City Hangout – Shah Music Center, Meena Bazar
The LP haven.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
All timeless legends are here — Begum Akhtar and The Beatles, the early Michael Jacksons and the early Amitabh Bachchans, the golden oldies of Barbara Streisand as well as rare recordings of Tulsi Ramayan rendered by singer Mukesh. And much much more, including thousands of Hindi film songs.
Shah Music Center is stacked with LP records. Although these ‘Long Play’ discs that stored around 20 minutes of music, before needing to be turned over, have long gone out of use, the shop continues to thrive. Obviously, the world is still full of vintage-loving music aficionados.
The rare business is run by Syed Zafar Shah. He inherited it from his father, Syed Akbar Shah, who died in 2011.
But this isn’t an easy place to reach. Only a passionate collector can brave through the narrow lanes of Old Delhi’s super-messy Meena Bazaar. “My shop will lose half its romance if I shift to a mall or a fancy market,” argues Mr Shah.
One could while away hours watching the famous faces on the fantastically nostalgic album covers. A wistful Rekha (Ijazat, 1987), a young Pandit Ravi Shankar (Transmigration Macabre, 1967)… and the most amazing of all—a romantic Dilip Kumar caressing Madhubala’s blushing cheeks with a bird feather (Mughal-e-Azam, 1960). The movie cover is inscribed by Dilip Kumar himself. “He signed it both in English and Urdu,” says Mr Shah. The precious album isn’t for sale but the possessive owner might kindly allow you to run your fingers over the great actor’s signature.
The collection is constantly replenished by Mr Shah’s network in various cities. They particularly keep an eye on old bungalows whose owners occasionally (carelessly!) give away their vinyl inheritance to raddiwalas. Mr Shah’s father even managed to get hold of the awfully limited copies of the 2004 film Veer-Zaara, among the last gramophone records manufactured in India. The last Hindi film that came out with LPs was Fanaa in 2006. It’s not available at the moment but can be arranged on request.
While Mr Shah isn’t the kind of man who likes bargaining, he gladly treats visitors to the delicious bazaar chai. The shop opens daily from 10.30am to 8pm, bang opposite the Abdul Sattar Tools Store.
PS: Forget not to look up at the shop’s stunning roof. It’s decked with LPs.
For the record