As a tuition teacher in Dahisar, Jeetendra Savla didn’t really think of changing his profession. He was happy teaching children.
A huge fan of Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Savla had almost all the albums of the renowned music composers. But, he was looking for the 135 of the 510 albums from the duos collection. Sometime in 2004, he visited Chor Bazaar and found the missing albums and while browsing also saw vinyl LPs for the first time. Later, a friend informed him of a stash of vinyl LPs that also had Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
He bought the entire lot, kept the ones he wanted and sold off the unwanted titles, making a profit and getting the duos collection almost free. Thus began his tryst with selling vinyl LPs from his Borivali flat which houses around 40,000 vinyl records from 78, 45 and 331/3 rpm.
The cobbled pavement under Kitab Mahal at DN Road, CST, is where Abdul Razzak sits patiently waiting for music vinyl lovers to visit his shop Royal Music Collection. As a teenager, a friend gave him his entire collection of around 300 records to sell. This was all that was needed to start a business in 1980 that would become his sole bread and butter. His name spread far and wide and people from not only Mumbai but overseas visited him for the rare LPs.
Chor Bazaar at Mutton Street is a favourite haunt for finding vinyl records where people flock on Fridays to the flea market for crate digging.
Ghulam Hussain is one of the oldest record sellers at Chor Bazaar. “My father was a record dealer for over 50 years and after he passed away in 1999, my brother Aziz and I took over the business, still keeping the shop name as Haji Ibrahim after my father,” said Hussain. The store stocks gramophone machines, rare vinyl records and even colored vinyl.
“I have a collection of Mahatma and Indira Gandhi speeches on 78 rpm. I also collect coloured vinyl for a friend from Germany who visits my store every year,” says Hussain, who is quick to add that the area is being redeveloped and so many record shops have shut down.
If you see Salim Sheikh at Chor Bazaar, you would mistake him for just another record collector buying vinyl. But for the past 35 years, Sheikh has been re-selling vinyl records from his home in Walkeshwar. While on a tour around the country for work, Sheikh used to buy records, mostly Bollywood film records, from various cities and re-sell them in Mumbai. “I’d keep the ghazal records for myself, as I love ghazals and sell the rest. That’s how I started my business,” he says.
In Mumbai, the other music stores that used to sell vinyl were Hiro Music House and Rhythm House that was sourced directly from the record labels. There was also an LP library called Stan's at Colaba and Vibrations under Kemp's Corner bridge that used to lend out LPs.
Pilak Bhatt’s love for vinyl began when his elder brother Gautam started collecting LP records after which Pilak took over. Pilak left a well-paying job in Gammon India, all for the love of music. “We used to buy from a record dealer named Rameshbhai, who is no more. He had a shop near Flora Fountain,” he said.
Bhatt built his collection when one of Gautam’s friends Surendra gave him his entire collection of records for free, which began the business of selling records. Bhatt, who owns Music Circle at Kandivli’s V Mall, says that the vinyl experience is intrinsically linked with the romance of un-sleeving the record, the original inlay and the artwork.
While owning a record player is a matter of pride, when it breaks down, is when things can get out of hand. There was hardly a repair shop in Mumbai and any spares required was unavailable. These were the main reasons why many who had turntables decided to sell off their records and record players.
Turntable needles or stylus, cartridges, turning belts, are a few parts of a turntable system that will need to be replaced after a few years due to wear and tear, besides servicing of the record player.
This is where The Revolver Club (TRC), a vinyl store in Mumbai, supports the community of record lovers in terms of supply of records, turntables and spares. “TRC’s mission is to ensure availability of turntables and spare parts, information and solid support to people unfamiliar with the technology. No one made the effort to support this interest. Equally importantly is we also ensure the availability of music that appeals to the next generation and encourages them to try out the magic of vinyl,” says Jude de Souza, founder and CEO of The Revolver Club (TRC).
“Our greatest joy is to see a youngster get into the hobby. Music is not a solitary pursuit, so we have created a pan India community that discusses music on vinyl and shares recommendations,” says de Souza.
The record sellers have created a critical mass that was required as the new generation had no access to the sub-culture despite its huge revival across the world.
This is a welcome move by TRC, compared to a time when record player owners were left to fend for themselves by sourcing spare parts from a relative abroad or from a few second-hand record dealers in Bombay which took months to come. TRC is also responsible for holding the first ever Record Store Day in India (in Mumbai) in 2017, and even today they are the only official RSD-affiliated store in India.
Jude’s statement is echoed by Sheikh who adds that the vinyl revival is only getting started. “It’s mostly youngsters who find records cool and want to get involved in the vinyl culture,” says Sheikh.
Due to the pandemic, the stores have made slow business, with online sales taking over.
Sellers such as Jeetendra, Razzak, Ghulam and Sheikh have no option but to continue with loyal customers who visit them. “Earlier, people used to order over the phone and I used to deliver anywhere in Mumbai on my weekly off on Sundays. But, it stopped after the breakout of COVID,” says Razzak who refuses to leave the profession saying “jab tak zindagi rahegi, tab tak hum yahi karenge”.
That’s the spirit of Mumbai and of Mumbai’s recordwallas.
Interested in buying records? Here’s where you can find them:
The Record Shop - Jeetendra (9224055231)
Royal Music Collection - Razzak (9820933365)
Ghulam Haji Ibrahim (9224703063)
Salim Sheikh (9082808677)
Music Circle - Pilak (98203 65979)
The Revolver Club - Jude (9833182255)