Sometimes we go to extreme lengths when it comes to finding vinyl records. Whenever I end up in a new city or a new country I always try to find some records. Unfortunately I can’t always buy them but I try.
In March of 2017 I went to Cuba for 7 days. Before leaving I tried to do research on record stores in Cuba and was always led to one single place, Seriosha’s Record Shop.
Havana’s Only Record Shop
“Tienda Seriosha” is on Neptuno No. 408, between San Nicolas and Manrique in Centro Havana. It’s one of the oldest record stores in Havana and probably the only one.
I was very happy to find the shop but I wasn’t as excited when I saw the records. They have been obviously neglected and are simply stacked up all over the place. Most come with sleeves although they’re still dirty inside and out. Many of these records are badly scratched and some of them are broken in pieces. Don’t freak out when you spot cockroaches running over the crates and records but do make sure there aren’t any inside the sleeves when you leave the shop, you don’t want to bring those back home (or even to your hotel).
You will mostly find Cuban records which is really awesome. There is a lot of latin, African and jazz records. You will also come across quite a few Soviet pressings of western artists such as Abba, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and many others. Don’t be surprised if the covers don’t look “official”. Most of these LPs were pressed on Melodiya label in USSR and are unofficial releases although legit.
The price of these records is quite high in my opinion. The owner of the shop told me each record is 5 CUC (about $5 USD) regardless of the condition. Don’t forget that you will not find a single record in near mint condition. The price is obviously made for tourists as most Cuban earn about 20 CUCs per month.
Since they weren’t open to negotiating the price I decided to only purchase 4 or 5 records instead of the initial 20.
Here is what I got at Seriosha’s:
More info on discogs
More info on discogs
More info on discogs
Lazaro Ros & Olorun – cannot find it on discogs so I will be adding it there.
Songs and poems of Chilean revolutionaries, also not on discogs (yet).
Records on the 26th street, Havana
We had a friend in Havana who mentioned that he saw a guy selling used records in his backyard. This intrigued me and I certainly had to check it out. The seller is located on the 26th Street between Calle 19 and Calle 21. You’ll see the book and records in his yard from the street. Basically you can simply walk in and ask him for the records.
That man brought out a few piles of records and I started looking through them. Mostly Cuban and Americans LPs there. Once I selected a few the man announced the price of 5 CUCs per record. I took one and was about to leave. At this moment he announced that he had more records in the back that he sells for 1 CUC but they’re “not as good”. Once he brought them out I realized they were in the same condition as his “expensive” pile. Some of the same records were in both piles and oddly enough the cheaper copies were in better shape than the expensive ones. To be honest I think he always sold them for 1 CUC a piece but as he noticed the demand growing he raised his prices. Only when you end up not buying anything he offers you the 1 CUC records.
I bought 2 records from him after all.
More Vinyl Records in Cuba
As I was walking through the city I came across a few used book shops. They also had a few dozens records but these folks were asking for 10 CUCs per record. The condition of these LPs was also pretty horrible. Once again, no one was willing to haggle, apparently that’s not a big thing in Cuba.
I also came across records in various street markets. The sellers asked 10 CUCs for albums that have been left out to bake in the sun for years. They don’t seem to realize that ripped covers, deep scratches, exposure to sun and water, mold and lots of dirt all lower the value of these records. Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything at those markets. If you are curious to see them (since you are on a vacation and have loads of free time) check out Plaza de Armas on Saturday. There is a used book sale and many sellers have records. Who knows, you might get lucky and find something in decent shape! (but I doubt it…)
Another great way to find records in Cuba is by simply asking the people around you. You’ll certainly come across someone who knows someone who has some old records. Turntables are pretty much non-existent in Cuba at this point and people can’t afford new ones. Cubans don’t want to throw the records in the garbage and are willing to let them go. Friends brought me some records from Cuba and they found them by asking around.
Last but not least, there is Revolico.com. It’s Cuba’s Craigslist and although there aren’t many ads, you mind be able to find vinyl records from time to time. Search for “vinylo”, “discos” or “discos viejos” and you might find something.
You can certainly find old vinyl records in Cuba. However most records will be dirty, scratched up and severely damaged, especially at the markets. Your best bet is asking around, this way you’ll have a chance of finding records in good condition for a 1 CUC or even less.