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Karachi: To get to the Muhammad Hussain Vinyl Library in Karachi, visitors have to navigate their way through a crowded neighborhood teeming with motorcycles and motorbikes until they reach a pure white building on the edge of Purple Street.
Once there, they climb a flight of stairs to the fourth floor and walk down a dusty corridor to an unmarked door that says there are 25,000 vinyl records behind it – perhaps the largest collection of private records in Pakistan.
The three-bedroom apartment that became a library was filled with wooden shelves lined with albums, some still wrapped in plastic, others marked with later signs as rare. Chests and wooden chests overflow with soundtracks and “best” combinations, and antique radios and gramophones of various shapes and sizes rest on long stacks of recordings.

Records of legendary Pakistani and Indian singers can be seen on the vinyl record set of Muhammad Hussain in Karachi, Pakistan, May 25, 2022. (AN Photo)


And the music is still playing: The famous track “Abhi to Min Gwan Hun” (“I’m Still Young”) by folk singer Ghazal and folklorist Malika Boukhraj was heard last week.
“I learned how rare and precious these things (records) are, and how important their presence and maintenance are,” Hussein told Arab News at the music library, flipping through the covers of the recordings. “It is an honor to Pakistan”.
The music library was once the repository of Rhythm House, a record store run by Hussain’s father on Karachi’s famous Tariq Road, which was forced to close in 2006 after the digital revolution put an end to cassettes, recordings and audio CDs. brought.
Six years later, 20-year-old Hussain, who regularly listened to old Pakistani vinyl records while growing up, decided to explore the remaining collection of cassette tapes and family recordings. While cleaning the files in the repository and flipping through the addresses on the internet, he soon realized that he had a treasure in his hands.
What began as an attempt to rearrange the thousands of recordings, tapes and CDs left over from Rhythm House led Hussain to what is now the work of his life and passion: vinyl records.
Today, his 25,000-record library includes 4,000 LBPs, nearly 10,000 singles by masters Qawwali and Ghazal, pop greats of the ’70s and’ 80s, and some rare 1950s releases.
“I started listening to Nazia Hassan’s music (recordings),” he said, referring to a 1980s Pakistani singer who was christened the queen of South Asian pop music. “Then, little by little, I moved on to Noor Jehan, Mahdi Hassan, Iqbal Bano and Farida Khanum,” he added, referring to the great Ghazal form masters.

An old gramophone stands between thousands of vinyl cylinders in the Muhammad Hussain collection in Karachi, Pakistan, May 25, 2022. (AN Photo)


Hussain is well known in the record label community and regularly receives calls from people who want to buy and sell albums.
“When I find records in other parts of Karachi, it takes a whole day to get there,” he said. “To go there, go back, sort the records, put them back and clean them up and do all the processing, it only takes two or three days for a few records.”
Purchase orders and commercial records come from all over Pakistan as well as other countries.
“I have had many messages and calls from around the world, from many other countries, saying we want these recordings,” he said. “When I have extra copies, I donate them and help people complete their collections.”
Hussain declined to assign a value to his “precious collection,” but said the records could range from 2,000 rupees ($ 10) to 50,000 rupees.
His group is not only about making money, but also about being part of the community of vinyl fans. “We kept this (activity) alive for the enthusiasts. Our passion is to collect these items and present them to those who care.

CDs displayed on the shelves of the Muhammad Hussain Music Library in Karachi, Pakistan, May 25, 2022 (AN Photo)


Many connoisseurs visit the library, some are looking for a specific record, or a rare gem, while others simply want to browse and listen to music for hours on end – it’s a guilty pleasure.
In memory of a recent visitor from Lahore, Hussain said: “When he saw my library, believe me, I felt that the six hours he spent here were only 10 minutes. When he left, he said : “I’ve been looking for these things for 15 years.” »
Hussein understands enthusiasm. “It’s a passion that will not put you to sleep if you know there are records,” he said.
“It’s sincerity, passion and madness.”
What makes the recordings so different from other storage formats is their sound quality, which according to Hussain is better than anything commonly available that modern technology can offer.
“The audio quality you have in the original recordings can not be found on YouTube or any other digital format,” he said. “The sound quality of the recordings makes you feel as if the musician is singing right in front of you, and the brightness is so beautiful that you will lose yourself if you listen to it and before you wipe your eyes, it is everywhere on the disc.
When asked how he felt about owning perhaps one of the largest vinyl record collections in Pakistan, Hussain smiled. Behind him, a drummer turns a blue disc: “Best of Noor Jehan Vol. 1. “
“Music is like a giant ocean; It is a passion that can never be satisfied, no matter how passionate one is. ”
“There is just so much library in Pakistan that no one has a complete collection”.

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