M. Raja is a convert to jazz. If you’re thumbing the vinyl records at Habitat, the store he mans, he will recommend some artists enthusiastically. “I used to listen to mostly film music, but after my boss suggested I listen to jazz, I’ve fallen in love,” he says.
At Habitat, the audio and vinyl store on Church Street, there’s a treat in store for fans of the old-school listening format: three modest piles of records, stacked in the centre of the store, offer an eclectic, nostalgia-tinged experience.
By far the largest stack is the one labelled ‘jazz’. Dig in and you’ll find gems like pianist Oscar Peterson’s collaboration with Dizzy Gillespie and a Herbie Hancock album from 1977, with the iconic V.S.O.P: The Quintet. Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Wes Montgomery all figure, as well.
The other two notably more slender sections are the ‘rock’ and ‘classical’ ones, together spanning everything from The Beatles to Ali Akbar Khan to Rachmaninoff.
Vinyl creeping in
The store, started by Minaz Vaziralli, is about 30 years old. It began as a music store, selling CDs, with a DVD library set up soon after. About a year ago, Mr. Vaziralli started importing vinyls, buying some with the help of his friends in New York and London.
The LPs have been on sale for about ten months, said Mr. Vaziralli over the telephone. According to him, there are mostly two kinds of listeners who pick up the LPs. There are younger people who have bought turntables and have set out to collect and play vinyl records, he says. “They have discovered that the sound of vinyl is different — warmer, more rounded.” And the other set of customers are people who were brought up on the format.
Another feature of the store is that the overall quality of the records is fairly high (you’ll often run into the phrase ‘mint condition’ here), a fact that the store owner counts as his USP. “It’s increasingly difficult to get good vinyl, these days.” He admits that he would like to sell slightly more ‘popular’ artists, like Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin, but it’s difficult to get records for these artists that are in good condition.
Unsurprisingly, prices here are on the steeper side. We stumbled into — and pounced on — Count Basie’s Have A Nice Day, which was going for Rs. 400; barring that piece of luck, however, most LPs are priced upwards of Rs. 1,000.
There’s also an informal community being built, in some ways: if you pick up an LP, Raja writes down your name and contact details in a five-lined notebook, and will contact you if new stock comes in.
Habitat is at 48, Church Street. Call 25586886.