Amarrass: Cutting LPs in Gurugram
When it launched in 2010, the independent record label Amarrass Records was talked about for the way it supported and repackaged folk artists from the hinterland and their largely ignored music forms. Listeners, discerning and otherwise, in urban spaces now had acts like The Manganiyar Seduction and Barmer Boys belting out earthy Rajasthani tunes and popular Sufi numbers interspersed with beat-box surprises.
Now, after training to use and assemble the machinery in a remote German village earlier this year, the label’s co-founders, Ankur Malhotra and Ashutosh Sharma, have brought record-cutting equipment to their studio in Gurugram, near Delhi. In the Indian context, they have chosen to “cut” their vinyls over “pressing” them, as the former is better suited to small-batch orders. “We got a cutting machine which doesn’t restrict us in terms of numbers.” Cutting, “the oldest form of record-making”, uses a needle to cut the music through a vinyl disc. “Meaning literally everything at Amarrass is handmade,” Sharma says.
As of May, Amarrass had released three albums by its artists—including the Barmer Boys, and a Palestinian-American band called Painted Caves—on LP. “It’s something we’ve always wanted to do,” says Sharma, adding that “the first album we released back in 2010 by The Manganiyar Seduction was also on vinyl, though we made that in California then.”
Even as he acknowledges that vinyl “has a limited audience in India”, Sharma is not worried about the sustainability of their efforts. Not only are their vinyl records beginning to sell internationally, but a big section of the under-25 demographic—apart from the 50-plus music connoisseurs—is becoming curious about LPs and phonographs. Some niche artists like Taru Dalmia (of The Ska Vengers) aka Delhi Sultanate, use vinyl for their art, both for recordings and to promote music campaigns.
The label is also looking to make special customized merchandise.“We are coming out with wedding invitations on phonographs with audio messages, songs and customized artwork,” says Sharma. Not only will it help business, but “this also pushes the word out about records,” he concludes.