Bombay Showcase

For the record

Salim shows his vintage records at the Haji Ebrahim Record store. Photo: Vivek Bendre  

It was his uncle who passed on the Haji Ebrahim store and a love for vintage records to Mohammad Salim. The unassuming shop in the centre of Chor Bazaar is marked by golden gramophones and casually suspended vinyl discs rotating in the hot air. The tiny shop is crammed with thousands of old records, radio sets, gramophone players and other music memorabilia. “We sell all kinds of vintage records, right from Bollywood film music to western classical and LPs in regional languages,” explains Salim, as he shows off the dusty jackets of the records from Hindi movies of the 1960s and 70s.

In the heart of Mohammad Ali Road, at the intersections of Mutton Street, lies the treasure trove that is Chor Bazaar. It was once a place where stolen goods could be bought and sold. Now, it has evolved into an antique market where anything is available: old furniture, clocks, lamps, even sculptures and paintings.

“We travel all around the place to scour for old record-collectors, homeowners and even scrap shops,” says Salim, blowing the dust atop an unmarked cover. “These expeditions last for a few months in a year and we generally get hold of our year’s supply then.”

Classic LPs like Harry Belafonte: Live at Carnegie Hall and Abhiman adorn the store’s racks. “Things have changed now; those days records were larger-than-life, just like the singers who sang them or the films they were from. Nowadays, the popularity of these records has gone down. But now again, vinyl records are finding their way back into western markets, the sound is much better,” he says, with glittering eyes.

One of the principal joys of shopping in a store such as this is the kind of unpredictability in what you may find amidst the heaps of old records. Your only guide in this treasure hunt is Salim and his younger brother, whose thorough knowledge of his wares and music will leave you spellbound. “We have records in different languages like Hindi, English, Marathi, Gujarati and even Bengali. Some of them are plain old film music, some are concert albums, and some are just dialogues from movies. The latter are the most valuable according ro me. I never give those away,” he declares, flicking through a pile of records.

The shop’s collection is painstakingly arranged, as far as possible by hand, for hours every day.

“It never ceases to amaze me. My first record was that of Guide. I sold that because one of my customers needed it. I felt bad, this was my first LP and I sold it,” says Salim. “A few months back, I bought another LP of the same movie. You tend to get back what you sell, unless it is a very rare copy. Never let go of those,” he says.

Haji Ebrahim’s customers are collectors from all over the country as well as the world: from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and France. “Nowadays, you see, people don’t buy records to just listen,” says Salim. “It is more of a statement. I am approached by interior designers and professional collectors more than record enthusiasts. Although the foreigners who buy records here seem to be a different breed altogether, I can’t really tell if they are hobbyists or serious collectors.”

The kind of memory shops like Haji Ebrahim evokes, is one of nostalgia and longing for a time long past. “It’s not coming back like it was before. Records, even those produced nowadays, are expensive. Who is going buy them? It’s difficult to maintain them. Those golden days will never come back,” says Salim as he looks at his own bundle.

As records have become outdated with time, the store stands like a memorial in itself, of a moment in Mumbai’s pop cultural history, caught in time and space.

Haji Ebrahim Record Store, opposite Handiwala Masjid 145, Saifee Jubilee Street Shop No.7, Null Bazar; Phone: 23466678

The author is an intern with The Hindu

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 12:26:51 AM |

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