Tasjeelat: how Bahrain's new record store is amplifying regional talent

The island’s vinyl aficionados finally have somewhere to get their fix, with records sold alongside live performances

A recently opened record shop concept is spinning a new tune for music lovers in Bahrain.

The brainchild of Ali Al Saeed – owner of music label Museland Records – Tasjeelat aims to not only bring Bahrainis the latest in eclectic music from around the world, but also host a bevy of cultural events.

The store, named after the Arabic word for "recordings", opened its doors in Manama’s Andalus Garden in July.

Al Saeed has been a fixture of the Gulf’s music scene for the past decade, with his Museland label releasing records by local bands, bringing new artists to the region, and staging everything from intimate pop-up gigs to a huge festival at Bahrain’s Coral Bay.

Until last year, Museland had been busy putting on live events across the region, including introducing a new concept in Saudi Arabia.

“We’d launched the Musenight concert series in Saudi Arabia to a sold-out crowd. It was phenomenal,” he tells The National of Alkhobar event, which gives a platform to alternative local or regional acts. “There was a real build-up in interest and we were ready to roll it out right across the country – then everything shut down.”

When pandemic-enforced lockdowns hit, Al Saeed was instead compelled to turn his attention online, selling records directly from his Instagram account.

“I created this Instagram account without telling anyone I knew,” he says. “It was just an experiment, but to my surprise it tapped into a whole new community.”

As he delivered purchases, Al Saeed met vinyl collectors around the country, many of whom opened their doors to show him their record collections.

“We’d talk about music and gigs and everything else. It was a fascinating part of the journey."

This gave Al Saeed the confidence to progress his idea into a more tangible form, seeing the potential to turn his social media account into a fully fledged record store. After finding a suitable location, Al Saeed set about perfecting his vision for Tasjeelat. The store held its soft launch on July 17 and now offers regular opening hours in its intimate space.

“I’ve always wanted to create a space that combines those passions of mine. So when this space became available at Andalus Park, I just had to go for it,” he says.

The store continues Museland’s mission of championing alternative music, and Al Saeed has been encouraged by the positive reaction to the more experimental records he’s been posting on his Instagram.

“I try to mix it up,” he says. “There’s a lot of focus on jazz, hip-hop and independent music, as well as ambient or experimental releases. When I see people picking up Brian Eno or Flying Lotus records, it’s quite rewarding.”

The store will also host a range of cultural events as part of Museland’s Sound + Fiction imprint, in collaboration with songwriter Ali Milad and sound artist Hasan Hujairi.

“We’re trying to find ways to turn Tasjeelat into more than just a record store,” says Hujairi. “We see it as a space where we could come together to share and learn different ideas connected to our interest in music.”

The team recently launched Communal Calibrations, a platform that presents live music performances, lectures and workshops, held with Covid-19 safety rules and regulations in place.

As part of the initiative, on Saturday, the store will host a live performance of a piece by John Cage titled How to Get Started.

“John Cage is a composer I really look up to,” Hujairi says. “I am pushing for this event because I hope it will slowly change attitudes and understanding of contemporary music practices that are generally not experienced in Bahrain and many places around the Gulf.”

Visitors can also check out regular nights such as Noisy Neighbours, a series of improvised, experimental live sessions, and Off the Record, where local artists get a chance to perform and discuss their music.

Live shows aside, Al Saeed is pleased to see that staple of the record store appearing at Tasjeelat: the regulars flipping through shelves of vinyl. Many of the people he delivered records to in his early Instagram days are now coming to him at the store.

As for the future, Al Saeed wants to maintain Museland’s eclectic approach, after hosting Tasjeelat pop-ups at City Centre’s concept store Are We Awake and Soul Culture in Saar.

“The idea is that it grew from an Instagram account to pop-ups and now it’s a physical store. We’d like to continue that with random events and venues.”

Tasjeelat is open at Andalus Park, Palace Avenue, Manama, from 4pm to 8pm on Tuesdays to Thursdays and Saturdays to Sundays. More information on performances is available at instagram.com/tasjeelat.bh

Updated: August 26th 2021, 9:49 AM
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