Published On: Tue, Mar 1st, 2016

Curtains down on iconic Mumbai music store, Rhythm House

The mecca of music and entertainment, Rhythm House, passed away into history on Tuesday, exactly 68 years after it first opened in 1948.

Late Monday night, it downed its shutters for the last time for the patrons and even posted a small ‘Thank You’ note to all its dedicated clientele in India and abroad.

“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. We are the last of our city’s large format music and video stores to yield to the challenges posed by new technologies and piracy,” it said, throwing its patrons and music-lovers in general into a pall of gloom.

Confirming that the shop which stood at the same location for nearly seven decades has shut forever, its managing director Mehmood Cumally declined to speak on the reasons behind the closure, nor speculated whether it would be reopened in some other ‘avatar’ in future.

When it first opened in 1948 in south Mumbai, Rhythm House catapulted music lovers into a different world with its plethora of Indian music, both filmy and non-filmy, classical, and modern and classical western music, in the country which had just attained independence.

However, as Mumbai transformed into an international city, Rhythm House could not keep pace with the advent of modern technologies, availability on mobile phones making it easy, cheaper and convenient to enjoy music for all, and has finally passed into the city’s glorious history.

“I was newly married at that time and I remember going there with my late doctor husband to buy LPs of the just-released Dilip Kumar starrers ‘Mela’, and ‘Shaheed’, and ‘Ziddi’ starring Dev Anand,” reminisced N. Fizza, now in her early 90s.

Later, when the happy couple reached home in a tram in nearby Kalbadevi with their prized LP records, the entire family enjoyed the numbers over dinner and again the next day and for years together.

Fizza even remembers the haunting numbers “Badnam na ho jaaye, mohabbat ka afsana” (“Shaheed”), “Gaaye ja geet milan ke” and “Ye zindagi ke mele” (“Mela”), and “Chanda re jaa re jaa re” (“Ziddi”).

Over the next six-plus decades, Rhythm House brought music into people’s homes and hearts by selling the large and small black-coloured 78 rpm lacquered discs, LP vinyl discs.

Later in the late-1970s, it was the turn of the more manageable plastic cassettes followed by Compact Discs (CDs), and more recently, even the Blu-ray Discs (BRDs).

With the advent of the mobile phone and Smart Phones in the early 2000s, even the era of cassettes and CDs crumbled and music became personal, supported by online applications and on-the-go for aficionados.

Little wonder, over its lifetime, Rhythm House saw some of the greatest names like Pt. Ravi Shankar, Ustad Zakir Hussain and Oscar laureate A.R. Rahman, top singers, music lovers, music collectors and commoners coming to the shop.

After the rumblings started late 2015 of its probable closure, there were pained reactions and appeals on social networking sites to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to try and prevent the inevitable, from Bollywood personalities, music creators, music lovers, music historians and locals who grew up with ‘time-pass’ in Rhythm House.

Though the main doors are shut permanently, the back-office operations will continue for sometime to enable its patrons redeem gift token, credit balances in the store accounts, and even complete the last domestic and international deliveries of its valued ‘musical’ parcels.