‘Sir. Records brings Kenya’s last record store to life

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Tucked away in a bustling market in Kenya’s capital is arguably the country’s last record store.

“Real Vinyl Guru” has been open for 28 years and is now enjoying growing interest from music lovers who want to go beyond stylish digital offerings and return to the thrill of searching for a classic African vinyl find.

Former disc jockey James “Jimmy” Rugami is in his shop every morning from 6 am, sorting out his latest finds. As many record stores were closing due to the switch from music to digital and with the rise of piracy, he patiently stood firm and collected stock from stores that were closing.

His love of vinyl saw his collection grow by the thousands and earned him the nickname “Mr. Records”.

“Whenever I knew someone was closing their doors and had records, I couldn’t stop the urge to buy one, including even crossing borders,” he said. .

Hundreds of collectors are now flocking to his store in Nairobi, and he has caught the attention of fellow vinyl fans overseas.

The producers of the Grammy-nominated Somali album “Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa”, based on popular music from the 1970s and 1980s, gifted her a copy.

“This is it,” Rugami said, smiling as he pulled out the record from his collection.

Neighboring Somalia has been chaotic since the overthrow of dictator Siad Barre in 1991, and the extremist al-Shabab group linked to al-Qaeda now carries out frequent attacks, even reaching as far as northern Kenya.

“Something good coming from Somalia, a country that has been in turmoil for all these years and that has been discovered by someone. But too bad they were foreigners and they actually had an ear to know that it was. sounded good, ”Rugami said. “Well, it’s good.”

Its clientele now includes tourists in search of other jewels of African music.

“Finding a record store in Nairobi was quite an exciting thing,” said Firouz Khairoullaev, visiting from Turkey. “I think vinyl is back. Basically it’s something that’s cool and it’s something that unites and it’s like a hobby.”

The store’s popularity after years of dire vinyl predictions means Rugami can now afford to employ five employees.

“It’s not once or twice that I have been called crazy, many, many times,” he said. “Guys are actually asking me, ‘It was 10 years ago, what do you do with this stuff we go on but you go down, what’s the reason? “

“Well, I couldn’t stop.”

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