Delhi’s Lahore Music House embodies vestiges of the past – The New Indian Express
Express news service
A routine morning on a weekday in the Daryaganj district, one of the busiest places in the capital, is a real pandemonium. As the horns whistle, people jostle and hawkers meander – the frenzy continues.
However, inside one of Delhi’s oldest musical instrument shops in Daryaganj, you will witness a contrast. Tranquility reigns as a ray of sunlight makes its way through the door.
Co-owner Randheer Singh Sachdeva peacefully examines his bills while his brother, Jaspal Singh Sachdeva, appears busy answering a phone call. Adorning the walls of this shop are several instruments – Indian instruments on the right and Western instruments on the left.
A middle-aged man walks into the shop looking for a harmonium. Windows are open, a few harmoniums are placed on the table, and discussions begin. As the client inspects the many instruments, Jaspal Singh clarifies the details about it.
At one point, he even demonstrates this by playing the harmonium himself. About twenty minutes later, once the sale is closed and the customer ready to leave the premises with his newly purchased harmonium, he casually mentions: “Maine aap ki dukaan ke baare mein kaafi suna hai (I’ve heard a lot about your store.) “
A symphony of decades
The lineage of Lahore Music House dates back to Anarkali Bazaar, a popular market in Lahore, now Pakistan, where an instrument store called Pratap Music House was established decades ago. After the partition of British India became a reality, this instrument store moved to what was to be called India.
Later, during British colonial rule, there were two more stores built in Dehradun and Mussoorie. A third store was created in 1948 in the capital by two brothers; Sardar Harcharan Singh and Gyan Singh. It was called Lahore Music House.
Located right next to the Moti Mahal restaurant, the location was indeed favorable. As they settled into their new life in India, several possibilities and obstacles gradually revealed themselves. For Harcharan, the store was more than just a business.
As a disciple of singer Baden Ghulam Ali Khan, this store was a way to stay close to music after their lives were uprooted from Lahore. âMy father was a singer himself. Back in Lahore, he learned to sing with Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, âsays Jaspal Singh, son of Harcharan Singh.
In India, they started making Indian classical instruments like Sitar, Harmonium, Tabla, etc. The Lahorian heritage and a deep commitment to music were quickly recognized. The visitors were not only commoners but also famous musicians such as Pakistani singer Ghazal Mehdi Hasan Khan, Indian classical player Sarod Amjad Ali, Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, among others.
The store was also honored by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and famous singer Begum Akhtar, who continued to be their patrons. âAs a child, I saw Begum Akhatrji many times at the store. Whenever Begum visited Delhi, she left her Sitar at the Lahore Music House to be tuned. My father would then ask me to deliver the sitar to her. instrument, “Jaspal said.
Surprise miles away
The 1960s were an exceptional period for Indian classical music. Even rock music, at the time, incorporated various influences from South Asian music as well as instruments. One afternoon around 1966, Jaspal rushed home from school to see a crowd thronging in front of their store.
Inside were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr of The Beatles. Captivated by Indian classical music, this famous English rock band visited the Lahore Music House while making a detour to London from the Philippines.
âI was a kid at the time and couldn’t recognize them at all. I remember my dad and uncle hanging out with them. Even though they were really famous, most of us had none. idea of ââwho they were. The Beatles asked my father to teach them Indian classical music. But my father refused and referred them to Pandit Ravi Shankar, “Jaspal explains.
When The Beatles left, their departure sparked a new trend that increased sales. âAfter they left, many foreigners would come to our store and ask for the same Sitar and Tabla the Beatles had bought,â he adds.
A change of pace
After the 1980s, the trend of Indian classical music plunged and Western music became prominent. It has also led to an unexpected increase in demand for Western instruments. So, as the trends evolved, Lahore Music House also grew and started selling a range of instruments.
Over the years, this store has made musical instruments and exported them to various countries, while operating its first and only outlet in Daryaganj. âToday, most of our clients come from Fiji, Mauritius, Australia, New Zealand. There is a demand for Indian instruments there and they import them regularly to us, âexplains Jaspal.
With the pandemic leading to a downturn in businesses and the global foreclosure affecting exports, the Lahore Music House has also experienced a halt in overseas shipments as well as a decline in sales. The only way forward was to embrace the digital shift.
Lahore Music House has started selling instruments through its website and other online channels. âThe pandemic has been very difficult for all of us. During containment, most of our exports came to a halt. Currently, we rely heavily on retail sales. However, things are gradually improving and we will soon be resuming our activities in the world as we go. the situation allows it, âsays Jaspal.
âWe’ve been in this business for over seven decades now, but our quality hasn’t diminished at all. We still respect our heritage of over 100 years, âconcludes Randheer.
DO A DIGITAL JUMP
The pandemic has boosted their online business. Jaspal says, âWe sell instruments on our website, but as someone who has been in this business for decades, I do not recommend selling instruments online. Each customer has different needs and it is important to physically examine the instrument before purchasing it.
BEFORE THE COMPETITION
After the 1980s, many music stores began to open in Daryaganj. The hub has become popularly called the Daryaganj Sound Market. âOurs was the first store in this area called the Daryaganj Sound Market. Many similar stores have also opened in Connaught Place and Lajpat Nagar. However, to run a business like ours, it’s important to have a fondness for music. and an understanding of the instruments. A lot of new retailers don’t really have this, âJaspal adds.
KNOWN GUESTS WHO VISITED THE STORE
1. Pakistani singer of Ghazal Mehdi Hasan Khan
2. Classical Hindustani singer Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan
3. Indian singer Begum Akhtar
4. The English rock band The Beatles
5. Indian sitarist and composer Pandit Ravi Shankar
6. Sarod Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s player