Saturday, January 28, 2012


Numerous lovers of gramophones, old valve radios, record players, records and musical antiques and accessories from all parts of India and abroad, are nowadays looking to this man, Mohammed Shafi, popularly known as Gramophone Shafi and Gramophone Man, for their requirements of these items as well as to service their equipments. For the hobbyists in this field Shafi is one of the very few persons in this part of the country who is able to satisfy their needs which are unique and at the same time varied and person specific.
Mohammed Shafi is basically a dealer in musical antiques who runs a small shop by name ‘Gramophone world’ in the city of Calicut(Kozhikode) in Kerala. Hailing from Kallai adjoining Kozhikode town he had in his younger years worked in several parts of the country like Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay and, being fond of travelling and seeing places, had travelled through the length and breadth of the country as well as the Gulf and has a network of friends and contacts in all these places. Even as a child he was fond of musical equipments like harmonium and record players, clocks, radios and had keen interest in learning how they worked. He continued this interest later also and he was collecting these items during all his travels and life in North India and also acquired a fair knowledge in repairing and servicing them. He later decided that music, musical equipments and antiques will be his field and coupled with his natural desire to come back to his home town, he left his job in Calcutta and returned to Calicut.

By then there was a revival of interest among people for gramophones and record players and for collecting old gramophone records. More and more people were taking this up as a hobby and the only difficulty for them was getting the right equipments and servicing them. It was here that the role of persons like Mohammed Shafi proved important. With his large collection of these items and ability to get more of them through his large network of friends and contacts he created a space for himself in the field. Besides he is one of the very few people who can and is willing to repair gramophones, record players,amplifiers, loud speakers and so on. Apart from a good stock of equipments and records of all speeds for sale he also stocks adequate quantity of spare parts like cartridges, stylus of all varieties, gramophone needles, L.P.records, valves for radios, belts for the players and so on which are in good demand because of their short supply as many of them are presently not in production.In short his shop THE GRAMOPHONE WORLD is a centre of attraction and meeting place for hobbyists from all walks of life. In fact Shafi says that meeting people from various fields, big and small, and interacting with them has been an enriching experience for him. He owns a website and has an email address viz., through which people from several parts of the country contact him and he is able to send them their requirements.
But what makes Shafi different from the normal antique dealer is his love for music and the fact that collection of gramophone records and musical antiques has been his hobby as well. He has with him a big collection of gramophone records from the earliest 16rpm, 78rpm, EPs and LPs covering all genres of Indian music.There are a large number of LPs of Hindustani and Carnatic classical music, ghazals and English albums.The first edition of the record of Vande Mataram, speeches of Mahatma Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and recorded voice of several national leaders and so on form part of the collection.A variety of gramophones and record players from the earliest like Columbia, Victor, RCA, Deca to the popular HMV and Philips models including those with magnetic cartridges and magnetic coil catridges are also there. Valve radios like Philips( Holland)and their famous stereo radios and the nostalgic Murphy radios are there. The most coveted items are the 19th century metal record playing 'Symphonion’ and the first portable hand wound record player Mikky Phone of the size of a school boy's lunch box when closed.The three arms serving as the turn table, the sound box, the winding lever etc. are removable and can be kept in the compact box when not in use or when transported. A table fan operating on kerosene, like the one seen used by the protagonist in the Malayalam film Salt and Pepper, is a coveted item in his collection.It is a delight to see them still functioning. A still immaculate Philips(Holland)Radiogram with its changer which can hold six records and play them continuously one after the other greeted the visitors of his house and an enthusiastic Shafi explaining its working. The sound quality of the radiogram is amazing. There is also a beautiful Foot Harmonium in very good working condition.A spool tape recorder in a compact wooden box is another attraction.The famous Gipsy gramophone is also there. There are many more invaluable items offering a feast to the eyes and hearts of enthusiasts. Many of these equipments were acquired by him in a state of disrepair and they are in the present working condition only after long painstaking efforts at collecting original spares and reconstructing broken parts. Any other person could have sold them off and earned a fortune as there are several hobbyists who are prepared to pay anything to possess them. But not for Shafi and that is what makes him different.

Mohammed shafi still travels a lot to all parts of the country and his family consisting of wife and two children often accompanies him.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


There are certain enduring memories about Doordarshan of the 80s and the early 90s from the time TV telecast began in the state. Of course, the telecast was in black and white to begin with till colour sets came in the local markets mainly through KELTRON. While there were strong criticism in those days about the quality of the programs dished out by Doordarshan, the fact remains that they shine in comparison with the plethora of nauseating stuff of the countless present day channels. Yes, those were the days when news readers like Sasikumar, Geethanjali Iyer, Tejeswar Singh, Rini Simon, Komal G.B.Singh, Sarla Zariwala, Sadhana Srivastava, Neethi Ravindran, Rakesh Tandon and so on had acquired celebrity status . Unlike the present day newscasters, they never converted news into news analysis.People used to eagerly wait for Pronoy Roy’s World this Week. Even lengthy serials like Hum Log, Nukad and Bunyad had achieved outstanding popularity. Punkaj Kapur’s detective serial Karmchand and the mystery serial in which actor Rajit Kapur played a la Sherlock Holmes by name Byomkesh Bakshi ( A Bengali detective character of S. Bandhyopadhay) are still in memory.Who can forget that wonderful program, on the rich Indian cultural heritage, SURABHI, presented by Sidharth Kak and Renuka Sahane and also, later, a similar program TANA BANA presented by Sasikumar? Great emphasis was given to Indian classical music and dance. Well , they were the heydays of Dordarshan. As far as music was concerned , apart from CHITRAHAAR based on film songs, there used to be Hindustani Classical concerts of great Indian musicians. We got ample opportunity to listen to stalwarts like Bhimsen joshi, Kumar Gandharv, Pt.Ravi Shankar,Bismilla Khan, Hariprasad Chaurasia, M.S. Subbalakshmi, Balamuralikrisha, Parveen Sultana, Begum Akhtar and so on to mention a few.There used to be Kavi Sammelans, Mushairas etc. in the traditional style with a lot of ‘Wahs’ and ‘Sabashs’ from the audience eventhough, for some of us, lack of familiarity with the language was a hindering factor.For lovers of ghazals great singers like Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Begum Akthar, Chandan Das , Talat Aziz, Punkaj Udhas and so on were on frequently on the screen. Well, while on the subject of ghazals, one singer we all used to admire a lot for her charm, poise, husky/sexy voice, confident style of singing and stage presence was the young and adorable Penaaz Masani. She had a distinct style of her own, acknowledged by experts as authentic ghazal singing, and listeners used to wonder as to how this young lady could sing ghazals with such effortless ease with imaginative interpretation of each kalam and gliding through delicate nuances and variations.She was inspired by her father who himself was a disciple of of Ustad Fayas Khansaheb. She had her early training under Ustad Amanat Hussein Khan and was also groomed by that redoubtable composer Jaidev and the great singer composer Madhurani. In fact we started taking interest in ghazals only with the experience of listening to the likes of Penaaz Masani, Talat Azeez, Punkaj Udhas, Jagjit Singh and so on before beginning to understand and appreciate the work of stalwarts like Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Begum Akthar and others. Some of the beautiful [Image]ghazals of Penaaz Masaani coming to mind are ‘Dil mein rakhlo’, the traditional ‘Dil-e-naadaan tujhe hua kya hai’, ‘ Halka kabhi padega’ and the haunting ‘Ankhon ke maikade mein’. Her talent and style are evident in all of them. Her voice with a faint nasal quality captivated the listeners. It was with her album ‘Aap ki Basm Mein’ that she came into the world of gramophone records followed by ‘ A Team Come True’ with Talat Aziz and both the LPs were huge hits.There is another album “DILRUBA”containing six ghazals including ‘Halka kabhi padega’.There is also the Sayeed Rahi ghazal ‘Aankh jab band hua karte hain’. The remaining four ghazals including ‘Faisla bahaar kya kahoon’ and ‘Meri zindagi hai zalim tere gham se ashikara’, are composed by the great composer Madhurani. In 1984 Music India had organised ghazal programs titled KHAZANA in the four major cities and Hyderabad giving an opportunity to ghazal lovers to listen to their favourite singers including Penaz Masani. Music India had released albums based on these programs containing live recordings and there is one on Penaaz Masaani also titled ‘ Music India’s Khazana- Penaaz Masani live at....’ . Jaidev’s composition, ‘Tumko hum dil mein basa lenge’ and Madhurani’s ‘ Mere dil ko aazmane ka’ bring out the best in Penaaz. As the blurb goes, Penaaz had become the Dilruba of every ghazal lover with these albums.

With the eclipse of Doordarshan in the wake of the emergence of a large number of private channels motivated mainly by commercial gains ghazals have lost their space in the visual media.We could seldom ,nowadays , watch or hear a ghazal program on the channels.While it was the ‘ Indi pop’ and remixes in the late 90s and early years of this century that dominated music channels and gave a staggering blow to Ghazals and classical music on the channels it is now the reality shows that is occupying the space.The same fate has befallen Classical dances also. These trends make us yearn for the good old Doordarshan with all its well discussed demerits.May be Penaaz Masani’s not very successful entry into the field of pop music with albums like LAKEEREIN, was, perhaps the result of this trend.
Tail piece:-Are there 'Remixes' today? No, they have become the originals!