Arequipa doesn’t really strike you at first as a place that will be full of art or local music culture, let alone be home to a unique little vinyl shop. It’s a quiet, small, unassuming town with a laid back mentality and a fascinating mix of people. I stumbled on Pucara Bulls quite by chance. It’s tucked away near one of the town’s parks in a very quiet suburban area. Part second-hand record store, part local artist point of sale, and part clothing store, Pucara Bulls has the vibe of a Melbourne boutique, in a country that can often lack art and culture hubs.
In amongst the handmade jewelry, stickers, and clothing is a table of 7”-12” record singles. I’d never heard of most of the South American names on these records, categorized into Samba, Disco, Rock, Salsa and more, dating from the 1960’s to the 1990’s. Pucara Bulls has a turntable and a lovely speaker system where you can test out any of the vinyl you’re interested in – but be careful, because with how long they’ll let you just stay there and listen, you can get carried away quite easily. All of the vinyl here is South American music, stretching over decades and genres.
For DJs and music appreciators, the buried treasure is that much more special, not because most of it you’ve probably never have heard of, but because so much of it is fun, danceable music. The atmosphere, collection, staff and layout of Pucara Bulls is truly exceptional. Each record costs between 4 and 8 Peruvian sol, or roughly $2-$4. They also host exhibitions, screenings and workshops here, while stocking local underground music on CD. It’s a space that truly champions art in Peru and a really great place to be.
Otonomad – Shimokitazawa, Japan
While this little gem in Shimokitazawa is tucked away in quite the cozy little dwelling, it is well stocked, beautifully lit, immaculately ordered and very well maintained. There is a staggering amount of rare music to be found here, from a huge expanse of genres. Jazz, ambient, soul, African/afro-funk, noise, and odd-ball new wave records can be found in abundance here, some you’ve heard, and some completely unknown.
Otonomad is managed by a very friendly owner, bass player Mr. Takahashi, who opened the store in 2008. He is scarily into the maintenance of his stock. He handles the wax only with a pair of dust-proof white gloves, and meticulously cleans each record as soon as you’ve listened to it. His stock is small and limited, and he is obviously aware of the rarity of his commodities, as the prices are fairly steep. At Otonomad, you will be able to dig in roughly 3000 records (2000 vinyl and about 1000 CDs), all second hand, and almost all the production being between 1960 and 1990.
My housemate spent a long period of time in this store while he was in Japan, and I asked him to summarize the experience in one sentence for me; he told me that Otonomad is a tucked away boutique stocking rare, bizarre quality second-hand vinyl.
Have you ever complained, or heard someone complaining about having to travel to the nearest record store? Maybe a couple of suburbs can be a bit of hassle. But if you lived in Mongolia prior to the last few years, you would have known a real struggle. Until recently, Mongolians had to travel more than 1000 kilometers across the Gobi desert to Bejing to reach their nearest record shop. Now, to Mongolian music lovers delight, a quaint little shop called Dund Gohl has opened up right in their own backyard.
Batbold Bavuu, the owner of the establishment, started out by collecting records from his music school’s dumpster, rescuing them from being lost forever. He opened the first incarnation of his store with these disks in the corner of a children’s library. His collection today spans more than 3000 releases from all over the world including Cuban tracks, Yemeni Jewish music, hip hop, pop groups from Belarus and rare state-sponsored Mongolian rock bands. Bavuu has possibly the largest record collection in the whole country. He possesses a lot of vinyl from the Soviet era, much of which was smuggled into the country at a time when strict music restrictions were detailed in communist laws.
His shop space is shared with a deli, and he is hoping to develop an online store in the near future. He has seen shoppers from all over the world pour through his doors to fawn over his strange and wonderful collection of treasures.
WHERE?: Chin Van Khanddorj Street, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
WHAT?: Cuban, Yemeni, Hip Hop, Pop, Rare Soviet Releases.
Beethoven Music Shop – Tehran, Iran
Although it isn’t really discussed or known about outside of the country, the music scene in Iran is thriving. Music has a surprising prominence there, and one of its oldest and often regarded best record stores is Beethoven Music Shop. Though it is not known for its atmosphere, which a lot of people describe as quite depressing and heavy, the archive of Middle Eastern and Western music is considered one of the best in Iran. The store has been operating since the 1950’s and persisted through the numerous wars that have passed through the country, a testament to those who run it, and to the passionate music fans of Iran. They also stock books and CDs.
Back in the 1950s, Beethoven Music Shop was the only place in the country bringing in western and classical music, and its popularity grew amongst the youth of Iran, spreading by word of mouth. It reached its peak in the 1960s, when it was distributing a lot of Persian music which at the time was notoriously hard to come by. During the 1970’s Iran underwent a revolution, which in many ways killed the country’s music and arts scenes. But Beethoven Music Shop persisted through these trials, and still stands proud as a beacon in Iran, now as both a record shop and record label.
Saphire D’Or is the one and only record shop in Mauritania. Tucked away in amongst the dusty streets of one of the Sahara’s most historical cities, Saphire D’Or plays host to a wide variety of music, from Senegalese Salsa through to Nigerian Rock. The owner of the store gathered the stock from unwanted records that had been collected by local residents. He has said, “All the vinyl records that were in Mauritania, I pretty much have them here.”
The shop was opened almost 40 years ago in 1979, nestled between a camera shop and a restaurant. In the 50’s and 60’s, Mauritania was a place filled with optimism. But in the late 1970’s, the landscape of the country changed drastically. An ongoing war and deadly droughts swept Mauritania, which paved the way for decades of military rule. Curfews were introduced, the national orchestra was disbanded, and the once thriving nightclubs and music culture vanished. Ahmed Vall, the owner of the store, lived through all of this and wants his shop to preserve the once fiery passion for music that existed in the country.
Sapphire D’Or once sat on the edge of the desert and is now sandwiched in amongst the city that spread out and engulfed it. For lovers of African music, there could not be a better place to dig around; decades of long forgotten music spanning dozens of genres can be found here. Saphire D’Or translates to gold, a rather fitting name for this golden jewel that sits in the middle of this ancient city.
WHERE?: Nouakchott, Mauritania
WHAT?: Senegalese Salsa, Afrobeat, Traditional African, Nigerian Rock.
Unfortunately, they don’t have a website.