The UAE's collectors: a stash of 23,000 vinyl records holds countless memories

Lobito Brigante continues to 'dig' for rare music around the world

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Value is a relative concept for a dedicated record collector. While Lobito Brigante’s extensive collection — which he estimates features about 23,000 records — boasts a number of lucrative rarities, he measures their worth by the emotions and memories they inspire.

“The most valuable records have some personal attachment. There are those that remind me of a time over 20 years ago,” he says.

“An example is I’m On My Way by Candido. At that time, I was spinning at a lot of b-boy battles and there was a track I heard that maybe one other DJ played. So I eventually found it when searching and that beat was by Candido. These kinds of records mean a lot to me because they remind me of my musical evolution.”

That journey brought the Spaniard to Dubai 15 years ago, where he has built an expansive career as a formidable DJ and festival organiser, and launched the already acclaimed Dubai restaurant and bar Electric Pawn Shop.

Electric Pawn Shop in Dubai. Photo: Electric Pawn Shop

The venue in the H Hotel is home to more than 2,000 vinyl records from Brigante’s collection, which are used by him and guest DJs for eclectic sets that feature everything from the soundtracks of classic Japanese yakuza films to obscure funk tracks from the US, Latin America and South-east Asia.

None of Brigante’s purchases are random. He says each “digging” session — a term used by collectors for record-hunting expeditions — involves a mix of planning and patience.

“Each country I travel to, I have a list of records from that place I want to get. Not all the records have to be obscure or rare; sometimes they are the ones that are just hard to find internationally,” he says.

“I also make sure I visit record shops that have the kind of music that I want or find interesting, and a large selection of original pressings and old records for me to really dig into.”

Brigante’s efforts have more often than not borne fruit. During a visit to Georgia last year, he bought a number of Soviet-era Georgian and Armenian jazz and funk records, while an August trip to New York yielded a rare copy of American composer Roy Ayers’s 1972 album He’s Coming.

Dubai business owner and vinyl collector Brigante began his collection 15 years ago. Photo: Antonie Robertson / The National

Despite the bulging shelves in his Dubai home and at Electric Pawn Shop, not to mention those in storage in Spain and the UK, Brigante says his search for innovative and pioneering sounds will continue.

“Whatever I have is just a drop in the ocean when it comes to music,” he says.

“If I look at my physical collection of records, there is not enough time for me to listen to them back to back and take the time to appreciate them. Now multiply that by infinity when it comes to the music that is still out there. This is why when you are a collector who loves music, you are always missing something."

But that shouldn’t scare off aspiring collectors, as pleasure and wisdom are found in the journey.

“My advice is to be true to yourself. My musical journey is shaped by who I am, my background, where I grew up, my parents and their tastes, my early and generational influences,” he says.

“The deeper you get in your collecting journey, the more you will learn about these connections and you will appreciate the origin of things. You start to understand how music has evolved into what it is now, and it will also help you relate to people from other generations and cultures. Music has that power to expand your mind.”

Updated: November 11, 2022, 7:34 AM
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