City Landmark - Shah Music Centre, Netaji Subhash Road

City Landmark – Shah Music Centre, Netaji Subhash Road

For the record.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Gone. Shah Music Centre had hundreds of LPs. Those ‘Long Play’ discs storing half hour of music, before needing to be turned over, have long been out of use, but the classic Old Delhi landmark had continued to thrive, patronised by LP connoisseurs. It was discreetly nestled in Meena Bazar, like a snug city secret only you and I knew.

It is no longer there.

Relax. The founder’s grandson Syed Zafar Shah quietly moved the heritage shop four months ago to the more accessible part of the congested Walled City, on Netaji Subhash Marg in Daryaganj.

Air conditioned, and with shelves subtly illuminated, this is a more comfortable space to browse the shop’s vast archive of music records, continually replenished from cities across the country. The album covers themselves dazzle with their art, combining the best of photography and design. Plus, they showcase an era particularly rich in epoch-defining music (Beatles!) and movies (Paakezah!).

Sample these. A Bhimsen Joshi LP—the album’s back cover calls the late legend “the most promising of the younger set of musicians.” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin and other hits.” Lata Mangeshkar “Live” in London’s Royal Albert Hall in March 1974. Ray Charles’s “Ingredients for a Recipe in Soul” Soundtrack of Travolta’s 1978 musical Grease. Then there are albums showing a wistful Rekha (Ijazat, 1987), a young Pandit Ravi Shankar (Transmigration Macabre, 1967), a lovesick Dilip Kumar caressing Madhubala’s cheeks with a bird feather (Mughal-e-Azam, 1960).

Truth be told, it used to be a thrilling adventure to reach the record shop, tucked deep in the Walled City’s messy innards. You first had to brave through the super-crowded lanes around the Jama Masjid; then you had to navigate through the bhool-bhullaya of the labyrinthine Meena Bazar; then you had to pester busy shopkeepers to direct you to your elusive Shangri-La. “My shop will lose half its romance if I shift to a mall or a fancy market”—the owner once told this reporter. This afternoon, in the new address, shop assistant Munna (see photo) casually notes “now so easy for customers to reach us, they can come straight in their car.”

The shop simultaneously opened a second outlet on the nearby Qazi Wara street, beside Man Pasand men’s hair cutting saloon. There, the cozy basement downstairs is filled with thousands of record albums, so many that you would never find a spare second to get senti about the music shop’s former address. Check this LP of Bharat Bushan’s classic 1954 movie on poet Mirza Ghalib—the album reissued in 1969 “in commemoration of Ghalib’s centenary”. For the price of two Khan Market pizzas, this poetic slice of history will be yours forever.