Mohammed Shafi’s Gramophone Museum and Research Centre in Wayanad

Mohammed Shafi’s Gramophone Museum and Research Centre in Wayanad houses a rare collection of gramophones and musical instruments

“I wanted to name it Museum of Music but the word ‘gramophone’ is likely to attract more people,” says Mohammed Shafi from Kallai, Kozhikode, of his Gramophone Museum and Research Centre at Thalipuzha in Wayanad. Shafi admits that music is his life as he tries to get the right tempo for a record placed on a gramophone that has seen better days.

Not without reason is Shafi popularly known as Gramophone Shafi. He has dedicated his life to not just gramophones, but its predecessors and successors ranging from antique valve radios or record players.

The Gramophone Museum, for starters, houses around 4000 vinyl records. This is not even a quarter of Shafi’s collection at his home in Kallai and his gramophone repair shop at Palayam in Kozhikode.

“I caught this obsession from the days when I was working in Kolkata 20 years ago,” says Shafi, adding that he spends all his income and more for his passion. “I have hunted down rare devices from all over the country, as if my life depended on them.”

The museum houses around 40 gramophones representing different eras. A Symphonion Music Box from 1856, is the oldest music device while a Gypsy Gramophone made in Germany in 1910 is the oldest gramophone in store. Then there is the Almarah Gramophone, box gramophones of various sizes, and a variety of the popular gramophone with a horn speaker made of brass.

Also part of the collection are a ‘Cylinder Record’ of a Phonogram, a 1920 Mickey Phone from Japan, the dpool recorder/player and changers that can play a set of records one after the other. Shafi is also the proud owner of a Sitar and a Pedal Harmonium. “I don’t think even All India Radio has some of the sound records that I have,” Shafi said, picking out the sound records of Subhash Chandra Bose, Sarojini Naidu, Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru and, of course, Mahatma Gandhi from his collection.

“There are only very few manufacturers of records these days, like Saregama and Sony Music. The latest ones include records of songs from movies like Mughal-e-Azam, Dil to Pagal Hai, Mohabattein and 1942: A Love Story,” Shafi said humming ‘Hum ko hamee se churalo’ (Mohabattein).

“Once you get used to music played on a gramophone, you won’t like it coming from any other device,” is his explanation for the renewed interest among a section of music lovers.

Shafi’s Gramophone Museum is not the first of its kind. That credit goes to his close friend Sunny Mathew who set one up in Pala, Kottayam, a few years ago, with help from Shafi. What makes this second museum special is that every device on display is in perfect working condition.

“This is a live museum. These exhibits are not just for show. They are functional too. I have dedicated a lot of time to this fine art, which one can not master without enough interest and patience.” Shafi curates the gramophone collections of many a collector in the country including Sunny Mathew.

“I want more people to enter the world of gramophones. Setting up a museum in a tourist spot like Wayanad is the first step,” Shafi said before being swept away by a Mohammed Rafi song on his latest record player gifted by a well wisher.

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