City Culture – Hussain’s vinyl collection

Hussain’s vinyl collection should not be dismissed as a shop’s merchandise for it also serves as an important archive. This city has a dearth of museums and very few collections of art are there in public spaces. Sharing music archives is still an after thought. Digitization has improved accessibility of music in general but one can’t still beat the sound quality of good old vinyl records. Add to it the charm of Album artwork. They were a statement. An important piece of documentation. The writeup that used to accompany EMI records is a key insight into the times these musicians lived in.

Imagine if Radio Pakistan was converted into a museum archiving and celebrating genius of our drama writers and musicians. Imagine if the city had archived the moments of significance and continued to celebrate them. Moments such as Noor Jehan reciting Faiz or Vital signs performing at their first concert. Such stories and their celebrations make cities and its legends larger than life.

Hussain’s vinyl collection is spread across two locations. One is inside a tiny shop in Rainbow center, Saddar while the other is in an apartment in Patel Pada. I had my first vinyl records purchased from him several years ago and his collection was limited to contemporary English collection. However within few years he has became an avid collector and expert on vinyl records which were produced in Pakistan, mostly under EMI’s label from 50s to early 80s. These records are an important piece of history since the interest in Pakistani music dwindled as local productions declined rapidly in 80s. With EMI shutting down production of vinyl records and focusing on digital copies, access to these music albums has been limited to YouTube and more recently Patari who have done fantastic work in increasing accessibility to Pakistani music.

I meet Hussain’s father in his tiny shop in Rainbow center which has an eclectic mix of shops these days. A lot of shops that were erased during anti-encroachment drive around Empress Market have found refuge in it, in turn reviving the center a bit. I find him fixing an old player. He has significant collection here. Some of old PTV recordings featuring major names from 70s and 80s. I pick up a PTV production of the musician, Kamal Shahbuddin which features Shehnaz Begum, Runa Laila among others. I feel euphoria as I go through the collection. These records can open up a new world. The songs of a distant Earth, that has blurred and disappeared from our collective imagination. These songs can hit an instant chord as I find it later.

Few days later, I drive to Hussain’s place in Patel Pada where I find an even larger collection. Since last meeting him, he has traveled to the length of the country in search of rare records. These records could very well have been lost but now they have found a refuge in his apartment and will probably find new homes where they will be loved and cherished. I take few names and he finds me their albums. I never knew that Alamgir and Gulzar’s Mirza Ghalib were pressed. Or Runa Laila has sung Sindhi songs. Or a local Karachi band called ‘The Panthers’ had a 45 rpm record which is in high demand. I find a Mussarat Nazir album in which she sings to Boney M tunes! There are more stories. He tells me that few of Naheed Akhtar and Sohail Rana’s albums have been re-released in the West. I later find Sohail Rana’s Khyber Mail being shared by DJs in Scandinavia and Greece. The records are in pretty good condition too. Their sleeves have writeups that set the context for the album.

These songs were an important part of our childhood. Hope that they will continue to be part of our imagination.

You can get in touch with Hussain at 0333-3292788 or here

Categories: City Culture

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One Comment on “City Culture – Hussain’s vinyl collection”

  1. Rafiq Ahmed Khan
    July 11, 2022 at 7:30 pm #

    Hussain has done tremendous job,and wonderful effort he made,I appreciate his work.I want see him if he can. Just because I need records.Thanks

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