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A hidden gem on Mirza Ghalib Street selling vintage records—GetBengal story

17 May, 2024 17:14:21
A hidden gem on Mirza Ghalib Street selling vintage records—GetBengal story

For those who cherish the nostalgia of long-playing records from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, a hidden gem on Mirza Ghalib Street continues to cater to their needs. This shop is a haven for music enthusiasts, offering records spanning a wide range of genres and artists, from Lata Mangeshkar to Led Zeppelin, Mohammed Rafi to Metallica. Run by Tarakeshwar Rao, affectionately known as Munna, the shop has been serving customers since 1993, making it a cherished spot for music lovers in Kolkata.

Mirza Ghalib Street, also known as Free School Street, is just one of the many music hubs in the City of Joy. Kolkata has a rich musical heritage, with a deep appreciation for various musical forms. Streets like Free School Street are perfect for music enthusiasts seeking old records and vintage songs. Munna's shop exemplifies this trend, offering a diverse selection of musical genres that cater to those who appreciate the charm of vintage music. 

The city's strong connection to its past and its commitment to preserving older cultures is evident in shops like Munna's, which provide a glimpse into Kolkata's musical history. In an increasingly modern world, these shops serve as reminders of the rich cultural tapestry that defines Kolkata.

Munna lives right above his shop and the little record store is his home and his life. He runs two shops across the stretch of Free School Street- one named Western Pop Music managed by his uncle and the other named Vinyl Street Store, which belongs to him. Since his uncle is too old to run the shop, his trusted nephew, Munna, takes up the task of managing both the shops every day from 10 am to 9 pm. He works a twelve-hour shift, doing double the work without any additional assistance. The first child in the family, he was born at Lady Dufferin Victoria Hospital in 1978. As the eldest son born in a traditional middle-class Indian family with modest means, he took on the duty of helping his younger brother get an education. After seeing his brother excel, landing a job and getting settled in life, he finally followed his passion. His passion comes after his family and brother. However, he is very proud of his vinyl records and devotes most of his time to his record stores.

“I have everything. Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, RD Burman and more,” he proclaims proudly. It really is incredible as he possesses every imaginable LP at both his stores- Western Pop Music and Vinyl Street. From iconic Bengali artists like Manna Dey, Hemant Kumar, Firoza Begum, Sandhya Mukherjee (To name a few) to western music legends such as Elvis, The Beatles and the Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin and many more. It is truly a haven for vintage music enthusiasts and anyone who is a fan of music history as it is increasingly becoming popular in Literature and around the world.

When asked about his sources, he has revealed that he sources them from various places. He buys the records from people who don’t use it anymore and there are various Facebook and Whatsapp groups for such enthusiasts who also act as his sources. Just like Munna does not limit himself to buying Bengali music records, his clientele is not limited to Kolkata or West Bengal. His clients come from Bengaluru, Mumbai and even from Delhi sometimes. Not just from India but people from foreign countries also visit his store to experience the vintage records in his stores. Many famous musicians also visited his store including Jojo and Anjan Dutt. He sells an estimate of 200 records a month, earning anywhere between 50,000 rupees to 1,00,000 rupees. While he does not get customers on a daily basis, whenever he receives customers, they end up buying a lot. Many tourists search for his stores on Google and visit him to buy records and experience the old records.

Vintage records have experienced a resurgence and revival in recent years. In 2023, global sales of vinyl records surpassed those of CDs for the first time in 17 years. Despite this renewed interest, vinyl records can still be challenging to find and expensive to purchase. This is often due to the fact that they are either imported or because profit margins are high, as physical records are no longer as commonly purchased in the digital age where music is readily available at the click of a button.

Shops like Western Pop Music, and particularly Munna's store, are a treasure trove for music lovers. Not only are the records affordable, but Munna's dedication to his craft is evident, making music his sole focus and passion in life. He acknowledges that music is not just a part of his life; it is his life, stating, "If not for music, I wouldn’t be around." Music breathes life into Munna, motivating him to continue his work.

Munna's store has the potential to become a top destination for those looking to explore hidden musical gems in Kolkata. It offers not only a wide selection of records but also provides an opportunity for visitors to delve into the rich cultural and social history of music. For many, purchasing a vinyl record from Munna's store is a way to preserve a piece of the past, adding a touch of nostalgia and history to their homes.

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