Record Hunting: The Quest for Vinyl in Santiago

Sometimes it seems the days of two turntables and a microphone are a thing of the past. Having survived the onset of the cassette in the eighties, then the CD, and flourishing through the surge of hip hop and electronica and the rise of the DJ, the future of vinyl is once again in doubt.

Photo by Aune Ainson
Photo by Aune Ainson

Go to many clubs in Santiago or further afield and you're likely to see the DJ using a laptop. As music becomes more freely available and the skill required to mix records becomes a thing of the past, is there any hope for something as cumbersome and delicate as vinyl?

Photo by Aune Ainson
Photo by Aune Ainson

For nostalgic wax-heads, the preservation of the record and the original art form of DJing is vital. Of course, the best way to support and protect vinyl is by going out and buying it. A problem in Chile is that there just doesn't seem to be much of it about. This is largely due to the fact that the home stereo didn't become common here until the 1980s — after the cassette had already hit the market. This left anyone that wanted original records having to look to expensive imports to get their fix. But while Santiago can seem desert-like when it comes to record shopping, there are some great spots where genuine audio treats can be found.

Funtrax (Nueva de Lyon 029, Providencia, Metro Los Leones) is one of the best-known music stores in the city and has a varied and eclectic selection of vinyl. Pop and rock fans are well catered for and there are some fantastic jazz records (Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, etc), plus a big old collection of second-hand eighties albums, perfect for those hairspray and spandex parties.

The hip hop section is excellent, with a nice blend of North American and Latin acts, but the real gem is the number of albums by less-mainstream rap artists such as Madlib and the Quannum MCs. There is also a limited but lush reggae section and a nice range of electronica.

Photo by Aune Ainson
Photo by Aune Ainson

Over the road in Portal Lyon there are a couple of places with small vinyl sections, mainly selling North American rock.

Head down the street and you come to Lugar sin Limites (Providencia 1370, Metro Manuel Montt), a small shop that sells second-hand seventies Latin records and US easy listening. The range isn't huge but the great thing here is the price of CP$3,000–5,000 per album. Vinyl in Santiago isn't cheap but this place allows you to experiment a bit without burning your fingers. It won't be to everyone's tastes but for those whose interests stretch beyond contemporary music, it's well worth a visit.

One of the staples of the Chilean musical diet is the classic British rock groups and their US counterparts. Kind of Blue (Merced 323, Metro Belles Artes) has many famous albums by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Hendrix and The Beatles as well as more modern acts. And of course, as the name suggests, the shop stocks plenty of vintage jazz and soul, with Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin and Al Green fans nicely catered for. There is also a nice assortment of Brazilian music such as bossa nova and samba.

But any true vinyl junkie will tell you that the greatest thing about buying records is the hunt and the best hunting grounds are at the Persa Victor Manuel flea market,

Photo by Aune Ainson
Photo by Aune Ainson

where Johnny Cavieres C has had a stall selling second-hand records for fifteen years (Persa Victor Manuel, Galpon 4, Locales 100-101-102, Metro Franklin).

With a fine collection of Chilean folk and nueva cancion, as well as what is possibly the biggest variety of classic and modern rock in the city, Johnny's stall is a joy for anyone missing the independent record shops of London, Madrid or New York.

While Johnny may have the largest collection, there are also a number of other tiendas (stores) of records here, with R&B, funk, folk, classical, reggae, metal and so on. Spending a Saturday afternoon here rummaging through boxes of vinyl is one of life's pleasures, and in addition, the market sells pretty much everything else known to man.

These are not the only places to find vinyl in Santiago but they offer a broad mix of musical genres and styles and you ought to be able to find something that suits your needs in at least one of them, if not all. Santiago is a city that rewards those who scratch below the surface and for vinyl-lovers, it's no exception. Happy hunting.

Nueva de Lyon 029
Metro: Los Leones

Lugar sin Limites
Providencia 1370
Metro: Manuel Montt

Kind of Blue
Merced 323
Metro: Belles Artes

Persa Victor Manuel
Galpon 4, Locales 100-101-102
Metro: Franklin

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