The Rhythm House Connection

Promodh Malhotra sent an email that sheds more light on the founding of Blue Rhythm and an interesting insight into the Rhythm House Connection

Dear Jazz Lovers:

While we are putting together names of those who have contributed to the story of jazz in India, let us not forget an important name,Yusuf Curmally, whose family owns Rhythm House, the oldest and best business establishment that sells music in Bombay. His younger brother still runs it.

He was one of the founders, including Coover Guzder, Niranjan Jhaveri,Soli Sorabjee,Jehangir Dalal,Praful Mehta,of the group that was at the heart of jazz in Mumbai. Blue Rhythm, also published a great magazine by that name, whose attractive logo of a jazz guitarist was designed by a talented Parsi artist, Mehli Gobhai,(he has returned to India and now lives in Mumbai) whose mastery of line was as good as that of the great David Stone Martin, who graced so many jazz covers, particularly at Verve. Yusuf made possible the sale of jazz records in difficult times and

I still remember that it was at Rhythm House that I first heard(with my partner in jazz crime Sorab Mehta) the legendary John Coltrane (who was later to become a good friend) on a Miles Davis recording(‘Round MIdnight on UK Philips) that Yusuf had somehow managed to import and strongly recommended to me. Broke as used to be I bought two copies because I knew that I was going to use up the first one by constant hearings. I can still remember the smell of the sawdust that hung in the air in the new cubicles that Yusuf had just installed at Rhythm House, the first to allow us to hear LPs in Bombay before buying them. He was the quiet but important “detail” man in the Blue Rhythm group, which issued some 78 records, including one of a UK based jazz group led by a vibraphonist (Victor Feldman) who later went on to the USA to make a name for himself, whom they had arranged to come to Bombay for concerts at the Taj Mahal Hotel.

Yusuf encouraged us next generation jazz fans to indulge in our love of this strange and devilishly attractive music with a beat, by making it available in his shop. Yusuf later went on to a most successful career in business with the Ciba Group and ran their worldwide fertliser business, if I remember right, from Switzerland. He is now retired, and lives with his lovely wife, Rashida, in Basel. I am copying him on this message so that he can contribute some memories if he has the time.

Talking of Coover Guzder, my modern jazz guru, before he died, had put together one of the greatest collections of Charlie Parker recordings in the world. Because of the generosity of his wife, Malini, who I believe resides in Bangalore, this collection is now housed in the Al Cohn Jazz Museum near Philadelphia. There are so many unsung heroes in this continuing story!

Promodh Malhotra



In the 1950’s ,several young jazz fiends in Bombay started the first club and only jazz “magazine” in India. The magazine was called Blue Rhythmm.. From what I hear, it was a mimeographed broadsheet that included record reviews, observations on the genre, and even reviews of local musicians. It would be great to see a copy of this on this site !

Yusuf Curmally, Coover Guzder, Niranjan Jhaveri,Soli Sorabjee,Jahangir Dalal, Praful Mehta Farrokh Mehta, were the founders of this passion fuelled mission. Here is what Farrokh has to say about the club:

“……is how the jazz club idea took root in the late 40’s and 50’s in Bombay. There were Sunday afternoon jam sessions in a building (warehouse?) on what is now P D’mello Road. Rusi Captain (fabulous and ahead of his time) on the piano, Rusi Sethna on the clarinet, Dhun Nasikwala (drums). The “visitors” included Noman Mobsby (divine tenor sax) and even Rudy Cotton on a couple of occasions. The audience? A handful of jazz junkies.

Beyond this, there was life with Norman Mobsby with Dizzy Sal (piano) at the Ambassador Hotel, still standing close to the sea. We were broke enough to sit with one coffee for a full hour from6.30 to 7.30 before the moneyed dinner-clients came and we were then politely booted out. The coffee was passable and, for us then, expensive; the jazz — mostly in response to our passionate cries — was fabulous. And at Volga Restauarant (long converted into shops!) at Fountain, Sunday mornings were jam session time with Mickey Correa (clarinet), Hal Green (tenor sax) as “guests”.
The beauty of it was that we were all broke and could afford one or maybe two coffees. But we were a helluva audience, enthusing the musicians who otherwise were pestered with “dance requests” by the hoi polloi.
Aahh ! them were the days!!!!!!!”