Sunday, September 7, 2008

While vinyl is making a slow but steady comeback in the West, Delhi has always had its LP lovers

The West has returned to vinyl but some music lovers in Delhi had never really let go

The year was 1963 and VN Dalmia, chairman of Dalmia Continental Pvt. Ltd, is sure that his first LP record was a Pat Boone. His iPod is kept nearby but when Dalmia wants to listen to his favourites, The Beatles, The Eagles, Neil Young and more, nothing replaces his Japanese turntable, his trusty Technix. “The sound is deeper, richer than a CD. Low frequencies come out better on an LP than a CD,” says Dalmia who purchases CDs of his LP records as a backup. For the generation that grew up before CDs became the norm, LP or vinyl records spell nostalgia and for music lovers, better sound. While vinyl is making a slow but steady comeback in the West, Delhi has always had its LP lovers. Today, even some of the younger generation is hooked by this experience.

Arjun Sagar Gupta, 23, frowned undecidedly when I asked him to play me his favourite record, but he swiftly chose one. “Fatsy Watsy Waller,” grinned Gupta, gently easing out the 33 and 1/3rd rpm vinyl record and placing it on his turntable. Delicately placing the stylus on the record, his smile widened when it began to crackle and seconds later Waller was telling us that he “Ain’t Misbehavin”. Wrapped in Waller’s music, listening to the hiss of the record, we were instantly transported to a bygone era, aided by a musical time machine. This month, Apple has come out with their latest iPhone model and while more companies are constantly upgrading their technology, there are a select few in Delhi who have not sold out to flashy gizmos.

Gupta sources his LPs from abroad, from helpful cousins who ship across records. “I have nothing against the iPod, but that is for music on the go. Most of the music that I listen to was composed and recorded eons ago for LPs, there is a whole bodied sound that a CD cannot give you,” says Gupta who is also a budding swing pianist and performs regularly at Retro Sushi in Vasant Continental. His interest in vinyl goes deep as he shares trivia with me. “In the LP age, recording companies used to charge a breakage fee because some records got damaged during transportation. That doesn’t happen with CDs but companies still charge that fee,” says Gupta.

The musical tour takes me to Sushant Lok, Gurgaon, where businessman Atul Marwah has just returned home from a long day at his factory. Marwah, 46, has been pursuing his passion for music since he was six. He bought his Marantz turntable a few years ago and had it shipped from Germany. Born and brought up in Amritsar, Marwah recalls a time when he had to hide his Cerrone LP in a Beethoven jacket. “The cover for Love in C Minor featured a topless woman with Cerrone. As a 14 year-old, there was no way I could enter the house with that record,” chuckles Marwah, who enthusiastically takes me through his collection. “I saved money as a child to buy them and by the time I earned enough, they became outdated,” rues Marwah who refuses to use the word “obsolete” for them. He buys LPs from Chandni Chowk, hoping the records aren’t scratched beyond repair. “I love playing an LP, there’s a physical participation involved in placing the stylus on the correct track, there are no numbers and this is not something you can do with a remote,” says Marwah who has mastered his records to the extent that he doesn’t even look while he places the stylus to ride the LP. As Karen Carpenter’s voice fills the room, it’s yesterday once more.


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