By Narendra Kusnur
“How does it feel, how does it feel? To be on your own, with no direction home a complete unknown, just like a rolling stone.” These lines from the opening song of Bob Dylan’s iconic 1965 album ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ wafted through the basement of Adagio, Bandra, through a Project turntable, Jamo speakers and Marantz amplifier.
The crackle of vinyl records made it a special experience for the 15 people present. Most were under 30 years old – except for this writer, flooring specialist Anupam Meattle and music industry professional Parag Kamani, much over 50.
Run by the young Aman Singh Gujral, Adagio has two branches, one behind Lilavati Hospital in Bandra and the other near the Chembur monorail station. The concept is simple. Sessions alternate between these venues every Thursday, though some other special nights are held too.
Entry is free, and coffee and bottled water are on the house. There is no alcohol, so no banter. Classic rock is the normal theme – some of the sessions have included Pink Floyd’s ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’, Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’, Jethro Tull’s ‘Thick As A Brick’, Deep Purple’s ‘Machine Head’ and Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten’, besides records of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen and Bruce Springsteen.
Gujral started these sessions two years ago, driven by a teenage passion for collecting vinyl records. Adagio also has guitar and yoga classes, poetry and book readings, and board games on Sundays. While the tutorials are paid for, the place also earns revenue through memberships.
The target audience is young. Shoes and slippers are left outside. Most sit on the carpeted floor. Sessions are preceded by a brief introduction. Nobody speaks when the music plays. A brief discussion and a group photograph follow. Oldies like me get to show off our white-haired experience and quickly fabricated tales to make jaws drop. We comment on a guest book before leaving.
There’s a regular group of visitors. The other 50-plus gentleman Hariharan comes with his young daughters Mythili and Mrinalini. They were missing last week. There are hardcore Pink Floyd fans Ameet Paradkar and Satya Iyer. At the Dylan session, one met a lawyer, travel photographer who knew everything about the singer-songwriter, mechanical engineer, website wizard, an NGO employee and an investment analyst. Basically a motley crew of people who are interested in good music. Normally, attendance goes up to 30.
The decor is perfect. The Bandra door has the words ‘In Through The Out Door’, the name of a Led Zeppelin album. Chembur greets you with Bob Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’.
I am yet to visit the Chembur branch. But Bandra has some highlights. On the ground floor, where guitar and yoga classes are held and coffee is served, there is a wall on the right. It looks like an adaptation of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’. Visitors are requested to recommend any album or song and paste it on post-its. My latest choice was the song ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’ by American band Death Cab For Cutie. Gujral hadn’t heard of them.
A galaxy of electric guitars hangs opposite. The stairs to the basement have rock picture frames. The famous Pink Floyd prism from ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ embellishes one wall. There are shelves filled with vinyl records, DVDs and music-related books. One is tempted to buy the vinyl box set of Beethoven’s nine symphonies. No money to splurge when I have them on CD.
Gujral chooses a different theme every month. Last month, it was people born in September. This time, it was albums with a digit in the title. Hence, after Dylan’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ in Bandra, it will be Foreigner’s ‘4’ in Chembur.
While Adagio is a regular for younger people, the concept of vinyl listening sessions is slowly catching up in Mumbai. The Revolver Club, a record retail outfit in Mahim, and The Quarter, a live music venue in Girgaon, have their regular evenings.
Rock n’ roll is surely alive in these times, and so are jazz and the blues. Old Hindi film and classical records sell well too, but that’s a different audience. Never mind, as long as good music is kept alive.
Location: Adagio., Chapel Road, Ranwar, Bandra West, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Narendra Kusnur is one of India’s best known music journalists. Born with a musical spoon (okay, doesn’t fit, but you get the drift), Naren, NK, Kusnur, Narender, Kaansen, Jahanpanna… however else many call him, is a late bloomer in music criticism. He was (is!) an aficionado first, and then strayed into writing on music. But in the last two decades, he has made up for most of what he didn’t do earlier. If ever there is an Ustad given for music writing, NK, would be among the first to receive one. Narendra Kusnur writes weekly on Xyngr. Don’t ask us when.