The music library of the station contains more than 10,000 tapes. Only nine of them preserve the valuable speeches given by Commander Camilo Cienfuegos at different events such as the closing of a training course for combatants of the Liberation Army; the address he and on January 2nd, 1959 when the triumph of the Revolution was announced, and the one given in the province of Matanzas, in which he recited verses of Cuban poet Bonifacio Byrne.
In entering the library, it gives us the idea that the voices of outstanding figures from Cuba and the world are waiting to meet us inside this quiet room. Some of the recordings include speeches given by leader of the Revolution Fidel Castro, since 1959 to date – estimated at 1,800. Other records are the radio programs turned into lectures made by Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier in the ’60s, and the first radio programs Havana City Historian Eusebio Leal made.
Hitler, Lenin and Ho Chi Minh are some of the universal figures whose recordings are kept in this place. There are also valuable recordings of the republican Cuba –before1959-, and more recent recordings made at Radio Havana Cuba station.
Preserving radio history
“The station has given priority to the preservation of its audio memory considered a testament of the national and universal heritage,” says Canel Ignacio Bravo, the founder of the audio archive.
“Since the music library was founded in 1961, at a proposal of the first director of Radio Havana Cuba station, Marcos Beheman and with the collaboration of Jesus Montané , our main goal has been to safeguard our audio heritage and other audio records of national and international interest. “
Canel speaks slowly but his words give away his excitement. Since he was 17 years old, he has been in charge of recording and restoring the valuable audio records of Radio Habana Cuba. Canel is now an old man and still walks along the corridors of the local, which seem to be too small to keep all the records of the station.
“Some tapes are piled on the floor because there is no room for them in the shelves. It has been fifty years and there are more than 10 000 hours of analog audio that have been recorded. Although the air conditioner and dehumidifier ensure the preservation of the materials, the size of the place has become too small to keep the records and it does not help us do our job”, says Canel.
Actually, Canel’s main concern is technological nature and is turning into something inevitable as the future approaches. Every day, he asks himself how he will keep all the audio historical memory that has been stored for fifty decades.
“Tape recorders and tape players are not manufactured any more. The ones we have cannot be used for so much time. So, how can we deal with the modern technology? Are the new audio storage formats reliable enough to maintain our audio heritage?”
The music library of Radio Havana Cuba station treasures a great part of identity and historical values of the Cuban radio. Although Canel and his team work (two sound producers and a specialist on audio storage) have started the process of digitalizing the audio of prominent figures such as Camilo Cienfuegos and Fidel Castro, among others; truth is that time keeps running and audio archives keep piling, no matter if they are kept in tapes or gigas.
A translation by: Silke Paez Carr