Sign of the Times: Cuba’s Historic Record Deal with Sony

One of the world’s biggest labels will share Cuba’s extensive back catalogue with fans of Cuban music all over the world.

Cuba’s state owned record label, EGREM, signed a deal with Sony Music Entertainment this week in Havana, which will open the door for Cuban musicians abroad.

Sony now has license to distribute EGREM’s tracks dating back to the revolutionary era, which Billboard describes as “The most extensive catalog of Cuban music in the world.”

“We see in this agreement an opportunity for joint management in the coming years of our catalogue,” said General Director of EGREM, Mario Escalona, after the deal was struck with the president of Sony’s Latin America department, Afo Verde.

Cuba’s pop music duo Buena Fe’s Israel Rojas told Reuters the U.S. economic blockade is the reason Cuban music has been lost to the world for decades, “The agreement is a confirmation of an awakening of enormous interest … in Cuban music made in Cuba by a multinational in the music industry. Unfortunately due to … the economic blockade (the music) could not be found.”

Reuters reports the partners have been in discussion for over two years and that the news making it official came on Tuesday, days before the United States government issued new regulations easing restrictions on U.S. companies seeking to do business in Cuba and opening up travel. The U.S. measures aim to soften — but not completely end — the harmful five-decade-blockade on the Caribbean island. Sony used a clause in U.S. laws which allows for cultural and artistic exchanges.

The blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States has impacted the country’s economy to the tune of US$833.7 billion in five decades, the Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez announced Wednesday. A new commission, created to address the differences between the nations, will seek to solve Cuba’s demand for compensation for the human and economic damages caused by the blockade, as talks between the nations progress.

Billboard reported that Sony CEO Doug Morris said, “We are delighted to be partnering with EGREM to share for the first time one of the largest and most acclaimed catalogs of Cuban music with fans across the globe.”

EGREM (Empresa de Grabaciones y Ediciones Musicales, or the Musical Recordings and Publications Company), was created after the revolution when former President Fidel Castro nationalized the music industry. In the 1980s, the industry was opened up to independent labels like Ojala, Bis Music and Adbala.

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