The Rubén Blades Archives at Harvard University

RBAatH logo


Collecting the music, film, writings, photos, and other resources for permanent study

Blades papers begin arriving

first loadMarch 1, 2014 The Rubén Blades Archives at Harvard has been collecting material from various sources since 2008, but for the first time sr. Blades has himself donated some of his material. The first 11 boxes of papers, clippings, movie scripts, and other material are now being inventoried for Loeb Music Library.

Of particular interest are papers and records regarding Blades' formation of a political party el Movimiento Papa Egoro and his run for the president of Panama in 1994. "When all the material is sorted out, any future questions regarding the workings of the Papa Egoro Movement and the scope of my involvement in its activities will be clear. No one really understands, what it was we did politically. The memos, positions, articles and commentaries made, not only by me but also by members of the group, will help create the proper documentation for understanding the motives and the impact of our efforts, as well as explaining our thinking and proposals in a much intimate fashion."

Much of these papers and records involve his music career. There are records of all kinds, including handwritten and annotated lyrics, notes and mockups for some albums, and tour and royalty payment records. "The other materials pertaining to my music can help to understand better my thinking process, both in composing, in writing lyrics and my opinions on the industry, the tours, the business and the business as a whole."

Some of what sr. Blades has given so far:

click photos for larger images:

Film scripts:

Album art in process:

Political files, including his 287 page thesis for his law degree from Univ. Panama in 1973:

Notebooks and folders of lyrics:

Magazines and newspaper clippings:

Papers related to The Capeman and Agrón's writings:

Rubén Blades Archives Go to Loeb Music Library [español]
hcl committees

Donna Guerra, Curatorial Assistant in the Archive of World Music at Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, examines material from the Rubén Blades Archive. A musician, actor and political activist, Blades recently agreed to give his personal papers, recordings and other materials to Loeb Music.

January 8, 2009 – He’s attained fame as an award-winning actor and musician, founded a political party and run for President of his native Panama and served as the Panamanian Minister of Tourism, but now Rubén Blades, LLM ’85, will add another credit to his resume – Harvard College Library benefactor.

Blades, a graduate of the Harvard University Law School, earlier this month agreed to give his personal papers, including rare recordings of rehearsals and concerts, interviews and films, books and other material to the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library.

“There aren’t many archives for Latin American popular musicians,” said Virginia Danielson, Richard F. French Librarian of the Loeb Music Library. “The arrival of the archive marks the opening of a whole new vein of intellectual pursuit and a new opportunity for study of Latin-American popular culture. This is a big event for us, and, we hope, for the Latin American community.”

“Rubén Blades has been a compelling presence, not just as a superstar singer-songwriter in multiple domains of Latin jazz and popular music, but also as an individual deeply engaged with the most pressing legal and political issues of our time,” said Kay Kaufman Shelemay, the G. Gordon Watts Professor of Music. “Future researchers will no doubt seek out the Rubén Blades Archive for the insights it offers into the relationship of music to the wider world.”

The arrival of the archive at Loeb Music Library, Danielson said, is largely the result of the work of two people, José Massó, host of the popular radio program ¡Con Salsa! at WBUR, and Alison Weinstock, a Blades fan, who created, an online discography and song reference guide dedicated to Blades’ career stretching from 1966 through 2008.

“Jose and Alison approached the Latin American, Spanish and Portuguese Division of Widener Library Collection Development with the idea of giving the material they had amassed to Harvard,” Danielson said. “Rubén liked the idea, and agreed to give his own material as well. When we looked at the contents of the collection, although it isn’t all music, a lot of it is, so we decided to bring it to the Music Library. The papers that are particular to his role as an official in Panama probably will stay in Panama, but the Harvard collection will include documents associated with Blades’ political interests alongside his musical work.”

Among the items that will eventually be collected at Loeb: a complete collection of all LPs, CDs and liner notes for Blades’ recorded music, concert and rehearsal audio and video recordings, sheet music and arrangements, lyrics and translations, magazine and newspaper interviews and clippings, photos and mementos and more.

The archive will eventually grow to include material devoted to Blades’ political career, with posters from his presidential run, along with his collection of books on afro-Cuban and salsa music, and material devoted to the business aspects of his decades-long recording career.

Though not an archivist or librarian, the first hands the material will pass through as it comes in will be Weinstock’s. As part of the gift, she was named by Blades as the coordinator of the Rubén Blades Archive at Harvard University, and will work with Danielson and other library staff to guide the collection to Harvard.

“This collection will come to us gradually, over a period of years,” Danielson said. “Right now, the material that’s come in is mostly commercial productions, but the next things we’ll get are unique video and audio recordings. That’ll be the really interesting phase. It would be fair to say we expect the archive to entail hundreds of recordings, both commercially produced and unique. I think it will be the work of three to five years to collect it all and catalog it all.”

Though some of the material has already begun to come in, Danielson emphasized that it could be months until the first items are available to library users.

“We’re at the very beginning of this project now,” Danielson said. “Things will gradually become available. We expect the first components of the collection to be available in mid- to late-2009. The archive will be cataloged in HOLLIS, and we will probably handle this material with a finding aid in OASIS. Once we have a reasonable representation, we would probably announce the existence of the cataloging, with links so people could see how to get to the archive.”

And considering Blades’ wide-ranging impact on both popular culture and social issues, Danielson said she expects the archive to become the focus of a great deal of scholarship.

“He’s a major figure,” she said. “He became known as an actor and a musician, and then decided to try to have a wider social impact, and that’s what brought him to Harvard, and from there to be a political leader in Panama.”

The collection is also a sign of the College Library’s growing interest in popular culture, particularly popular culture in the Spanish-speaking America. Considering Blades’ popularity in the U.S. as well as Panama and Central America, the archive also raises questions for scholars related to issues like transnationalism and diaspora, Danielson said.

“Associate Librarian of Harvard College for Collection Development Dan Hazen and Lynn Shirey, the Librarian for Latin America, Spain and Portugal in Widener Library, have led a really aggressive acquisitions program in the Spanish-speaking world in recent years,” she said. “It’s not just normal books and serious journals, but newspapers and popular media. The Music Library very much wants to be part of the development of a good Hispanic collection, period. In my tenure here, while we’ve only taught Spanish music once, we have one completed dissertation and one ongoing on music in South America, so the interest of the students in the Hispanic world is certainly great.”
Rubén Blades Archives Go to Harvard University

Salsa superstar and actor Ruben Blades donates papers, recordings to Harvard
Associated Press January 13, 2009 - 6:26 PM

BOSTON - Salsa superstar and actor Ruben Blades has agreed to give his personal papers as well as rare recordings of rehearsals and concerts to Harvard University.
The university's Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library will receive a complete collection of all the 60-year-old musician's LPs, CDs and liner notes. The archive will eventually grow to include material devoted to his political career, with posters from his failed run for the Panamanian presidency in 1994.
Harvard librarian Virginia Danielson said the first components of the collection will be available in mid- to late-2009.
The seven-time Grammy winner holds a masters degree in international law from Harvard. He recently announced he was leaving his post as Panama's tourism minister to return to recording music.

Blades en la conversación manifestó también su satisfacción porque la Universidad de Harvard le ha anunciado que colocará toda su historia y producción en la Biblioteca de la institución.
“Han hecho un llamado internacional para que envíen todo tipo de material, artículos, libros, ensayos de universidades, tesis;
va a ser interesante para mí entender cómo la gente ha percibido el trabajo mío”, dijo el creador de Plástico.
Rubén visits the Archivesphotos

Harvard College Library News: Rubén  Blades Visits Loeb Music Library

Blades and his wife, jazz singer Luba Mason, react upon seeing a selection of the first items included in the archive.
Blades and Mason examine some of the photographs included in the Rubén Blades Archive. Back row, from left: José Massó, host of ¡Con Salsa! on WBUR, Mason, Blades and Virginia Danielson, Richard F. French Librarian of the Loeb Music Library. Front row, from left, Alison Weinstock, coordinator of the Rubén Blades Archive, and Donna Guerra, Curatorial Assistant in the Archive of World Music.
A Harvard su legado
Fan y ex de Blades crean archivo

Alison Weinstock, Coordinator
Loeb Music Library
Loeb Music Library
          Libraries at Harvard University Directory of Pages