"Sterns record shop in Warren Street was the epicentre of the African music scene in London."
This site has shed tears in the passing of some of London’s best-loved erstwhile record shops. Recently, I experienced the same sense of loss when I passed Stern’s record shop in Warren Street to discover that it had closed down.
Stern’s was the epicentre of the African music scene in London, where helpful staff guided you through the byways of recent African releases. There was always a real spirit of enthusiasm for the music. They started off in smaller premises in Whitfield Street, later moving to former bank premises at 74/5 Warren Street.
They opened a cafe and expanded the range of records sold. If I was being honest, I always felt it was a missed opportunity with too much wasted space and the cafe being consitently mediocre with dull food and unpleasant coffee. But it was still the best place to hear the latest West African music that I have always loved and to mingle with devotees.
A combination of rising property costs, online business and falling cafe trade eventually killed off the shop. I believe they still trade on the net, but a shop has a heartbeat and is a meeting place for different cultures. Now Stern’s has gone to be replaced by a bookie’s. Instead of the glorious tones of Baaba Maal and Salif Keita, you can hear the 3.15 from Haydock Park. Such is progress.