As soon as I set foot inside For The Record, one of India’s first vinyl bars, my eyes adjust to the moodiness of the dimly lit space tucked away in Fontainhas—a quintessentially Portuguese neighbourhood in Panjim, Goa. The walls are festooned with record posters detailing jazz, classical rock, Western classic and Bollywood album covers. From a collection of over 400 records, a vinyl sits atop the bar counter, serenading visitors with Louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues.” It feels like I have been seated next to Duke Ellington and Miles Davis as symphonies from the trumpet continued to permeate the room. “Everything comes alive through handcrafted instruments made with solid wood,” interrupts Buland Shukla, the brains behind the place, who also doubles up as a bartender.
Shukla, who specialised in architectural acoustics in 2020, launched a record store called Audiophile Goa. He wished to acquaint the local populace with analogue and high fidelity music. “I used to frequently host live vinyl sessions with friends and that was a precursor to the vinyl bar. The idea was to have a space with top of the line analogue equipment so people could enjoy good music at leisure,” explains the Ahmedabad native, who has now made home of the Sunshine State. For him, purity in signal reproduction and preservation of craftsmanship are paramount.
I savour our conversation in between sips of cocktails. First up is Red Riding Hood—a feni-based drink that I immediately take to. The lemongrass mixed with pomegranate and ginger exudes earthy flavours. I ask Shukla for the recipe and he explains how he deftly uses the local feni, a Goan custom of distilling cashew fruit into liquor, to whip up tasty concoctions as “most standard cocktails require imported spirits or ingredients.” The food menu offers an extensive array of fermented grubs such as sourdough pizzas, miso batter mussels, koji cured fish, fermented bimbli meat roasts and black garlic chocolate tarts. I eat to my fill.
As the evening progresses, I learn more about the bar’s owner. The visionary set out to design and develop his own instruments in 2020. After a year and a half, he launched a line of vacuum tube amplifiers and speakers. “The system consists of a handcrafted vacuum tube Single-Ended-Triode amplifier using 300B tubes.” The 33-year-old now customises the systems on order under his label called “Copperglow Audio”.
The emergence of vinyl bars can be traced back to Tokyo’s Meikyoku Lion Kissa, which was originally built in the 1920s. Over time, the West caught wind of the concept, where it burgeoned almost immediately. New York is a classic example. The bars grew in popularity and drew vinyl geeks and turntable nerds from all over for their vintage audio culture. It is said that the bartender curates a drinks menu for the evening along with a playlist for the audience.
As for me, I plant myself in a cosy corner at the bar, where I scan their menu along with an extensive vinyl collection. I’m unsure which I like better, but I see myself returning for more.
For The Record is located in Panjim next to Audiophile Goa, another music venue, in Fontainhas; A meal for two costs Rs2,000 approx (without alcohol).
Tanisha Saxena is a Delhi-based journalist who covers the arts, queer culture, travel and lifestyle. She carries her yet-to-be-submitted magnum opus in a canvas bag. When she’s not binge-watching TV, you can always find her foraging in the hills. Her work has appeared in publications such as Hindustan Times, Deccan Herald and The Hindu.