Located in the leafy and upscale neighborhood of Kala Ghoda in Mumbai, home to countless cafes and art stores, Rhythm House holds a special place in the hearts of those who frequent it. Established in the 40s, the store has been a landmark attraction and has been around for more than seven decades, capturing the imaginations and hearts of all who visited it.
1. 72 years of Ownership and Memorable moments
The store was founded by Suleman Nensey in 1948 and it initially sold music equipment. However, the business was not booming, and Mammoo Curmally became a partner. Together they decided to start selling vinyl records instead. By the mid-70s, Mammoo Curmally decided to involve his brother Amir, who was a senior manager at the Imperial Tobacco Company in Calcutta. He quit his job and came to Bombay to help run the business.
2. Jethro Tull at the music store
The famous British rock band, Jethro Tull who played blues rock and jazz fusion, came to Bombay in the year 1994 for a performance. Set to perform at Rang Bhavan, their frontman Ian Anderson signed cassettes of their album at Rhythm House. It was a dream come true for diehard fans of the band and rock music fanatics in the city, a culmination of fervor and elated hysteria.
3. Not just Rock and Roll
Rhythm House was famously loved by musicians across many genres of music. From Classical music to Jazz, the music store had something on offer for every music lover. Eminent Classical artists like Pandit Ravi Shankar and maestro Zakir Hussain also frequented the store for its Hindustani and Carnatic music collections.
4. The Listening Rooms of Rhythm House
The early ’80s saw the excessive use of ‘Listening Rooms’ at Rhythm House. Students looking to skip class at college found the music store’s listening rooms a preferred respite. Instead of buying the vinyl stacked in the store, music aficionados found an easy way to consume their choice of music. Rhythm House found a way to discourage this activity and removed the listening rooms by expanding the store soon after.
5. Memorabilia and Collector Items
Known for their collector items and haul of memorabilia, Rhythm House even ordered almost fifty complete sets of the entire music collection of the band Pink Floyd. Another feather in their cap would be the Beatles’ second feature film ‘Help!’ which also gave buyers a sixty-page illustrated hard copy of photographs of the band. They termed these items and albums as ‘things that cannot be downloaded’.
6. The decline of Rhythm House
Rhythm House had a loyal customer pool over the many years of business. One of the famous personalities to frequent the store was Noshir Gobhai, a photographer. He would visit the store from an incredibly young age, this story synonymous with many of Rhythm House’ customers. These lovers of vinyl and records, and rock and jazz, as well as classical enthusiasts, would always remain the music store’s greatest fans, even when sales started declining.
7. Death of the Store
Rhythm House was shut in 2016, after failing to revive its business and keep up sales. By the 2000s, the music industry had shifted almost transcendentally to MP3s and music CDs. Vinyl and records were no longer in use, barely purchased by a few keepers and collectors.
After the shutdown of the store in 2016, many tried to keep up the memory of the store alive. An idea floated by the industrialist Anand Mahindra gained much furor and momentum. He suggested reviving the music store through crowdfunding and turning the iconic structure into a music hub. Aliya Curmally, whose family decided to shut down the place, was enthusiastic about the idea, saying that “it could be the Prithvi Theatre of music”.
9. Now a Flagship store of a Fashion Label
The erstwhile Rhythm House structure was taken over by Kunal Rawal’s fashion label in 2019. Opened on the first floor of the iconic building, the designer has connections and memories attached to the music store. His idea was to connect with the heritage of the store, as he describes his label as an “amalgamation of heritage, luxury, and the industrial”.
10.Passing of the structure’s ownership
2017 saw the iconic structure changing ownership to the infamous jeweler Nirav Modi, who bought the property in hopes of converting it into a showroom for his brand. Legal issues ensued obviously, and the Enforcement Directorate associated the property as part of its crackdown against Modi who was accused of defrauding Punjab National Bank.