Vinyls give treasured value to music

Bret Dugmore, owner of Mr Vinyl, has plugged the gap for old school music lovers.
Bret Dugmore, owner of Mr Vinyl, has plugged the gap for old school music lovers.

If music be the food of love, buy vinyls. Bret Dugmore saw the gap in the market and started what is today a booming business, Mr Vinyl.

"We started with just one crate of records. We had three employees sitting at my dining room table everyday. We went from clicks to bricks and opened a walk-in retail store at 44 Stanley, in March 2017," says Dugmore.

As a passionate music lover he appreciates analogue sound and figured there must be others like him.

"Vinyl represents true sound. What you're listening to is a diamond-tipped needle vibrating in a groove as the record spins around. It's just the sound of a vibration amplified and played through speakers. Digital recordings and CDs are but 'representations' of this sound.

"Also, it feels great owning a vinyl record with its large cover, pull out lyric sheet and inners. The 12" vinyl record cover is like an artwork. If you like a musician, it's great to be able to own it with a big cover, and you can even frame it and show it off. You can't do that with an MP3."

Dugmore says technology brings convenience and it's necessary to have streaming service such as iTunes, Spotify or Google Music.

But, he emphasises, if you want to hear it, touch it and feel it in the way that it was intended, nothing comes close to what the classic, old school vinyl has.

"The vinyl revival appeals to the collector. It's super easy to get on the internet and listen to a song but to find the vinyl record, which may be out of print, rare or obscure, is quite something great. The hunt is half the fun."

But it can get expensive.

"South Africa is one of the most expensive territories in the world for vinyl collecting because we do not have a pressing plant in Africa. Every new vinyl has to be shipped from the US or EU and it adds on to the price," Dugmore says.

With pre-owned records, the apartheid regime's emphasis on censorship meant that it was a challenge to get hold of certain music.

"There isn't much jazz, reggae, blues and alternative genres like heavy metal on the pre-owned market. When it does come, it's more expensive."

At Mr Vinyl, pre-owned records start at about R20 and can differ in price radically, up into the thousands.

Dugmore says it all depends on what the record is, what condition it is in and which pressing it is.

"A first pressing of Please Please Me by The Beatles, pressed in the UK and in great condition, can easily fetch R5000. Most pre-owned records are under R100.

"New and sealed records, that have been manufactured recently, range in price from R250 to about R900."

The most expensive album he has sold is Mellow Candle's Swaddling Songs.

Dugmore says most local collectors want mostly jazz.

"South African jazz from the apartheid-era, the likes of Tete Mbambisa, Abdullah Ibrahim, Black Disco and Pat Matshikiza records, are popular. Those are fetching well over R1000."

He doesn't see the fad fading any time soon.

"Demand is growing. Perhaps CDs will be remembered as just a fad? Buying vinyl appeals to so many facets that it's unlikely it will fade away any time soon," said Dugmore.

Most new artists and albums today are pressed on vinyl. From Taylor Swift to rapper Nas, everyone is doing it.

Sfiso Brian Mkhonza
Sfiso Brian Mkhonza

Getting closer to creators

Sfiso Brian Mkhonza, better known as "The Reverend" in music circles, is a lover of "all good music".

The 26-year-old remembers the day he bought his first record.

"It was on 11th November 2011 (11/11/11). I purchased it at Vinyl Joint in downtown Jozi, Eloff Street. It's a record by Herb LF & Petkovski, Lullaby For Rastko (12"). And I paid R240 for it back then already."

Now he is the proud owner of more than 300 records.

"It's pretty much a mix of genres, from jazz, funk/soul, hip-hop, (nu)disco, down-tempo and a bit of (deep) house music.

To be honest, I am not really a vinyl- only snob because personally I believe my passion lies with the music first, then the format comes second.

"With vinyl, it's more about appreciating what the artist created. Having to own the physical artistic creation and then having sentimental attachment with the music."

His cheapest vinyl is Odyssey's It Will Be Alright, which he found at a steal for R5 at a record fare.

"The most expensive record cost R790. It's a personal favourite from one of my favourite music influences from Detroit called Theo Parrish, with his 3x12" Sound Sculptures Vol 1."

To churn out his tunes Mkhonza turns to his second-hand Technics SL1210s MKII.

And he never trades or sells any of his finds.

Vusimuzi Hlatywayo

Uncles' albums started play list

Vusimuzi Hlatywayo is a 32-year-old soul who appreciates the sounds he grew up listening to.

His first vinyl collection is from his uncles' records, left behind at Hlatywayo's grandmother's house.

His very first purchase was Isaac Hayes - To Be Continued, which cost him no more than R20.

"Most of the records I got as a result of going house to house asking for old records. It became a hobby for me. At first I was just chasing the music that my favourite hip-hop producers sampled. The curiosity led me to discover more music."

Today, he owns more than 6000 records, including 33rpm, 78rpm and 7-inch pressings covering funk, soul, jazz, umqashiyo, mbaqanga, psychedelic rock, Afro-soul and Soweto soul.

"I go to pawn shops, charity shops and buy online."

Vinyl is not his preferred format of music.

"I'm looking for a lot of music that never went on to be pressed on CDs and cassettes, especially music from all over Africa."

But he agrees that in terms of quality, vinyl is the best sound.

The cheapest vinyl he owns is a 7-inch titled Phiri - Money makes Madness. It's quite rare.

He plays his records on a state-of-the-art Technics SL 1200.

Vinyls are music to Makhubo's ears

Ardent lover of vinyl, Mxolisi Makhubo, 36, says the first record he bought was a Bob Marley album at Kohinoor Stores for R10.

"I stopped counting my vinyls when they got to 10 000."

Makhubo, however, says his music collection is not specific to one genre. "It's all over the place ... ranging from Brazilian progressive-rock, Krautrock to South African jazz. I like to think of it as a collection with a hip-hop aesthetic ... it's a little bit of everything from everywhere."

His passion for collecting this memorabilia started when cassettes and CDs replaced the black records. "Vinyl was at the point at which it had become unpopular, and therefore cheaper. This made it an obvious format for a broke high-schooler."

He says the cheapest vinyl he ever bought was only R5. His choice of stereo is a Technics SL1210, a standard turntable for DJs. "I bought it when I was still a hip-hop deejay."

Makhubo often trades records with friends and internationally.

"You get in touch with people who collect what you are after and trade what they may be after."

Although he has quite an impressive collection, there are so much more he needs and wants to own. Among them are Dollar Brand (now known as Abdullah Ibrahim) Trio's 1962 recording Plays Sphere Jazz (pictured