Mumbai closes a musical chapter with Rhythm House

  • Ayaz Memon, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Dec 25, 2015 01:16 IST

The news of Rhythm House shutting down for good left me in the blues. Suddenly, it seemed that some crucial pages from my life story had been yanked off.

On an assignment in Delhi for the past fortnight, I had lost track of the developments, till one morning last week it stared at me – colder and more heartless than the north Indian winter – from one of the newspapers in the capital.

While it is true that the closure would have eventually happened, somewhere in a corner of your heart, you pray for a last-minute magical turnaround; like a last-ball six to win a match from the jaws of defeat. However, this was turned out to be fumes of hope one had clutched in vain.

My last-ditch effort was to check the website of the store. Maybe the newspaper had got it wrong. But the message posted on the site was unambiguous: ‘Goodbye From Rhythm House’ addressed the headline to its patrons.

“It saddens us to inform you the time has come for us to bid goodbye to the music and video business for reasons that need no elaboration,” went the first sentence.

The shop and the issue were both sealed.

To say that Rhythm House was an iconic music shop at Kala Ghoda is to dilute its importance for a certain kind of people.

Those of my vintage will perhaps agree that it was a vital part of growing up in this city, whether you were a Sobo creature or from the suburbs.

The simplest — and biggest factor — for its huge impact on the people of Bombay was obviously because it dealt in music. I can’t think of anybody not having a place for music in his/her life, and Rhythm House had something for everybody.

It was the first word and the last in this most delightful of passions: for all genders and every age group.

If the music shop in your locality did not have a particular genre of music, you necessarily had to make the trip to Rhythm House; a visit that never went waste.

There was an amazing repertoire here to explore, some old gems to discover, some new unheard ones to suddenly take a fancy to. The conversation inside the shop was all about music. And there was a rankings list for different genres to either follow or contest.

In my college days in the early 1970s, downloading music from the Internet was not even conceivable, though the shift from vinyl records to taped music had seen a dramatic upsurge and every new release of a favourite band would be greeted with fervor and long queues.

Apart from the staple of Hindi film music, I was introduced to the eternal appeal of The Beatles, The Doors, Moody Blues, Credence Clearwater Revival and The Who at Rhythm House, the peerless Ustad Bismillah Khan on the shehnai, which led to a wider interest in Indian classical music. Most of this music has stayed with me for the decades.

It is, of course, a convenient fallacy that everything from the past was beautiful and wonderful. Change is not just inevitable, but vital for life. To believe that everything was better or more important yesterday than today is a tendency influenced by ‘marketing’

hoopla or a depressive mindset rather than sound thinking.

Even so, nostalgia provides a certain connect and rootedness that soothes the turbulent journey of life even as one influences or reconciles to change. Memories don’t become defunct because of situational changes; rather they could help in understanding it and the future.

But as the saying goes, periods of nostalgia are impossible to predict or explain. Who can tell

what will stand the test of time, at least as memory, or why?

It’s pointless, therefore, being maudlin about Rhythm House’s closure or before that Samovar, or much, much earlier, Bullock Cart, arguably the city’s the first discotheque.

Incidentally, all three were within hand-shaking distance of each other in Kala Ghoda. Who knows how this will turn out? But Mumbai certainly seems different.

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