Pyramid in Palika Bazaar to have music recorded on them. In Mumbai, friends scoffed at me for not having visited Rhythm House. I went with a limited budget, and spent R180 on four cassettes although I wanted to buy half the store.

Ever since, Rhythm House has been like a third home; the first, my own residence, and the second was the historic auditorium, Rang Bhavan, which shut down in 2004. The range across genres, the methodical stacking and personalised customer service made the store special.

I experienced phases when I’d be consumed by a particular genre — rock, jazz, Hindustani classical, ghazals. Later, it was concert DVDs. On an early visit, when I hadn’t begun writing about music, I was wondering which jazz albums to pick up.

Sensing my confusion, a tall, bespectacled gentleman advised me to buy a few titles by Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. He seemed to know my taste better than I did. We introduced ourselves, had a long chat and I realised he owned the store.

That’s how I got to know Mehmood Curmally. Later, I’d interact with him as a journalist and eventually, as industry professional. At a time when Google and Wikipedia didn’t exist, for music journalists, the primary sources of information were books, encyclopaedias and record magazines.

While working on an article on Hindi film music, Rhythm House became my research tool. I spent half a day jotting down names of films, singers, music directors and lyricists from the back covers of sealed cassettes. Soon, the store turned into my library, where nobody questioned or disturbed me.

In 1993, when Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull was in Mumbai on a personal visit, the store had arranged an autograph session. I stood in queue for an hour with my ‘Thick As A Brick’ cassette. When I finally met my idol, I introduced myself.

He signed, and although I didn’t dictate, he spelt my name correctly. That’s my most special Rhythm House memory. Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end.

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