Mumbai's long playing record
Buying music today is easy and affordable, with online portals and internet downloads. But loyalists who still enjoy the pleasure of browsing through racks of titles, swear by Rhythm House in Kala Ghoda. On International Music Day, the iconic music destination is abuzz as it continues to give Mumbaikars music and melodies
Tickets available at Rhythm House or at the lane next to Rhythm House: such is the significance of this institution that it remains a landmark in the Art district of Kala Ghoda.
One June evening, we entered this music store; a maze of CD racks where music buffs would love to get lost in, to meet with the present Managing Director Mehmood Curmally whose family has been running the over 60-year-old store from his office at the mezzanine level in the same space.
“Though the registration year of the store is 1947, Rhythm House was started in the early 1940s by Sulaiman Nensey who was a close family friend. My father started visiting the store during his college years, learnt the ropes, and eventually, took over the business as he really liked it,” recalls Curmally.
Curmally’s father, who was lovingly known as Mammoo, was a known name in the music scene of the city because of his love and dedication to promote good music. Their initial business was selling music equipment, especially jukeboxes, “Music was then the privilege of the well-to-do as buying the player and RPMs (Revolution Per Minute) and LPs (Long Plays) were expensive. Everything was imported, initially,” says Curmally.
Later, his uncle Amir Curmally too joined the business and is a part of it till date. While Amir’s area of interest was Indian Classical music (they even had a label called Rhythm House Classics under, which they had several new artistes and produced 80 titles) and Mammo’s Jazz and Western Classical, together they got the best of all the genres and the store was like a curated exhibition.
Their love of music also led to the installation of the famous music booths in the store where people could come and listen to all the latest songs and then buy whatever they wanted. “Those booths were air-conditioned and we even advertised it, highlighting ‘the AC’ aspect, which was huge in those days. Several big music directors like Kalyanji Anandji and Laxmikant Pyarelal would come to get inspired by music,” he adds.
Eventually, the booths had to go, due to space constraints. Also, Curmally’s trip to England to learn more about international retail stores brought in much change at Rhythm House. “Initially, we would only keep demo LPs or cassettes; if a customer liked it, he/she would go to the counter with the cover, where their copy would be sourced from the storeroom.
We followed this process to avoid pilferage. But with growing numbers, it got cumbersome. I saw that it didn’t work in international stores and we did away with it,” Curmally reasons.
Today, Curmally also runs an online store and feels that though business has gone down through the years, their online presence seems profitable. Another section where Rhythm House still finds its name is a ticket venue for theatre and music shows. “Alyque Padamsee was a friend of my father. He thought it a good idea to sell tickets for one of his plays here. It worked as we have a central location and continue to sell tickets to date,” he reminds us.
Ticket to ride
While they sell tickets for several big names, earlier, big-ticket artistes would drop by the store for record signing sessions. Jethro Tull, The Police, Peter Andre, Anup Jalota, Pankaj Udhas and AR Rahman have all visited the store. Curmally is aware that a lot has changed; both in the music industry and among music lovers over the years.
“Several genres have emerged. The size of the music industry is also the downside of the industry. There are so many options. It would be suicidal today to think about opening another store. But there are people in this city who still appreciate good music and know where to source it from,” he summarises. We’ll believe.
At K Dubhash Marg, Fort.