So Long, Rhythm House, and Thanks for all the Music

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Mumbai:  The doorman greeted with half a smile. The staff, in bright red shirts, struggled to be attentive. A peppy Bollywood number filled the air but failed to lift the gloom. The writing on the wall was clear for a while.

Mumbai's oldest music store will close down by February next year.

Opened in 1940, Rhythm House has since been a haven for music lovers, including actors and singers, offering a huge array of world music and a battery of sharp and knowledgeable staffers.  From 45, two years ago, the staff strength is down to 30 now.

It sold three lakh titles in 2010 but less than a quarter of that this year.

"Downloading, downloading, downloading. From the comfort of their homes, people can avail music now. It was no longer viable to continue as footfall had dropped dramatically," staffer Ateeq Khan, who has worked here for 18 years, explains.

The store tried diversifying. It stocked electronic and mobile accessories, video games and also, a console to download music. But, nothing worked.  

Though, not everyone believes in downloading music. "For me the real thing is feeling and seeing what I am buying. I rushed here as soon as I heard Rhythm House was shutting down," says Phiroza Billimoria, a customer of five decades.

Legend goes that composers Kalyanji Anandji would come here simply to get inspired. Kishore Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Nargis and Pandit Ravi Shankar were regulars.

"Rhythm House has had this rare tradition of keeping all kinds of music...Their top 10 chart was considered, by far, the fairest and most reliable chart on earth," says ghazal singer and Rhythm House fan, Pankaj Udhas.  "It is literally the funeral of the music business. That corner of Kala Ghoda is not going to be the same again," he laments.

Milind Deora, former South Mumbai MP and avid musician, says his love affair with music began at Rhythm House. He calls it an institution. "This was one of the only places in Mumbai city that I could visit, spend many hours browsing through different collections of audio cassettes," he says.

As the store begins to close for the day, Mr Khan suggests an album of vocalist Chhannulal Mishra. "When I joined here, I knew nothing (about music). Today, I know which singer is from which gharaana, and which Raga is to be listened to at what time of the day. All thanks to Rhythm House."

And he is not the only one saying, Thank you, Rhythm House.


 


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