GRACE

Grace… an ongoing project of images of where I would want to be

NEW GRAMOPHONE HOUSE

Founded in 1930 in Lahore, Pakistan, New Gramophone House is now the last remaining record shop in Delhi. Relocated to the Indian capital in 1947 following the Indian-Pakistan partition, and nestled above a shoe shop in Delhi’s frenetic Chandni Chowk district, the small room houses over one LAKH of records. Once a record shop amongst hundreds of others in Delhi, New Gramophone House now remains the only surviving outlet for vinyl records and has become an institution amongst locals and international collectors alike.
The current manager, Anuj Rajpal is the son of the previous manager of the shop Ramesh Rajpal who remains ever present in the shop. Ramesh’s father was the original founder; New Gramophone House is very much a family affair.
A tardis of music and a haven for lovers of a bygone musical format, the stacks upon stacks of records make it difficult to know where to begin. With a recording by Lata Mangeshkar on my phone, I played it to the shop assistant and so began my foray into the depths of New Gramophone House’s collection. From religious recordings in Urdu, to Bollywood B Movie soundtracks via snake charmer recordings, this was unlike any record shop experience I’ve experienced. Beautiful record artwork, stacks of 7 inches, tens of gramophones and an ambivalent manager Anuj Rajpal, reminiscent of Jack Black in High Fidelity, made the experience one that will not be soon forgotten.
With sales of vinyl increasing for the first time in two decades, New Gramophone House has seen its popularity grow in the last couple of years attaining somewhat of a cult following, thanks to a new generation of music lovers with a keen sense of nostalgia and a love of music from yesteryear.

RABBIT

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TRIFECTA

Surf, snowboard and skateboard all in one day. Only in Scotland…

BOTANICUM

An ongoing project at various locations around the World focussing on all things botanical

MAUT KA KHAN [43]

DJ has swagger. He’s the star of the show. Maut Ka Khan ‘the Death Well’ is the jewel in the dusty crown of the Karamdaha Mela. DJ has just finished his second show of the day, and is joining myself and producer Gautham for our first meet and greet. He carries himself like a local celebrity, or even a Bollywood star. Good looking and with a confidence that could be mistaken as arrogance, he takes a seat with us outside the rickety arena. But it’s too loud. The show has just finished and the ticket walla is on to the next hustle. This is not a place of half measures. The PA system is beyond distortion, it must be 120db. We can’t hear a thing and the three of us, Gautham myself and DJ are shouting at each other in a zealous attempt to break the ice. The three of us are seated on plastic chairs in a triangular formation, knees touching and leaning in. Gautham is doing his best but the sound is too loud, and as becomes the norm for the next three days, every time I look up, either from the viewfinder, or the chair, there’s a hundred eyes on me, huddled around and staring. It feels like an auspicious start.

By now the crowd around us is swelling, and we’re not getting far with the niceties. ‘Let’s shoot!’ Gautham tells DJ that we’re going to shoot some portraits of him and the team, and I’m ready to get started.

I’ve just arrived from the relative tranquility of Manhattan after three flights and a gruelling six hour, 70km drive from Dhanbad. You can do the maths.

The roads from Dhanbad to Karamdaha, known as the City of the Black Diamond, are barely roads. It’s an insult to Romans. Our driver Pankaj is a veteran though and he knows these potholes, bends and ditches. We arrive shaken at the hotel to check in, only to be refused entry. No white people allowed.

Dhanbad is a mining town, the centre of the coal industry in the north Indian state of Jharkand. It’s not on the tourist trail. ‘This really is the boondocks of India my friend’ says Gautham, in a thick Indian accent, as we frantically look to find a hotel that will accept foreigners.

Anyone who has travelled to India will know, and have heard the cliche of the sensory overload. The ‘assault on the senses’ has become a trope when describing the experience of life in the subcontinent. Having had the good fortune to travel to India more than four times in a decade, visiting the most northerly state of Ladakh, Kerala in the South and taken trains between the two, I felt accustomed to this shake up, to the immersion and the embrace.

No amount of time or experience could prepare me for the 72 hours at the annual Karamdaha Mela.

Imagine stepping back in time a handful of decades, or even a century or two, to a fairground.

Purchase prints via the link below. 50% of profits will go directly to the riders featured, who are now unable to perform due to coronavirus restrictions in India.