Karachi's vinyl speakeasy puts a new spin on old records – Arab News

Karachi's vinyl speakeasy puts a new spin on old records – Arab News

KARACHI: To reach Muhammad Hussain’s vinyl library in Karachi, visitors must make their way through a congested neighborhood teeming with motorbikes and rickshaws until they reach a nondescript off-white building on the edge of Violet Street.
Once there, they climb a staircase to the fourth floor and walk down a dusty hallway to a door that bears no sign that beyond it lie 25,000 vinyl discs — likely the largest private record collection in Pakistan.
The three-bedroom apartment-turned-library is full of wooden shelves lined with albums, some still in plastic wrapping, others labeled with post-it notes marking them as rare. Wooden crates and cardboard cartons overflow with soundtracks and “best of” collections, and antique radios and gramophones in different shapes and sizes sit atop tall piles of records.

Records of legendary Pakistani and Indian singers are seen at Muhammad Hussain’s collection of vinyl records in Karachi, Pakistan, on May 25, 2022. (AN photo)

And the music is always playing: The hugely popular ghazal and folk singer Malika Pukhraj’s famous rendition of “Abhi to mein jawan hoon” (“I am still young“) could be heard last week.
“I came to know how rare and precious these things (records) are, how important their existence and maintenance is,” Hussain told Arab News at the music library as he thumbed through some sleeves to find a record. “This is an asset of Pakistan.”
The music library was once the warehouse for Rhythm House, a record store run by Hussain’s father on Karachi’s famous Tariq Road that was forced to close in 2006 after the digital revolution sounded the death knell for audio tapes, discs and records.
Six years later, aged 20, Hussain, who regularly listened to old Pakistani vinyl records while growing up, decided to explore the remaining collection of family tapes and records. Cleaning records at the warehouse and browsing titles on the internet, he soon realized that he had a treasure trove on his hands.
What began as a quest to arrange thousands of records, cassettes and CDs left behind from Rhythm House led Hussain to what is now his life’s work and passion: Vinyl records.  
Today his library of 25,000 records boasts 4,000 LPs, around 10,000 singles of qawwali and ghazal masters, major pop names from the 1970s and 1980s, and some rare releases from the 1950s.
“I started listening to music from Nazia Hassan’s (records),” he said, referring to a Pakistani singing sensation from the 1980s who has been called the queen of South Asian pop. “Then, gradually, I moved on to Noor Jehan, Mehdi Hassan, Iqbal Bano and Farida Khanum,” he added, listing grand masters of the ghazal form.

An old gramophone stands among thousands of vinyl records in Muhammad Hussain’s collection in Karachi, Pakistan, on May 25, 2022. (AN photo)

Hussain is well known among the community of record collectors, and often gets calls from people wanting to buy and sell albums.
“When I find records in other parts of Karachi, it takes a whole day to travel there,” he said. “To go there, go back, sort out the records, bring them back and clean them and do the whole processing, it takes me two or three days just for a few records.”
Orders to buy and exchange records come from across Pakistan, as well as other countries.
“I have received a lot of messages and calls from all over the world, from many other countries, saying we want these records,” he said. “When I have extra copies, I give them away and help people complete their collections.”
Hussain refuses to put a value on his “precious collection,” but said records could go for as low as 2,000 rupees ($10) to as high as 50,000 rupees.
His collection is not simply about making money, but also being part of a community of vinyl devotees. “We have kept this (business) alive for passionate people. It is our passion to collect these items and get them to those who care about them,” he said.

CDs are displayed on shelves of Muhammad Hussain’s music library in Karachi, Pakistan, on May 25, 2022. (AN photo)

Many connoisseurs visit the library, some looking for a particular record, a rare find, while others just want to browse and listen to music for hours — a guilty pleasure.
Recalling a recent visitor from Lahore, Hussain said: “When he saw my library, believe me, his six hours here passed like he had spent just 10 minutes. While leaving, he said, ‘I have been searching for these things for the last 15 years.’”
Hussain understands the enthusiasm. “This is a passion which won’t let you sleep when you come to know that there are some records,” he said.
“It is devotion, a passion and craze.”
What makes records so different from other storage formats is their audio quality, which Hussain believes is superior to anything that modern, widely available technology can offer.
“The sound quality you have in original records cannot be found on YouTube or any other digital format,” he said. “The sound quality of the record is such that when you listen to it, it will feel as if the musician is singing right in front of you, and its clarity is so beautiful that you will be lost in it while listening and before you know it, the whole record has ended.”
Asked how he felt about owning possibly one of the largest collections of vinyl records in Pakistan, Hussain smiled. Behind him, a record player began to spin a blue disc: “Best of Noor Jehan Vol. 1.”
“Music is like a huge ocean; this is a passion that can never be fulfilled, no matter how passionate a person is,” he said.
“There is such a huge library just in Pakistan that no one person has a complete collection.”
WASHINGTON: At least three people were killed by a gunman at a hospital campus in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Wednesday, police said, as Americans still grappled with grief and anger over the shooting at a Texas school just over a week ago.
The gunman, who was armed with a rifle, was also killed in the incident, police said, without clarifying if he was shot by law enforcement agents or turned his weapon on himself.
“We can confirm 4 people are deceased, including the shooter, in the active shooting situation at St. Francis hospital campus. Officers are still clearing the building. More info to follow,” Tulsa police tweeted from their official account.
Earlier, police captain Richard Meulenberg said officers were treating the scene as “catastrophic,” with “several” people shot and “multiple injuries.”
US President Joe Biden has been briefed on the Tulsa shooting, the White House said in a statement, adding that the administration has offered support to local officials.
The shooting is the latest in a string of deadly assaults by gunmen that have rocked the United States in the past month.
On May 14 a white supremacist targeting African Americans killed 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. The shooter survived and is facing charges.
Ten days later a gunman armed with an AR-15 burst into a school in Uvalde, Texas, and killed 21 people — 19 of them young children — before being shot dead by law enforcement.
Gun regulation faces deep resistance in the United States, from most Republicans and some rural-state Democrats.
But Biden — who visited Uvalde over the weekend — vowed earlier this week to “continue to push” for reform, saying: “I think things have gotten so bad that everybody is getting more rational about it.”
Some key federal lawmakers have also voiced cautious optimism and a bipartisan group of senators worked through the weekend to pursue possible areas of compromise.
They reportedly were focusing on laws to raise the age for gun purchases or to allow police to remove guns from people considered a threat to themselves or others — but not on an outright ban on high-powered rifles like the weapons used in both Uvalde and Buffalo.
FAIRFAX, Virginia: A jury on Wednesday awarded Johnny Depp $10.35 million in his libel lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard, vindicating his stance that Heard fabricated claims that she was abused by Depp before and during their brief marriage.
The jury also found in favor of Heard, who said she was defamed by Depp’s lawyer when he called her abuse allegations a hoax. The jury awarded her $2 million in damages.
The verdicts bring an end to a televised trial that Depp had hoped would help restore his reputation, though it turned into a spectacle of a vicious marriage.
Throughout the trial, fans — overwhelmingly on Depp’s side — lined up overnight for coveted courtroom seats. Spectators who couldn’t get in gathered on the street to cheer Depp and jeer Heard whenever either appeared outside.
Depp sued Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” His lawyers said he was defamed by the article even though it never mentioned his name.
While the case was ostensibly about libel, most of the testimony focused on whether Heard had been physically and sexually abused, as she claimed. Heard enumerated more than a dozen alleged assaults, including a fight in Australia — where Depp was shooting a “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel — in which Depp lost the tip of his middle finger and Heard said she was sexually assaulted with a liquor bottle.
Depp said he never hit Heard and that she was the abuser, though Heard’s attorneys highlighted years-old text messages Depp sent apologizing to Heard for his behavior as well as profane texts he sent to a friend in which Depp said he wanted to kill Heard and defile her dead body.
In some ways, the trial was a replay of a lawsuit Depp filed in the United Kingdom against a British tabloid after he was described as a “wife beater.” The judge in that case ruled in the newspaper’s favor after finding that Heard was telling the truth in her descriptions of abuse.
In the Virginia case, Depp had to prove not only that he never assaulted Heard, but that Heard’s article — which focused primarily on public policy related to domestic violence — defamed him. He also had to prove that Heard wrote the article with actual malice. And to claim damages he had to prove that her article caused the damage to his reputation as opposed to any number of articles before and after Heard’s piece that detailed the allegations against him.
Depp, in his final testimony to the jury, said the trial gave him a chance to clear his name in a way that he the U.K trial never allowed.
“No matter what happens, I did get here and I did tell the truth and I have spoken up for what I’ve been carrying on my back, reluctantly, for six years.” Depp said.
Heard, on the other hand, said the trial has been an ordeal inflicted by an orchestrated smear campaign led by Depp.
“Johnny promised me — promised me — that he’d ruin my life, that he’d ruin my career. He’d take my life from me,” Heard said in her final testimony.
The case captivated millions through its gavel-to-gavel television coverage and impassioned followers on social media who dissected everything from the actors’ mannerisms to the possible symbolism of what they were wearing. Both performers emerge from the trial with reputations in tatters with unclear prospects for their careers.
Eric Rose, a crisis management and communications expert in Los Angeles, called the trial a “classic murder-suicide.”
“From a reputation management perspective, there can be no winners,” he said. “They’ve bloodied each other up. It becomes more difficult now for studios to hire either actor because you’re potentially alienating a large segment of your audience who may not like the fact that you have retained either Johnny or Amber for a specific project because feelings are so strong now.”
Depp, a three-time best actor Oscar nominee, had until recent years been a bankable star. His turn as Capt. Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film helped turn it into a global franchise, but he’s lost that role. (Heard and Depp’s teams each blame the other.) He was also replaced as the title character in the third “Fantastic Beasts” spin-off film, “The Crimes of Grindelwald.”
Despite testimony at the trial that he could be violent, abusive and out of control, Depp received a standing ovation Tuesday night in London after performing for about 40 minutes with Jeff Beck at the Royal Albert Hall. He has previously toured with Joe Perry and Alice Cooper as the group Hollywood Vampires.
Heard’s acting career has been more modest, and her only two upcoming roles are in a small film and the upcoming “Aquaman” sequel due out next year.
Depp’s lawyers fought to keep the case in Virginia, in part because state law provided some legal advantages compared with California, where the two reside. A judge ruled that Virginia was an acceptable forum for the case because The Washington Post’s printing presses and online servers are in the county.
BOSTON: Hackers sponsored by the Iranian government last year attempted a “despicable” cyberattack against Boston Children’s Hospital that threatened to disrupt services to patients, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Wednesday.
Wray, in a speech delivered at a conference hosted by Boston College, detailed the incident as he warned about the rising threat cyberattacks sponsored by some nation states including Iran pose to companies and US infrastructure.
“We got a report from one of our intelligence partners indicating Boston Children’s was about to be targeted, and understanding the urgency of the situation, the cyber squad in our Boston field office raced out to notify the hospital,” Wray said.
Wray said officials with the FBI were able to quickly get the nationally renowned children’s hospital the information needed to “stop the danger right away” and mitigate the threat.
“Quick actions by everyone involved, especially at the hospital, protected both the network and the sick kids that depended on it,” Wray said.
Boston Children’s Hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wray called the incident “one of the most despicable cyberattacks I have ever seen” and was an example of the increasing risks hospitals and other providers of critical infrastructure face from hackers, including state-sponsored ones.
“If malicious cyber actors are going to purposefully cause destruction, or hold data and systems for ransom, they tend to hit us somewhere that’s really going to hurt,” Wray said.
LONDON: Suicide attempts by asylum seekers in Britain threatened with being sent to Rwanda under new deportation plans have been reported to refugee charities, which warn that they are being “driven to despair.”
The reports of suicide attempts were made as Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that the first group of asylum seekers who entered Britain via the English Channel will be deported to Rwanda on June 14.
A female Iranian asylum seeker told charity representatives that she attempted suicide because she thought she faced being sent to the African country.
A Yemeni asylum seeker, 40, sent a video to Patel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he had “no other choice but to kill myself” after arriving in the UK in April and being informed about the Rwanda offshoring plans.
More recently, an Afghan asylum seeker attempted suicide after being detained in preparation for being offshored to Rwanda.
A young Sudanese asylum seeker died in Calais on May 11, with charity workers being told that he wanted to die because of the Rwanda offshoring plans. French authorities are investigating the case.
Clare Moseley, CEO of the charity Care4Calais, said the prospect of being forcibly sent to Rwanda has distressed a lot of asylum seekers who could be traumatized from the lives they are escaping.
The Home Office deals with thousands of vulnerable asylum seekers every year, with its own assessments of the widespread vulnerability of asylum seekers being revealed in an investigation by The Guardian.
Some 17,440 asylum seekers were determined to be vulnerable last year. They were referred to so-called “safeguarding hubs.”
The Home Office said it records 26 different vulnerabilities that can lead to an asylum seeker or migrant being sent to a safeguarding hub, including suicide and self-harm, torture, trafficking and mental health problems.
Moseley said: “The aim of the Rwanda plan is to act as a deterrent by being even more terrifying to refugees than the journeys they make in flimsy boats across the Channel.
“Refugees have suffered terrible oppression. Yet our goal is to deter them using the fear of more injury and oppression. This is not the act of a civilized or compassionate nation.
“Little wonder that Priti Patel’s actions are driving the world’s victims to take their own lives in despair.”
LONDON: Britons prepared Wednesday to mark a record-breaking 70 years on the throne for Queen Elizabeth II, with four days of festivities offering temporary respite from an inflationary crisis and doubts over the monarchy’s future.
The Platinum Jubilee takes place as Britons contend with a surge in prices not seen since the 1970s, with many households struggling to put food on the table and pay rocketing bills.
But with two public holidays from Thursday and then the weekend, pubs, restaurants and retailers are hoping for a timely sales boost, after a difficult period including the Covid pandemic.
Supermarket chain Co-op predicted “a bigger sales period than Christmas.”
On The Mall, a red-paved avenue leading to Buckingham Palace, royal enthusiasts from far and wide have been camping out, despite heavy downpours.
“The last 24 hours have been horrendous. We had rain, hail, thunder, lightning,” Mary-Jane Willows, 68, from Cornwall, southwest England, told AFP.
“It’s the only way to make sure that you are at the front of the barrier when that royal coronation coach goes past, that golden coach…. It will be the most magical moment,” she said.
Angie Hart, 51, traveled from Canada to stake out a camping spot on The Mall with her husband and two daughters.
“It has always been something that I wanted to do,” she said. “I just have a real respect for the queen.”
But in Britain and the wider Commonwealth, support for the monarchy overall is an open question once the increasingly frail, 96-year-old monarch departs the scene.
With Prince Charles taking over more of his mother’s duties for occasions of state, there is a sense that the first — and possibly the last — Platinum Jubilee in British history marks a turning of the page.
A poll for The Sun newspaper this week gave the queen a 91.7-percent approval rating. Charles commanded only 67.5 percent, behind his son Prince William on 87.4 percent.
In Australia, where the queen is also head of state, new center-left Prime Minister Anthony Albanese appointed an “assistant minister for the republic” in a move welcomed by the republicans.
Albanese has previously described Australia becoming a republic as “inevitable.”
Historian Anthony Seldon, of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), said “how traumatic it’s going to be when it unravels, as well as it might in the next two, three, four years when the change comes.”
Unlike the vocal Charles, the queen has rarely expressed an opinion in public, and her sheer longevity means that she has been a fixture of the life of nearly every Briton alive.
She has overcome numerous family traumas, including Charles’ very public split from Princess Diana and personal heartache when her consort Prince Philip died aged 99 last year.
The jubilee is being seen as a chance for the nation to give thanks to the queen publicly, after social distancing last year prevented crowds at Philip’s funeral.
The celebrations kick off Thursday with Trooping the Color, a military parade that has officially marked the British monarch’s birthday for centuries.
A fly-past will include Spitfires, the iconic fighter plane that helped win the Battle of Britain and fend off Nazi Germany in 1940.
The aerial display is expected to be watched by the queen and senior royals from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
Balcony numbers have been limited to “working royals” only, leaving no place for self-exiled grandson Prince Harry and his American wife Meghan — returning on a rare visit to Britain — nor Elizabeth’s disgraced second son Prince Andrew.
Patriotic nostalgia runs red, white and blue throughout the festivities, culminating in Ed Sheeran singing “God Save the Queen” in front of Buckingham Palace on Sunday.
Participants in a giant public parade through central London earlier Sunday will be familiar to anyone acquainted with British popular culture since 1952.
But Bollywood dancers and a Caribbean carnival will also reflect the changes in British society since then, from one that was predominantly white and Christian, to one that is multicultural and multi-faith.
Britain’s Empire has given way to a Commonwealth of nations — 14 of which still count the queen as their head of state, including Australia and Canada.
But recent royal tours of the Caribbean have laid bare growing tensions about the British monarchy’s status further afield.
“This queen has been a significant glue within that Commonwealth,” said Michael Cox, emeritus professor of international relations at LSE.
“Whether, how successfully, Charles is going to play the same role, I don’t know,” he said.


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