Record Shopping at New Gramophone House Old Delhi

They Sell Sanctuary – Record Shopping in Delhi

I have flicked with all the rhythmical fluency of a well-oiled machine through records right across the world. My fingers have shunted back and forth, part flick, part pull, everywhere from Moroccan antique bazaars to hipster emporiums in Montreal. I have examined the hypnotic blacks grooves of LPs in the artificial glare of fluorescent tubing in basements in Budapest and been dazzled and disappointed by sunlight spreading over scuffs and scratches in the Sydney summer. It is an addiction, an affliction, but it never fails to deliver a sense of home in a foreign land.

And so it is, in the dirty heat and belligerent chaos of an Old Delhi afternoon, I ascend the stairs of the New Gramophone House on Chandni Chowk. The smell of faeces, the desperation of the faces looking up from the gutters, the barrage of aggressive noises from hawkers and honkers disappears. I do not live in this beguiling, heartbreaking, infuriating, wonderful city but amongst these racks of LPs and drawers of 45s, I belong. I have sanctuary.

Records New Gramophone House Delhi

It doesn’t matter that I do not recognise a single artist, song title, or even a face staring back at me from the LPs because the cold weight of the vinyl is as familiar to me as the shortcut I took to school every day as a child or the smell of my mum’s Sunday roast. It is a part of me.

I dive right in with a box of Islamic devotional songs sung in Urdu. Some of these EPs are simply readings from the Qu’ran whilst others are accompanied with Indian instruments. There is something honest about religious recordings which allows them to escape the gloss and triteness of pop records. This is especially true in the East. We’re not talking about Cliff’s Millennium Prayer, but men singing about the love they have for their God because they can’t express it with sufficient purity in any other way. They resonate with conviction as their faith flows through them. Like Leadbelly bellowing out the spirituals, like Sister Rosetta Tharpe ripping through a guitar solo, like Puerto Rican tribes-people singing mass, it sounds real, regardless of how you feel about the sentiment behind it.


record experts new gramophone house delhi

I ask one of the men behind the counter for something uptempo and with a horn section. Eventually, with language barriers, this gets reduced to the very ‘Carry On’ phrase of ‘fast and brassy’. After fifteen minutes, he hands me a 7” – the cover features bikini-clad women with impressive cleavages and men in shades and leather jackets playing drums. It is from a Bollywood film, a risque B-Movie judging by the sleeve, but it promises to be fast and brassy, uptempo and horn-filled, so I buy it.

The minutes disappear as I work my way along the floor-to-ceiling racks bursting with Hindi records, soundtracks to Bollywood movies. Coiffured crooners, disco policemen and doe-eyed heroines face me for a brief moment before disappearing back into the racks. The prices range from 50 RPS (around 50 pence) to thousands of rupees. There are tens of thousands of LPs as well as the forty red and white boxes of carefully ordered 7”s. New Gramophone House Old Delhi has everything a record shop should have, down to the five nerdy, slightly aloof men sat behind the counter. It has everything to make me feel at home.

New Gramophone House Old Delhi can be found at Shop No. 9, Opposite Moti Cinema, Chandi Chowk, Delhi 110006

 LPs New Gramophone House India

Images one to four courtesy of Alison Vassilopoulos – copyright © 2012 Alison Vassilopoulos


Read about record shopping in New York at the Thing.

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Tom Spooner

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