You don’t own an mp3,” says Shadi Megallaa, owner and founder of The Flip Side, a new record store in Alserkal Avenue. “Where is it? It’s ones and zeros. A record, you own, it’s a physical thing. I’ve even bought records just because I like the artwork. It’s music and art. It’s not just music and how it sounds. It’s culture, it’s history in your hands.”
Megallaa has had an ambition to open his own record store for years, and The Flip Side has been a long time coming. Like any new business owner, he tells us about the stress and the pressure he put himself under to get to this point.
“Most people, they’re just content,” he says. “I don’t want to be content. I want to be always doing something new and there’s so much that can go wrong. That’s what makes it exciting, it’s a thrill to do it, it’s fun. It’s like bungee jumping without a cord. Or there could be a cord, but you don’t know until five feet before you hit the ground.”
And his metaphorical bungee jump paid off. The Flip Side has been open mere months, but despite the slow lull of Dubai ’s summer, they’ve already sold out of a huge portion of their stock, which they spend hours on end carefully curating, hand-picking and sourcing.
But both Megallaa and the store’s co-manager Salem Rashid are quick to explain that it’s about more than just the music. They tell us, of course, about the longevity of vinyls, how they’re passed down from generation to generation (“no way will kids nowadays pass on their mp3s to their grandchildren,” says Megallaa), how there’s incredible music out there only available in vinyl format, and how passionate they are about bringing new music to the city (“I don’t want to stock so much of every title, because I don’t want everyone in Dubai to have the same record collection,” says Megallaa. “I want that, if you go to five different people’s homes, they’ll all have different record collections, even though they buy from the same shop.”).
But what they both talk about most is the experience they want to offer people.
In simple terms, what they do is sell records, says Megallaa, but what they’re actually selling is the experience you get from coming into the shop, browsing the music and chatting to the owners. The record is a reminder of that experience. “Yes, it’s a product,” he explains. “But you can also get the same product online.
You can’t get a record shop experience online and that’s why we exist.”
“[Buying online] is fine,” says Rashid. “But, they just come to you in the post.
You don’t have a story to tell about each record. You don’t remember where you bought it, who sold it to you.”
Both talk about the friends you can make from being part of a community, and visiting shops rather than ordering from websites or downloading music. “I’ve been to shops and met the owner, talked to them, and now we’re friends,” says Megallaa. “Mp3 is just a very insular thing. The whole point of music and community is community. Music is to be shared.”
Which is why the pair make a point of always being at the store. Megallaa points out that, especially in Dubai, there aren’t many places where you can walk into a shop and meet the owner.
Walk into The Flip Side and you’ll likely find either Rashid or Megallaa selecting records to play over the sound system, happy to chat to you and make recommendations. They have big plans, too, to have a recording studio installed upstairs, open a small in-store coffee counter and even to possibly launch their own zine.
“We know that there’s so much in the music and arts scene that doesn’t exist here,” says Rashid. “But it’s interesting that it doesn’t exist here because we can explore it.”
“The biggest risk was opening this place,” says Megallaa. “[Now] we can be creative with it. That’s why I went through all of the trouble of starting this up. It’s not just the record shop. The records are part of it, but there’s a whole world of other things we want to do. That’s the fun part.”
The Flip Side: Open Sun-Thu noon-9pm; Sat noon-10pm; closed Fri. Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (04 221 6830)
Three top vinyl nights
Megalla is a resident DJ at this dance music night that’s about quality sound and some seriously expert mixing from local and international talent.
Dhs100. Thu 10pm-3am. Industrial Avenue, The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina (050 883 3172).
Deep Crates Cartel
Funk and soul
Get down to funk, soul, hip-hop, Afrobeat, Latin, reggae, groove and more at this long-running vinyl night.
Free. Check the Facebook page for latest events. Various locations including Brunswick Sports Club, www.facebook.com/deepcratescartel.
A new night has popped up over at Steigenberger Hotel, where DJs play a mixture of vinyl and digital music from around the world. Expect plenty of funk, tropical beats and everything in between.
Free. Fri 6pm-2am. Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay, www.facebook.com/thesoundgarden