Sometimes I would get into conversations with my grandpa who would muse about the golden days of his youth. Let’s face it, every generation thinks they are the ones who experienced the hay days of their youth best. One can often hear their grandparents saying things like “Music was so much better in our days.” I do not agree with that as music, like all art forms, is constantly evolving and changing with the times. But one thing my grandpa definitely got right was the exquisite feeling of getting hold of a vinyl record of your favorite musician’s album and listening to it. No matter how much technology advances, he could never get over the feeling of listening to vinyl records and I resonate with his feelings.
It says a lot about our advancement in technology. Thanks to that, music has become more accessible to the masses. Acquiring a vinyl record was such a difficult feat back in my grandpa’s days. They were hard to find and quite expensive. Owning a gramophone or a vinyl player was also a reserved privilege for the few. The population of vinyl record listeners has considerably waned in today’s times but it's still a niche hobby for a few.
In the streets of my hometown Kolkata, there are still a few gorgeous vinyl shops and their fair share of regulars. Kolkata has always been a melting pot of cultures, with its own bustling art and culture. Music, which is one of Kolkata’s major passions, has always been an intricate part of its identity, and the city’s love affair with music can be found in the tiny stores and stalls of Free School Street. It is one of the best places in the city to get your hands on vintage vinyl records. All records available here are second-hand and rare, so it’s more of a collector’s playground. From Lata Mangeshkar To German 70s progressive rock band, Eloy, they have a plethora of variety— old and new, with no language barrier. Rarest of rare records starting from Urdu Ghazals to classical compositions by the likes of Mozart, Debussy, Chopin, and more can be found but they often hide them from public view. Seek and ye shall find!
When we speak of vinyl records and the city of joy, one shop that deserves special mention is a 70-year-old shop called Vibrations. It is situated at Mirza Ghalib Street and sports an astounding collection. In the 1940s Vibrations was founded by the grandfather of the present owner, Mohammed Shah Nawaz. He started selling gramophones and 78 RPM records during that time. In the 1960s, the demand for vinyl started increasing, and that’s when he began to acquire first-rate records. Vibrations then not only started attracting local listeners but also music enthusiasts from around the world. Another shop that is worth mentioning is the rich musical heritage shop called Melody, located on Rashbehari Avenue.
From the 1980s onwards, the craze for vinyl records declined and audio cassettes took over. I belong to the generation that saw the decline of the cassette, the rise and fall of compacts disks and mp3 players and now we are in the cloud music era. We don’t know what’s next in the music culture and that circles me back to the original point I began with— music, like all art forms, is constantly evolving and changing with the times. However, in a constantly changing world, there will always be a soft corner for vinyl records in the hearts of music enthusiasts.