This 45-year-old record store in Bengaluru is a testament that vinyl records will keep spinning

ByFathima Ashraf

Published Jan 22, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedJan 22, 2024 | 11:07 AM

Rams Musique has been around for 4 decades and have entertained three generations of audiophiles. (Supplied)

My introduction to the world of vinyl happened in 2017 at a former colleague’s house. He was playing Pink Floyd’s The Wall for a discerning bunch of us. It seemed like I was listening to the track for the first time.

While one would associate all old-timey mediums and gadgets to offer a charming yet outdated experience, this was different. Besides the superior audio quality, the tactile sensation of flipping through album covers, gently placing the disc on the spindle, watching it revolve – the very act seemed calming. You don’t listen to vinyl while working out or doing chores. You sit back, contemplate and let the music sink into your bones.

Now seven years later, I am at Ram’s Musique – Bengaluru’s quaint 100 sq. ft. record store, tucked away on the first floor of the Public Utility Building on MG Road. And Sangeeth Ram, who runs the store that belongs to his father Ramachandran, is playing Let’s Groove by the American musical group Earth, Wind & Fire.

And I’m listening, with the same amazement as if its my first time.

Also Read: All you need to know about Apple’s new, second office in Bengaluru

Old-world charm of analog

World-over vinyl is having a moment. It seems over 1.2 billion dollars worth of records were sold in the US in 2022. Though niche, India has been seeing a resurgence as well. At a time when most of us have constricted our music listening to streaming apps, a discerning section is rediscovering the beauty of analog music.

There are over 6000 records at Rams Musique. (Supplied)

There are over 6000 records at Rams Musique. (Supplied)

After initial enquiry about my favourite bands, Ram prompts me to browse through the store. “Pick something you like, I will play it for you,” he says. 

I am thrilled, and at the same time, lost. There are over 6000 records – old and new. The cache of classics at this 45-year-old establishment includes everything from Jim Reeves to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to KJ Yesudas.  There’s a treasure trove of classic rock waiting to be explored. The Doors, The Shadows, The Ventures, Police. 

Ram engages my attention in some rare ones in the collection — an EP of 1965 Malayalam classic film Chemmeen. There are also some rare Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar records, and one of Yesudas’ all-time hits.

“You don’t get these anywhere else. These are the originals, produced in India and at the time of the song’s release. Indian presses were known for their quality at the time. Compared to others which were flimsy and thinner, Indian records were considered good,” he shares.

These rare records are priced at ₹10k and upwards. Partly because of its rarity and partly because “we don’t want to really let go of it,” he quips.

Also Read: A guide to Bengaluru’s best vegan eateries by the city’s vegan community

The story 

I prod him to share the journey of the store. The story is as intriguing as the store’s offerings. Kannur-born Ramachandran moved to Bengaluru in ‘78 with the dreams of joining the Air Force. The plan, however, didn’t take off.

“There was a theatre called Blue Moon theatre on MG Road and a bakery nearby where a lot of music enthusiasts used to come by and spend time. That was his induction to music, and rock ‘n’ roll,” shares Ram.

One had to wait for someone from abroad to bring a cassette, to hear a metal act or a rock act, he reminisces.

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Rams Musique (@ramsmusique)

“My father understood there was a demand, especially for Western music. He found a vendor in Chennai, brought some cassettes from there and started the business. He opened the shop at the Blue Moon complex with just 30 cassettes. Later, in ’83, he moved to the Utility building,” he adds.

The store has entertained three generations of music enthusiasts and witnessed the shift from vinyl to CDs to cassettes…and now back to vinyl.

“A lot of musicians who later went on to create bands have listened to their first album from my father,” Ram proudly says. 

“During the early ‘90s when the Internet boom happened, a lot of music stores shut down. Vinyl records were long gone by then. But my father didn’t want to let go of this place,” Ram shares.

While briefly, the store was used as an office space, now because of the vinyl renaissance over the last few years, the store is seeing more footfall. 

“The store is something that we can’t shut down. We have to take it forward no matter what. Now, we have introduced record players, and started bringing down records of new artistes’ to the store,” he notes. 

Also Read: Meet Bengaluru artist Kalyan Rathore, whose squirrel sculpture will adorn Ayodhya Railway Station

Kids to seasoned audiophiles

The clientele at Ram’s Musique is a refreshing mix of old and new.

“We have a lot of school and college kids coming to buy Taylor Swift records. They don’t even have a player at home but they buy it just for keepsake,” Ram shares.

Sangeeth Ram. (Supplied)

Sangeeth Ram. (Supplied)

During the holiday season, the sale here is driven by NRIs. 

“People who live in India don’t know the value of the Indian Hindustani and Carnatic classic records. We have sitar records by Ravi Shankar, sarod by Ali Akbar Khan – the kinds of which won’t ever be on record ever again. These might be the last copies. People who live abroad know that it’s not available anywhere else. That’s not the case with Western music,” Ram notes.

People who come to Ram’s Musique won’t leave without spending at least a couple of hours. “We play some records for them, they take their time, find their favourites and then buy in bulk. They love the experience of browsing through the collection and discovering other artistes and albums.“

There are DJs who come looking for Bappi Lahiri records. They use it to take samples from it for their mixes, he adds. 

The price of the records here starts from ₹3k and goes up to ₹7-7.5k for the new ones. The older classic rock albums by the likes of AC/DC, Pink Floyd and such go for ₹10k and ₹15k. 

“People who come here looking for rare records will pay anything for it. They know it’s probably the last piece that’s lying here which they won’t get anywhere else,” he shares.

Also Read: City of Literature Kozhikode gets lit as Kerala Literature Festival 2024 begins 4-day celebration

The nostalgia factor

The resilience of vinyl records is something that has to be studied. Ram believes that Covid has played a part.

“During the lockdown, people went back to their roots. They started picking up hobbies and thought about all the cool things they had access to. Many started fixing their old gramophones to go back to old ways of enjoying music,” he notes.

Besides records, the store also has a wide selection of cassettes and CDs. (Supplied)

Besides records, the store also has a wide selection of cassettes and CDs. (Supplied)

The section upstairs at the store showcases a wide selection of cassettes and CDs, most of which have been resold by people who don’t use them anymore. There are takers for these as well, and surprisingly most of them are kids.

“If you check online, cassettes are being sold for ₹2k and ₹2.5k. There is a demand for them. Kids are fixing their parents’ old Walkman to experience the old-school way of enjoying music. A lot of them come with the players to the store, test out the cassettes here and then buy them,” he adds.

Some of the records that are available here for ₹10k can be found on sale online for up to ₹50k. Ram knows that they can do that too, but chooses not to.

“We don’t want to be that commercial. There is no point in charging people so much. We don’t want to sell it to people who don’t deserve it. We want to sell these to people who really want it, are going to use it and take care of it,” he says.

Also Read: It’s Hot Chocolate season! Where to find that perfect cup of cocoa in Bengaluru

All about the range

Among the few stores that are still around in India, most don’t have the kind of collections that Rams Musique does.

“Everything in this store is tested and cleaned. Most of the records here are 50, 60 and 70 years old,” says Ram stressing on the importance of maintenance.

“If you keep them in a place where there’s direct sunlight, the vinyl will bend. If you don’t handle them properly, it will get scratches. Even one scratch can damage the record beyond repair,” he warns.

While classic rock and pop are always in demand, now you find everything from Kendrick Lamar, Tame Impala, Hozier to Swedish House Mafia and even Tinariwen.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Rams Musique (@ramsmusique)

Also Read: This Chennai-based brother duo is redefining Turkish cuisine in India, one restaurant at a time

Getting bigger

While fresh stock of records by new artistes appeal to the customers, bringing them down comes with its own set of challenges, Ram points out.

“We import most of the records from the UK. The issue with importing is that the customs duty is unpredictable. Sometimes you don’t have to pay at all while some other times they will charge you 3-4 times the record’s price. There are times when our packages have gotten stuck for months and we have struggled. Customers will be waiting because they already paid for it,” he shares, adding that doesn’t stop them from catering to their customer’s requests.

In the near future, Ram plans to expand to a bigger space where all the records can be displayed better.

“We want to spread the whole thing out. There will be listening booths with couches and headphones where people can come and have a relaxed listening experience. We can even have an elevated platform for house concerts. The plan is offer an entire music experience,” Ram gets candid.

As we prepare to wrap our conversation, we come across two more rare finds – a 60-year-old record signed by Hindustani Classical Singer Parveen Sultana and a paper record of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech during his 1956 visit to the US, followed by a unique rendition of the Indian National Anthem by a US choir.

The reason why vinyl has defied obsolescence for decades is perhaps because of its ability to transport us to a bygone era — one hiss, crackle and pop at a time.

Also Read: Stargazing cook to cosmic mentor: Bihar’s Dharmadev Singh weaves his destiny under the stars in Tamil Nadu