The remarkable collector Sunny Mathew has over 1 lakh (100,000) rare records, including records in their earliest form and about 260 gramophones/record players/phonographs of different varieties in his self-built Discs and Machines Museum, in Kottayam, Kerala. It is a shrine for music lovers and students of history of sound recording. M Dharma Kirthi, Sundeep Pahwa and Rocky Abraham find themselves transported into a mesmerising world of discs, gramophones and record players, painstakingly collected, archived and preserved by an unassuming, retired Forest Officer, Sunny Mathew. Dharma Kirthi chronicles this amazing journey of discovery as Sunny Mathew takes the visitors through his collections and creations with passion, energy and enthusiasm.
It all started in Mumbai on the 1st May, when Kushal Gopalka mentioned about Sunny Mathew and his personal collection of records, record players, located somewhere in Kerala.
Come late May the ever curious Sundeep Pahwa, set out to explore more about this one man show and passion, Sunny Mathew. Sundeep sent an email asking me if I would like to join him on this discovery of Sunny Mathew. I did not bat an eyelid before saying yes, as Sundeep is one guy who will never do anything which is not worth its while.
We landed in Erunakulam on the 12th Aug, and I was joined by two great gentlemen Sanil Mandothil (from Cochin) and Rocky Abraham (from Kottayam).
We started early, exactly at 9 am after our breakfast. Rocky drove us over to this place which is about 70 kms from Cochin, and we reached Sunny’s Gramophone Museum at 11.20 in the morning. The beauty of this drive and the lovely landscape of God’s own country is another topic altogether.
We were received by a simple gentleman, in his shirt and lungi, the traditional attire of Kerala, in front of his beautiful house, which is another work of art, with every wooden piece carved by Sunny himself. A retired official from Forest department, Sunny is a man of modest means, passionate about history. He has chosen to dedicate his steadfast efforts towards discovering, archiving and preserving the history of sound and its recording, from as early stage as was humanly possible for him. His home and the entire plan of his abode has a distinct stamp of this man of many facets.
In his compound are two very beautiful vintage cars, kept under a movable shed he has designed himself. In his garden, in a quaint water body situated at a level below his main residence is the statue of two women crafted by Sunny.
As you step into his home, you are greeted by a beautiful wooden carving on the main door, of Omar Khaiyam , which is also crafted by Sunny. With a deep sense of joy and simplicity he shows you the original painting which had inspired him to carve his door. This is just a glimpse of more surprises in store for us.
Sunny Mathew is an unassuming person consumed by his passion for his art and history He has collected vinyl records, gramophones and literature and artefacts to archive the history of sound recording. He has over 1 lakh (100,000) records and 260 gramophones/record players/phonographs of different varieties .
He created this museum few years back, designed and executed by him personally. The building is a marvel in itself, a multi storied atrium kind of a structure, something seen to be believed and experienced. There is no joy better than seeing a man’s creation through his passionate vision. We experienced this while he was showing us every single piece of his collection, explaining with verve and enthusiasm. The joy in his eyes was the kind one can see in a mother’s eyes when she is speaking about her child.
Sunny Mathew has collected recording from wire recordings, spools and tapes, and earliest form of vinyl records , from different periods and places. Beautiful pictures, photographs and articles, innumerable in number. It proves what one man with modest means can achieve in a life time to pursue his quest.
He has participated in International meets on record collectors in Paris, Germany and New York. His articles have been published in international journals on record collectors.
If one has to study and learn about the evolution of sound recording, then the one stop in India is the Discs and Machines Museum, a shrine for music lovers and students of history of sound recording. Sunny has collected records in their earliest form. You can see sound recorded on wire, cylindrical records, vinyl , paper, plastic, etc. You name them, he has it. His collection of record players and gramophones is beyond words. It is neither fair nor possible to do justice to a man’s life time collection, in a few hours. What we saw and admired was at best a teaser of what he has.
I can express my joy when he played old records of K L Saigal in a radio gram, and one must observe the care with which he handles each record, draws it out of the sleeve cover, polishes it with wax, and changes the stylus on the record player and then plays the record fr you. His face glows up when the record starts running and the whirring sound of stylus begins before the song starts playing. Really , there is no joy better than watching your labour of love perform and give joy to others.
This simple man with extraordinary perseverance deserves far greater recognition than these few moments of joy , when someone like us visits his museum. This place must be on the places to visit on every music lovers bucket list.
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