How the pandemic led to a revival of vinyl music in India


IN 2020, ALMOST every aspect of our daily lives has gone digital. From work to classes and even weddings, it all happened in front of a screen. But among music lovers, a little shift was brewing. As live music took a hit, there was a burning desire for the tangible feel of analog music and the escape it offered from our virtual existence. The impermanence of streaming music and the ephemeral nature of its online library was no longer enough. More affordable turntables and tech, a wave of new enthusiasts and a love for all things retro, resulting in record sales of vinyl records (pardon the pun). Being a vinyl head no longer meant rummaging through vintage or used record cases. Everyone from Harry Styles and Dua Lipa to Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift has released their music on LPs in recent years. Treat yourself explores this trend and the independent musicians driving it to India.

Photo: IANS

Sound check
At the end of last year, sales figures made headlines around the world: “Over 27 million vinyl records sold”, “Vinyl sales are the highest since the 90s” and “Vinyls topped CD Sales for the First Time in 34 Years”. Of course, one of the reasons for the popularity is that there is no denying the retro charm of an LP. Bengaluru-based musician Angad Berar who recently released his album Elephants on the beach on vinyl, remembers, “My grandfather had a bunch of records. Whenever I visited him in the summer, I would walk straight to the closet where they were kept, open them, and try to figure out how to use the record player.

Angad Elephants On The Beach album

But the effect of the pandemic cannot be denied either. As live performances, from large stadium tours to small intimate concerts, were out of the question, there was a need to fill the void of listening to music as an experience in itself. Bengaluru-based Akhil Hemdev is the founder of the online record store On The Jungle Floor. He explains, “There have been a lot of behavioral changes over the past two years. People confined themselves to smaller groups or chose to isolate themselves for safety reasons. Much of this has resulted in an investment in themselves and in their home environment. In a year of minimal social interaction and no concerts, it’s possible that listening to music on vinyl gave people that much-needed physical connection to music.

Spin cycle
As enthusiast and collector Asawari Ghatage puts it: “For me, personally, it’s the experience of turning off all the gadgets and listening to the albums from start to finish. While in online streaming listeners frequently skip songs or pause music, with recording it is a continuous and sequential process. It also makes it possible to feel the entire journey of the album in its entirety, exactly as the musician intended. “Besides the fact that the records sound richer, it’s a space for me to disconnect from the world for a while and just listen without any distractions. Since my family and many of my friends share similar musical tastes, it also becomes a way to get together and have quiet listening evenings, ”Asawari adds.

Angad agrees that there is something about the touch and feel of the disc that just cannot be replaced. “It’s a very conscious step-by-step process – running your hands through the rows of records, placing the record in the player, placing the tone arm in the right place – it’s a very tactile approach to listening.” , he tells us. Much of the immersive feeling is also provided by the album cover itself. You can identify the mood of the artist because the album cover says a lot about him. “The record sleeve is usually full of pictures or little snippets from behind the scenes and the recording process. I personally loved these treasures, ”adds Angad.

Closer to home
India’s independent music scene is always quick to catch up with global trends and it’s no different this time around. Over the past couple of years, we have seen an increase in the number of Indian artists releasing their music on vinyl. Nishant Mittal is a Delhi-based collector who is the originator of the Instagram manipulate Digging in India, which serves as an archive of Indian music records. He says, “There are many Indian bands whose music has been released on vinyl recently. Kolkata duo Parekh & Singh have released two albums, ocean and City of Sciences on British label Peacefrog Records. Peter Cat Recording Co. released two albums, Portrait of a time and Bismillah with the French label Panache. Mumbai-based producer Kumail released Yasmine on Bastard Jazz Recordings in New York.

Soul mate

A pioneer in the blues and rock space, Shillong-based band Soulmate has also just announced the launch of an LP in the coming months. Led by Tipriti Kharbangar and Rudy Wallang, the outfit has a history of almost two decades. “It’s a dream come true. I grew up listening to music on vinyl. I love so many things about vinyl records – like having that album cover in your hands, checking the artwork and reading the notes, while listening to the music. We’re really looking forward to this one, ”Rudy tells us.

Another equally iconic act from across the country is Kerala-based Avial. Known for songs like Nada nada and Chekele, the band will soon re-release their self-titled 2007 vinyl album later this year. Rex Vijayan, the lead guitarist explains his appeal: “Vinyl is the opposite of streaming. It is like a physical form of music with pictures and writing. It can help you get closer to how the artist actually wants you to perceive the album.


Try the challenge
But all is not easy when it comes to working on the format, both for the artist and for the distributors. The first being the cost. Angad explains how a batch of 300 vinyls would typically cost around $ 3,000, which requires an initial investment. This limits who can get LPs out and who can buy them. And it also takes 4-6 months for a record to be pressed and reach your door.

Even logistically, the road has been bumpy. Akhil tells us, “On the one hand, the pandemic has created an environment conducive to collecting records, but on the other, there have been a lot of production setbacks. Albums take much longer to release due to the COVID-19 supply chain mess. “

While this is still a niche hobby enjoyed by a relatively smaller audience, and it’s still early days to say how this will change the circuit, the popularity of the trend shows that audiophiles are giving the thumbs up. priority to active listening. “Pandemic or not, nothing prevents a vinyl lover from buying his favorite albums in wax”, summarizes Akhil.
Twitter and Instagram: @anaghzzz


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