Mumbai Memoir 28- ‘Rhythm House- The ‘music beat’ of Mumbai!’
Every city has its own rhythm, melody and harmony. Undoubtedly Mumbai’s streets buzz with an erratic rhythm of its own and are noisy, but somehow Mumbai’kars manage to face the urban ‘music’ and eventually achieve harmony at the end of the day!
In all the stress and strain of Mumbai’s cacophony one craves for mindfulness through various art forms. Music as an art form can act as an immediate rescue if heard tastefully. The world music industry is in its transition phase where music is perceived more as a tool for entertainment rather than a pure art form. In these times of ‘identity crisis’, Rhythm House, a music shop in Mumbai, has been heralding the cause of appreciating music as an art form right since the pre-independence era of India. Located in the heart of Mumbai’s most buzzing art and cultural hub named Kala Ghoda, over the years the music shop has informally gained institutional status, as it has been promoting good music in all formats.
Rhythm House was established in the 1940s by the Curmally family. It is a family run business which has survived the winds of change that kept ‘rocking’ the music industry from time to time. Initially the shop sold LP vinyl records. Both Western and Indian Classical music genre were most popular then. Besides spinning Indian film music, the LP records rocked the Mumbaikars on the beats of Elvis Presley & Beatles. HMV (His Master’s Voice) LP records were most popularly sold out till almost the late 1980’s. When magnetic tapes (Cassettes) were introduced to the music world, Rhythm House quickly adapted to the changing trends in audio technology. Besides hearing local Bollywood film songs, Mumbai’kars swayed on the music of Western hit albums of Madonna, Michael Jackson and Phil Collins! Music lovers confidently flocked Rhythm House to pick up their favourite music album on cassettes. By then, as part of their diversification policy, Rhythm House also started selling VHS tapes of Bollywood and Hollywood films. During the 1990s the store racks glittered with shiny music and film CDs which by then had aggressively entered the music market.
After the IT revolution in mid-1990s, the music industry rapidly took roots on the internet. Music stores like Rhythm House could feel the pinch of the shift. Most of their competitors had to shut shop during late 2000s, as free internet music downloads and music piracy ruled the roost. Inspite of the adversities, Rhythm House still is standing firm on its grounds of selling good music in physical form. Off late the LP records have re-entered the music market. The store now sells just not the LP records but also the Denon LP record player at a price which the masses too can afford! Dedicated music fans who love the nostalgia of experiencing the sound texture of an LP record are proud patrons of the store.
Abiding to the changing times the store hosts a kiosk that is pre-loaded with songs, which can be legally downloaded on one’s mobile phone, pen drive or on CDs. By introducing such facilities the store is promoting ethical music download, which they believe would just not benefit the artist but also stage an indirect fight against piracy which has got rampant in recent years. The store’s dedicated staff members offer excellent customer service by helping the customer choose the right product.
Besides music loving Mumbaikars, tourists from across the world visit Rhythm House to buy music titles. Indian Classical Music and Bollywood music being their favourite picks. After the store launched itself online, music lovers as far from Japan, U.K, U.S and South Africa have been ordering music albums and film CDs through e-commerce facilities. Here’s the store’s link- www.rhythmhouse.in The store also stocks music and lifestyle accessories, blu ray CDs, audio books and music systems. Many tourists are seen buying gift memorabilia too. The store also has a dedicated corner for ticket bookings of cultural shows across Mumbai. It is a supplementary feature of the place which indirectly has been promoting the cultural scene of Mumbai city.
Mr. Mehmood Curmally, the store’s Managing Director, informed me about the most unique feature that the store once possessed. Long back, they had built ‘music booths’, cabin like structures, in which demo LP records were played for customers to hear songs and accordingly decide if they wanted to purchase them. The concept was so popular in those days that along with the common man famous celebrities from Bollywood circles would spend hours in those booths treating their ears with melodies from the East and the West. Bollywood music directors Shankar Jaikishan, Laxmikant Pyarelal and others frequented the store just to hear the new age music which the Curmally family passionately delivered to their patrons.
As a regular customer, I have personal memories attached to the store. My first visit to Rhythm House was during my teenage. Since then I love the ambiance of the store where music of different genres is played on speakers as one physically browses through various music albums that are stacked on the racks. Music can really be inspiring and one song, ‘Ekla Chalo Re’, which I first heard during my visit to the stores few years back, has been inspiring me to walk through the adverse phases of my life. The song inspires the listener to continue one’s good work despite abandonment or lack of support from others. This song was originally written in the Bengali language by none other than Rabindranath Tagore in 1905. Over the years, many musicians have tuned it in various Indian languages. Here’s a Hindi version of the song that is close to my heart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7mkAC7eZRc
I feel the connection this song has with what Rhythm House is trying to achieve as a sole crusader in promoting good music from across the globe. In times where music is freely downloaded from the internet, thus raising piracy issues, this stores wants people to buy music (either in physical or downloadable formats) so that the artists and sound technicians feel rewarded and stay motivated to create more music for both classes and masses to rejuvenate after a hard day of work. Bravo!
Photo Credits/edit: Shraddha Sankulkar/Aditya Chichkar.
*Special thanks to Mr. Mehmood Curumally and the staff of Rhythm House, Adv. Geeta Sonawane.
Photos and Caption:
Well, organized set up at the store.
Loaded with the best of the lot.
Exteriors of Rhythm House.
Bollywood music album cover.
Selfie at the store.
Devotional music chart busters.
Beatles music rocking Rhythm House.
Dedicated staff of Rhythm House.
Music accessories at Rhythm House