In Unlikely Corner of World, a 'Guru' Clings to His Vinyl

Kenya's last record store is thriving
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 11, 2018 8:31 AM CDT
In this photo taken Thursday, March 1, 2018, James "Jimmy" Rugami sorts through records inside his vinyl records stall in Kenyatta Market in Nairobi, Kenya.   (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
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(Newser) – Tucked into a busy market in Kenya's capital is arguably the country's last record store, reports the AP. "Real Vinyl Guru" has been open for 28 years and now enjoys the growing interest of music lovers who want to look beyond sleek digital offerings and return to the pleasure of browsing for a classic African vinyl find. Former disc jockey James "Jimmy" Rugami is at his shop every morning as early as 6, sorting through his latest discoveries. While many record shops closed in music's shift to digital and with the rise of piracy, he patiently held on and collected the stock of closing stores. His love of vinyl has seen his collection grow into the thousands and earned him the nickname "Mr. Records." "Every time I knew somebody is closing down and he has records, I couldn't stop the urge to buy one, including even crossing borders," he said.

Collectors flock to his store in Nairobi, and he has won attention from vinyl fans overseas. The producers of the Grammy-nominated Somali album Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa, culled from popular music of the 1970s and 1980s, gave him a copy. "This is it," Rugami says, smiling as he pulls the record out. "Something good coming from Somalia, a country that has been in turmoil in all those years and discovered by somebody." His customers now include tourists on the hunt for other gems of African music. "Finding a vinyl shop in Nairobi was quite an exciting thing," says a Turkish visitor. "I think the vinyl is back. Essentially it's something that is cool and ... unites." The shop's popularity means Rugami now can afford to employ five staffers. "It is not once or twice I have been labelled insane," he said. "Guys actually ask me ... 'You are moving downwards, what's the reason?' Well, I couldn't stop."


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