EGREM: 60 years of making people ‘Feel the Music’

This April Cuba’s national recording studio EGREM is celebrating its 60th year. Founded in 1964 it is Cuba’s oldest music recording company and best known.

Ethnologist and writer Miguel Barnet defined EGREM (Empresa de Grabaciones y Ediciones Musicales) as a “flagship of Cuban culture” at the press conference at the Casa de la Música in Havana, where under the slogan of ‘Feel the music’ (‘Siente la música’), the company presented its programme for the next 24 months up to 2025.

Reinier Rodríguez, EGREM director, explained that the biggest challenge of the company this year is in the restoration of the emblematic recording and editing studios Areito, with a view to restoring the legacy in the Areito archives, and to reclaim their distinctive place and heritage value in the musical history of Cuba.

Another task, said Reinier, is to achieve better financial stability to be able to consolidate as a truly creative cultural industry. Currently EGREM has a presence in most provinces across the country, with a chain of shops, recording studios in Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey, it produces records, works with 36 community projects and has a programme of national and international events. “We want to expand our international reach with the artists in our catalogue, to increase export of goods and services, and to more closely meet the musical interests of our young people.” Reinier said. He said they are committed to “a young audience in defence of traditional music mixed with more contemporary sounds.” In the coming year plans include will be exhibitions of album covers and photographs, videos and concerts mostly aimed at young people 18-35.

The 60th anniversary press launch also presented new album Batanga, by El Nene y las Estrellas de Areito, under the production of the musician, arranger, orchestrator and music producer Emilio Vega, who has been rescuing songs from 1970-1980 recorded under the name of Orquesta Areito, with exceptional musicians such as the late Tata Güines, Miguelito Cuní, Chappotín, Richard Egues, El Guajiro Mirabal, Rubén González, Tete García Caturla and Amadito Valdés, under the direction of Juan Pablo Torres.

Emilio Vega said he was very happy with the restoration work carried out by EGREM, in defence of Cuba’s sound heritage, transferring to CD format the five volumes recorded by the Areito Orchestra. “For me,” he said, “it is thanks to Estrellas de Areito, that the Buena Vista Social Club was born.”

Based on original report in Spanish in


EGREM was the first label created in Cuba after 1959 and remained the only one for several decades. The recording studios ‘Areito’, in Havana and ‘Siboney’, in Santiago, have brought together over 6 decades the best music of the island.

The first recording studio owned by a Cuban was the PANART studio in Havana founded in 1944. The records of artists and groups such as Miguelito Valdés, the Orquesta América, the Conjunto Casino, Barbarito Diez were made there. In the early 60s that company was nationalized and the National Printing House formed which in 1964 led to the creation of EGREM (Estudios de Grabaciones y Ediciones Musicales). The original Areito studio 101 is not only the oldest and largest in Cuba but one of the oldest surviving studios in the world.

EGREM is still the largest Cuban recording company, but not the only one, responsible for the production of vinyl, CDs, provision of cultural services and marketing of albums and artists, in the country and abroad, associated with its own catalogue. It has several recording studios in Havana and Santiago de Cuba, plus a mobile studio to make recordings “in situ” for its Authentic label. It represents artists nationally and internationally through various agencies. It has a division that sells musical instruments and accessories, shops in Havana, Matanzas, Sancti Spritus, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba. It runs ‘Casas de Musica’ venues in Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba which host concerts by Cuban and foreign artists.

It has the largest musical catalogue on the island, of a wide range of genres: Rumba, Cha cha chá, Guaracha, Danzón, Mambo, Son, Bolero, Classical, Salsa, Rock and Fusion.

The names of the studios in Havana and Santiago, Areito and Siboney respectively, both came from the Caribbean indigenous Taíno language. Areito refers to the ceremonial song and dance to honour the ancestors. Until the 1970s, Areito, apart from a few radio broadcast studios, remained almost the only space suitable for making audio recordings in Cuba, and thus played an essential role in the national culture. The Areito and Siboney labels were discontinued in 1996 but the studios still carry the names.

In 2019, the Cuban Neighbourhood Award was presented to EGREM for its outstanding work for 55 years in the defence of Cuban heritage, culture and identity.

Many Cuban and international stars have passed through the original studios including: Nat King Cole, Josephine Baker, Silvio Rodríguez, Pablo Milanés, Chucho Valdés, Sonia Silvestre, Soledad Bravo, Vicente Garrido, Susana Bacca, Roy Brown, Ry Cooder, Miguelito Valdés and members of the Buena Vista Social Club.

In September 2021 the Buena Vista Social Club album’s UK executive producer Nick Gold explained the importance of EGREM’s Areito studio 101 to record the original album:

“The studio was one of the stars of the project. Just the best-sounding room any of us had worked in – a beautiful, large wood-panelled room with the most amazing natural reverb. All the musicians stayed close together and played ‘live’. I think the record sounds like you are in the room amongst the musicians and I think that is one of its strengths. The staff at the studio were wonderful too, incredibly helpful and open.”

Listen to the music