22 years ago, the Merlín Producciones team met with a purpose that sounds utopian in the cultural world: to live from their work. In his case, living from creating and producing music focusing on Colombian popular, folkloric and tropical sounds. Juan Felipe Arango, Gabriel Vallejo and Juancho Valencia took the name of their company from the famous magician of Celtic legends for his ability to transform things. Hundreds of musical works and awards later they believe they have achieved it.
In their studio they have recorded albums for ChocQuibTown, created compositions for Monsieur Periné, drum and percussion work for Fonseca, arrangements for Juan Carlos Coronel… They have won 4 Latin Grammys with the groups Puerto Candelaria, the Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra, Jaramar and the Latin American Quartet and ChocQuibTown, and received 9 nominations, including one for the Anglo Grammy.
Arango, executive producer and manager, says that Merlin is a “dream” that began to take shape since childhood. With Gabriel Vallejo, the company’s sound producer, they participated in events and musical groups at the school where they met. “It was like a dream that grew as we became adults,” he sums up.
Their paths separated after leaving school: Gabriel traveled to England to study guitar and Juan Felipe pursued a career in sound production in Spain. They kept in touch by email and when they returned they got together, excited about creating a recording studio. But they lacked a “tab” to complement their experience: Juan Valencia, a music producer they knew as an outstanding student at the EAFIT University, entered there.
They had their first meeting in a small garage in a building in Laureles that grew larger over time. “Since then we have not stopped,” says Arango. Today, that same space located in the Santa Teresita sector has a rehearsal room, recording studios and administrative offices where ten people work directly and around 30 provide services in the projects. For a few years now, as part of a social and environmental responsibility strategy, all his recordings have been made with solar energy.
In the words of the executive producer, at the beginning of this century a movement of “new Colombian music” began to awaken, led by artists with whom they decided to work to give them a “new packaging” thinking for all ages. “Colombian music but with a new air”, explains Arango.
At the same time, Merlín Producciones leaves another mark on the people of Antioquia through the artistic direction of public and private events. For five years they curated the Flower Fair, in which they sought to publicize “talented artists and different from the conventional ones”, so that everything was not “rumba and dance”.
After accompanying and growing together with hundreds of artists from inside and outside the country, they have discovered firsthand the challenge of working in the cultural sector. From the beginning they were clear that “being independent, alternative and different was going to be a gigantic challenge, but it was going to be what would make us unique”. Even so, they recognize that they are treading on a ground in permanent crisis: “The cultural sector is one of the hardest hit, to which the least budgets are assigned; In the face of any emergency, governments cut resources for culture and artists”, reflects Arango.
But they do not back down from these problems, and even less with the certainty that Colombian music is living “its best moment”. Juan concludes: “We are protagonists of the scene in concerts, radio stations, internet platforms, festivities, the country’s musicians are present everywhere and have become an important example of musical management and production in Latin America.”
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Merlin started in a basement and now records with solar energy