Mushtaq Khan at his Tollygunge store on Monday. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
A Class X dropout making ends meet at the backroom of a music store has become the go-to guy for city musicians.
Back in 2002, Mushtaq Khan started off as a junior trainee at Braganza Music, off Mirza Ghalib Street. Putting finishing touches on Braganza’s flagship guitars, repairing parts of drum kits and restoring violins were all in a day’s work for him.
“I was not exposed to western music before I came to work at the store. I had a sketchy idea about the instruments used and their sounds. Thus, I had to pick up the mechanism of each instrument on the job, and fast,” says Mushtaq.
The learn-the-basics approach helped: before long, he was diagnosing and fixing problems affecting instruments.
Fast forward to January 2009. Mushtaq, along with a partner, opens the first proper music instrument store in south Calcutta off SP Mukherjee Road, near the Prince Anwar Shah Road-Tollygunge Phari crossing.
Offering branded instruments, Roland Guitar Centre Tolly is an eye-catcher, a spacious showroom modelled on stores in Mumbai and Bangalore.
With enough room to browse through instruments, a soundproof jam room with stacked guitar and bass amplifiers to plug in and play and even a set-up drum kit, it is a far cry from the dusty, crammed spaces where Calcutta’s musicians were accustomed to shopping for instruments.
“I wanted to work in tandem with Calcutta’s musicians. I had discussed my plans with my partner, music equipment exporter Iqbal Ahmed. The primary aim was to offer quality instruments to musicians at an affordable price. The after-sales support was critical in letting people know who I am and what I do,” says Mushtaq.
Guitar Centre Tolly opened a floodgate to branded equipment that was previously available in limited quantities.
And it didn’t stop at just that. Mushtaq discussed ideas with senior musicians and was open to suggestions that they had to offer.
The result? The store being used to host album launches by upcoming bands and performances by them.
Workshop/clinics on new products were another feather in its cap, not to mention endorsements by global brands. Young musicians were offered jobs in the store.
“No shop-owner has actually gone out to promote music in the city the way Mushtaq has, especially for young, upcoming bands. And he has been doing that since the day he opened the Tollygunge store,” says Gaurab Chatterjee, drummer/percussionist of Lakkhichhara and Rhythmscape, adding how Mushtaq helped him become an endorsee of a German brand.
This January, Roland Guitar Centre Tolly hooked up with Delhi-based OnStage India to launch its second outlet in Lake Town.
“A lot of musicians live in north Calcutta, and for them, buying even a pack of guitar strings meant taking Metro to the southern end of town. With the Lake Town outlet, that issue is resolved,” says Mushtaq.
“The best thing about Mushtaq is that he puts words into action. His twin stores are not just instrument shops but hubs. He has had the vision to convert the Lake Town store into a live gig platform. He does not only think about the business angle,” says Vikramjit Banerjee, guitarist/bandleader of Krosswindz.
Vikramjit is an endorsee of Schecter Guitars, USA, from this January; a development in which Mushtaq had a role to play. Recently, a Schecter guitar clinic by Vikramjit was organised by Guitar Centre Tolly to demonstrate the versatility of these instruments.