Bandra cafe is a haven for Mumbai's vinyl record lovers
There seems to be a change in fortunes for the humble vinyl record. Fans of this music format in the city are finding new avenues and spaces to revel in this sound, and re-live the record. the guide scratches beyond the surface
Arpana Gvalani, owner of Gostana, a Bandra based café, has always loved records and all things vintage. In fact, her café is popular among patrons for not just its mouthwatering, health-conscious menu but also good music served on the side. So, when her brother presented her with a turntable last year, Gvalani saw it as a sign. She installed it inside her café and played vintage records on it.
Suvajeet Duttagupta, a 28-year-old IITian from Mumbai, and a café regular, hit upon the idea of ‘Bring Your Vinyl Nights’. Soon, it became an alternate Thursday fixture at Gostana. “With the turntable, music-lovers could now add another layer,” explains Duttagupta. “We spread the word among record owners to bring their favourites, and bond over stories of how they sourced them. Soon, the stories were forgotten, and a heady musical session with great food and Arpana’s dog, Apple for company took form.”
Almost a year since the ‘Bring Your Vinyl Nights’ began, another café regular, Riaan George, decided to step up the game. Last month, he put out 100 vinyl records — special edition, collectors' albums — for sale in the café, including golden oldies like Shirley Bassey (Love Songs), Tom Jones (At the Talk of the Town), Kenny Rogers (Love Will Turn You Around) and the Anglo-Indian sensation Englebert Humperdinck.
Rhythm House remains one of the few music stores that continues to sell LP and vinyl records as well as turntables, since it was set up in the 1940s. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
“They were my dad’s; he loved collecting vintage music,” reveals George, a 32-year-old consulting luxury editor and men’s fashion blogger. “I love music, but my dad was more passionate about vinyl, and collected them for years.” He continues, “Six months ago, he passed away. Despite being a music junkie, I am more into digital music, and not a vinyl enthusiast. So, after he passed away, nearly 300 records of his were lying around. I had to find a way to ensure that they got the pride of place they did when dad was alive.”
Arpana Gvalani and Suvajeet Duttagupta at the vinyl record sale that was organised in early December. Pic/Satyajit Desai
The sale brought in 30 patrons with nearly 15 records being sold as well. George is over the moon with the response. “I thought it was best to sell it to those who were as passionate about these records as he was, and I couldn’t find a better place than Gostana’s to make it happen,” he elaborates, telling us that since his father had worked with Air India, his regular travels ensured his collectibles including rare, limited-edition records, were maintained to perfection.
The new oldies
Gostana’s Thursday-night event has started bringing to light many such vinyl lovers. Take Chhavi Sachdev (37), radio journalist and owner of The Content Arc consultancy, who picked up nine collectibles at the sale. “I paid Rs 3,800 on these records. That’s a lot more than what I paid for my record player,” she exclaims. Sachdev lets us into her obsession, “I bought my record player, a Brookstone turntable that can convert analogue sounds into the digital format, from LA, California; I took it with me when I moved to Boston, from there to Amsterdam and from there, right here, to Mumbai,” she says with a chuckle, adding quickly, “Of course, now it occupies a place of honour in my home.”
Another fan like Sachdev — although for him it is more about collecting older musical treasures than relishing the anologue music — is Duttagupta. “I’ve always loved music. But some years ago as I walked around Kala Ghoda, I found a guy selling vinyl records on the pavement, with The Beatles’ Revolver, Original Press, from the 1960s in his stack,” he remembers. “I knew I had to have it. There has been no looking back since; anywhere I find a good deal, I grab it,” he asserts.
Over the years, he has gingerly collected about six records, all for the lack of a player to play it on. “But ever since Arpana got hers installed at the café, I have been on a collecting spree, picking up many vinyl classics even online,” he adds.
Bring the rhythm back
Fans of vinyl needn’t look beyond Rhythm House, in Kala Ghoda to add to their collections. “We’ve been selling imported vinyls since we began in the early 1940s, and while back then they were all that we sold, in the late 1980s, we stocked them until they were phased out in the market. We still sell LPs and vinyls,” informs Mehmood Curmally, its owner, adding that it was mostly English music that found popularity among the store’s patrons as not many Hindi music companies lasted.
With changing formats, today, only a little over one per cent of Rhythm House stocks comprise LPs and vinyl records, which are new, imported and made in 180 gm vinyl, with better re-mastering and better processing, reveals Curmally, adding, “but those are old English Rock and Pop because much else isn’t happening on the vinyl scene.” Shekhar, a sales personnel at the store, says, “If we sold 100 vinyls back then, we sell only 25 today, but even those 25 come dearer.”
What’s interesting to observe is that Rhythm House sells even turntables by manufacturers like Denon and Lenco. Curmally is hopeful that LPs will make a comeback. “If there is any physical format of music that will return, it has got to be the LP,” he claims. “In the next few months, I plan to stock more classical and classic rock LPs. And may be, just maybe, if I find a few well-maintained, limited-edition records, I might consider even buying them.”
Undoubtedly, the biggest deterrent of records today, apart from space, is their upkeep, especially in Mumbai. “Maintaining records and the player is a pain. Mumbai is so dusty,” rues Sachdev. “But I take extra care by dusting the player regularly and playing my records once in two days. Also, the pin on the turntable can drive you crazy, trying to figure how to keep it running smooth. Besides, there is very little information about it anywhere, even on the Internet,” she laments.
The crowds that walked into Gostana for the records during the sale night have emboldened Gvalani, George and Duttagupta to consider many such events. “I realise I have unearthed about 40-50 more records,” says George, “Selling them, either here or through an auction house, to people who value them, seems satisfying as well as profitable.” Gvalani is happy with the response that the idea found among her patrons who can now look forward to another sale in the next few days.
On: Thursday, December 18, 7 pm to 10 pm
At: Gostana Cafe, Prabhat Kunj, 24th Road, off Linking Road, Bandra (W).
Where to buy?
>> Nova Music, 314, Fairlands Building, LJ Road, Mahim (W).
>> Rhythm House, 40, K Dubash Marg (Rampart Row), Fort.
>> Online music stores like Flipkart (www.flipkart.com) and Amazon (www.amazon.in)
Did you know?
There is a market for resale of old, well-maintained records, like the New Gramophone House in Delhi, which buys old LPs and vinyls and resells them for a good margin.