Now most of us are familiar with the Grammy award but did you know that it has been named after the gramophone?
In fact, in 1902, the first gramophone disc was cut at Calcutta!
The sight of a gramophone spells class in itself. The old world charm has something so mesmerising about it that some part of us always wants to be born in that era. Lucky were our parents and grandparents who were born in such an amazing time when music was soulful. Most of them must have had a great collection of cassettes and gramophone records that would be played at innumerable parties where people would be in a whirl of jive, tango and the like.
We are so obsessed with the 80s that we constantly want to revive their charm in our daily lifestyle be it in clothing, styles or music but all end up doing is, just using them as prop for our huge iphones and ipads.
By the time the 90s set in, these cassettes and records had begun to face extinction. Do any of you all remember unspooling the magnetic spaghetti, and then restoring it with the aid of a pencil? Well that used to be fun.
Talking about cassettes and gramophone records, did you know that they are still certain hidden places in Kolkata undaunted by the test of time? Places where the clocks stopped way back in the early 90s with the owners stocking up their prized possessions of cassettes and gramophone records even today
Let’s take a look at these timeless musical places. A journey to the hidden old music stores of Kolkata.
Amrit singh, has a cassette and CD, DVD Shop in Treasure Island that is about 25-26yrs old. From the beginning he has been selling cassettes but now with changing times he started selling CDs and DVDs also. He said, ”We still get a few customers for these cassettes they are the ones who still have the music system in their house and it is just lying idle so they want to use it … We get the cassettes from the company like Sony, Sa Re Ga Ma etc. Nobody has cassettes now. The last time I got cassettes delivered to me by the companies, was 12yrs back.”
Each Cassettes cost Rs 35-50 depending on the company. He says “music has no language. I am a music lover so I am still into this business. My children are no longer interested in this business.”
Md. Murtazza says that his gramophone record store is about 60 years old. “My grandfather used to run this shop and I am into this business since the last 30 years. We have records that are even 100yrs old. This is our business that we have been into since a long time so we can’t just give up on it. We don’t get many customers now. Earlier we would get these records from the companies but now we get these from people who don’t want to keep them anymore. No one is interested in this business anymore. Each record cost for Rs 50-150.”
Till now these gramophone records are made in big companies but of course the price range is much higher approximately Rs 1300 in showrooms. They are no longer made in India.
Free School Street
This is a part of Kolkata that manages to reflect the essence of a colourful Kolkata even today.
Record Prince and Mohammad Shoaib’s shop are located opposite to St. Thomas Day School and a little further ahead is Vibrations.
The shops may not be much to look at but the treasures they hold would make your eyes pop out. There are records of Urdu ghazals by forgotten artists like Habib Wali Mohammad, English classical records that date back to the 1940s. Bing Crosby and David Bowie rub shoulders with Jose Feliciano and Manna Dey or Sholay. There is Paul Anka and Kishore Kumar as well. Look out for very rare 78 RPM records of Cliff Richards or Elvis Presley. There is Tom Jones –Live in Las Vegas as well. Also, check out for the French or the Spanish music albums and Arabian ones too.
Not only the shop but even the passion for vinyl records has been passed on to the next generation. “Even though there is hardly any demand for vinyl records these days, I still open the shop. It is like paying homage to my forefathers who had started this establishment out of their sheer love for music,” said Sheikh Danish, the proud owner of Record Prince which is also known as Chacha’s shop.
Biltu, owner of Vibrations, says that there is still a market for gramophone record players especially among the foreigners who collect the vinyl records of Hindustani Classical music but is a very niche market.
Most of the shops on Free School Street have been around for years and were handed down from one generation to another.
(Free School Street text by Sohini Sinha)