Village Revival Records' Jamal Alnasr on Humans of New York

Jamal at Village Revival Records

“In Palestine I thought I knew something about music. My dad was open-minded for that part of the world, so we had a few extra freedoms. I had a little radio that I took with me everywhere. A lot of my friends were listening to Arabic music, but I listened to Madonna and Michael Jackson. So I felt pretty cool. But when I came to New York at the age of seventeen, I started working at my uncle’s record store."

"Customers would come in asking about Bob Marley, Barbara Streisand, Louis Armstrong. I knew nothing about these people. And suddenly I didn’t feel cool anymore. I felt like an outsider. So I made a promise to myself: I was going to learn all of it."

"I began spending my salary on music magazines. Everything I came across—I wanted to know more. Who’s Sam Cooke? Who’s Marvin Gaye? And I didn’t just want to know it, I wanted to live it. My friends would wait for me until the store closed at 10 PM, and we’d go to clubs in the Village. Music became my way of engaging with people in this new society."

Jamal in 1994 at the original Village Music

In 1994 I opened my own store called Village Music. Yes it was my business, but it was also a gathering place. So many people came in just to talk. About Bob Dylan, or Zappa, or Mozart. I can talk about any type of music, really. Because I made it my mission in life. It’s been my way of connecting. If I wasn’t around music, I’m 100 percent sure I’d be gone. I’ve had too many issues. Too much depression, too much stress. Music is what’s kept me alive. When people come to my store to learn about music, it’s like a mirror. I see myself in them. And it’s a beautiful connection."

"It’s not the easiest business to be in, especially the last twenty years. I’ve suffered a lot. And I’ve fought a lot. Because I never wanted to let it go. But in 2017 I couldn’t take the stress anymore, so I closed my doors. I traveled for a month because I was really depressed. I spent a lot of time thinking. And I decided that I couldn’t close the shop. I just couldn’t do anything else. I needed music in my life. So I sold all the property I had, and I got a new lease. Everything I kept the same, except for the name. It’s not Village Music anymore. It’s Village Revival.”