As a child, one of Isar Qureshi’s earliest recollections of experiencing grief was when his sister accidently ‘ironed’ his 45 rpm of Kati Patang while using an electric iron at home. The LP had cost the young Qureshi a princely Rs 7, withdrawn from his piggy bank. “It was a very sad day.
Though it was damaged, I still have that record in my collection, in that scorched condition,” he says, giving us a glimpse of his fervour and love for the LP that has grown to a very impressive 18,000 records today.
|One floor of Qureshi’s three-storey residence in Bopodi has been dedicated to exhibiting his records collection, which includes around 900 Beatles LPs
Having a hobby that borders on obsession also teaches lessons in the control of the ego, or its pampering, he says. “Many times, I have begged for records. This made me lose my ego. On other occasions, I have bought rare records at huge costs to feed my ego. It’s this ability to be flexible where my ego is concerned that has made me get what I wanted,” Qureshi adds.
Sometimes, people with great LP collections hear of his hobby and step forward to add to it, like former Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) scientist Dr Suresh Chandvankar.
“My 78 rpm collection, which is huge, got enhanced by some priceless LPs from the 1910s, ’20s and ’30s courtesy Dr Chandvankar who graciously donated them to me when he retired from TIFR Mumbai last week. He called me home and asked me to take my passion forward,” Qureshi says.
Rare, he says, doesn’t essentially mean difficult to find. Much like postage stamps that turn ‘rare’ when misprinted, LPs too have their technical-fail moments.
“It so happened that at a certain point of time in my search for adding to the collection, I realised that many records were faulty. These were usually errors by technicians or the printing people. I have categorised such records separately. It’s fun when you see a Gulam Ali ‘Live in India’ double record displaying his photo upside down. In some cases, the label lists songs that are not on the LP,” says Qureshi.
The music for many hit qawwalis by Aziz Nazan, he points out, was actually given by Gulam Ali. “Not many know that the famous qawwali Tu Lakh Ibatat Karle, which tells you to be a pious Muslim, is actually sung by Prahlad Shinde, and soundtracks of many movies like Bombay to Goa, Do Anjane, Sanjog and Manzil were released as LPs by a Karachi-based records company.”
One floor of his three-storey residence in Bopodi has been dedicated to exhibiting his records collection, which houses around 900 Beatles LPs including rare ones, as well as speeches by Indian leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi.
Besides the massive records collection, he has 200 turntables from down the years, still in perfect working condition — Thorens, Garrarads, Lencos and the more contemporary Sony, Aiwa and Sansui. Several of them bear logos that state the patent is pending.
Qureshi is a fixer, too. “I have met elderly people who have turntables that were the worse for wear and tear, and no reliable repairs option. I have fixed it for them for free, and received their blessings in return.
They come across from all over the country to my Mumbai residence. I have also been inducted into the Society of Indian Record Collectors, and many of their records have been handed over to me for safekeeping,” he said.
For someone with a huge Beatles collection, Qureshi didn’t know much about the iconic quartet as a kid. “I didn’t even know what they looked like. I was in Std V when my father read out a report in the Times of India about John Lennon’s assassination by a maniac. I remember vividly that I didn’t even understand the meaning of ‘assassination’ then. That was the trigger — I wanted to know more about this band and thus began my Beatles journey,” he recalls.
The Beatles, he says, have a great connection with India and the band was more Indian than we are, so much so that many in the West felt they were “Indian agents”.
Qureshi’s tryst with LPs started when he was seven. “I had gone to attend a Diwali mela with my father, an army officer. He bought me a lucky draw ticket which won me a record player, along with which came two LPs. I was hooked, and decided this is what I want as a lifelong hobby. Whenever my father used to switch on the turntable, I would get mesmerised by the rotating black disc.”
The first LP he purchased was as a Class XI student. “It was the Revolver album by The Beatles, priced at Rs 40. I had only Rs 20 on me, so I rushed home for the other Rs 20 and bought it. Since then, I have let no chance slip by. I have paid in foreign currency at times to purchase vintage LPs,” he says.
His only request to music lovers is to not discard their old LPs and players. “I will help restore them to working condition free of cost and if they can’t maintain them, they can donate them to me. They will find a safe haven in the Vinyl Museum that will come up in my Pune residence,” he said.
His latest search is for record players made by a company called EMT, which were used in All India Radio studios. “Many have been junked or auctioned while many others remain at AIR station dumping yards,” he said. In fact, he believes the LP is set to make a comeback. “It is a legal medium and immune to piracy. My daugthers Alisha and Areesha know only about LPs, not other, more modern mediums.”
► Not many know that sound tracks of movies like Bombay to Goa, Sanjog, Manzil and Do Anjane were released as LPs by a Karachi-based company
- Isar Qureshi