Amidst Purani Dilli’s maddening crowds and chock-a-block streets lies tucked away a small shop in Jamia Masjid that has proven to be the ultimate destination for lovers of music.
Shop number 256, in Meena Bazaar, is a landmark. Shah Music Centre, the ten-by-ten feet shop is actually an outlet for three other warehouses around Old Delhi, each of which are flooded with over one lakh manual and electric records, and phonographs.
Music lovers from all around the world come to Shah Music Centre in search of records for their personal collections. The records are available in many languages like Hindi, Punjabi, English, French and Malayalam, and features music through the ages. Here, the Beatles share space with Indian Shadows and Mustangs, two very prominent bands in India that played back in the ‘70s. A peek into the store and visitors are greeted by stacks of Long Play (LPs) records of 33 RPM and 78 RPM and Pathe Records of different diameters and variable RPM, stored in dusty paper covers. Pathe Records was a French record manufacturing company that was active from late the 1890s to 1930.
The record house was started in 1930 and holds records from late 1890s to 1970s sourced from countries like Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, United Kingdom and Holland. The store was founded by Syed Ahmad Shah, whose grandson Syed Zaffar Shah runs the shop today, after the recent demise of his father, Syed Akbar Shah.
“These records are priceless for me but business norms demand that we sell them as per the length, quality and rareness of records,” says Zaffar, adding that many customers even provide blank cheques for some of their records. The records at the store were collected by Zaffar’s father. “My father travelled to several countries to buy these rare records. Collecting these records was a passion, it wasn’t just business,” he says.
The shop doesn’t just cater to music lovers or antique-collectors; history buffs can find recorded speeches of Mahatma Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu, Prince Agha Khan, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose and John F Kennedy. “These copies are not for sale but the dubbed copies can be easily obtained,” says Zaffar, who has recently given the records of Shamshad Bai of Delhi to Bai’s granddaughter, veteran Bollywood actress Saira Banu. “We have even given some of the songs sung by Khayyam to Khayyam himself,” said the 34-year-old owner.
Many of the records found in the shop will not be found in most music stores. According to Zaffar, the shop has a wide variety of English records which are very popular these days.
Zaffar, who is now planning a change of profession, clarifies, “I will continue this work on the side as conserving music is my passion.”
The writer is a Delhi correspondent of http://iamin.in