San Juan Sound – San Juan, Puerto Rico - Atlas Obscura

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San Juan Sound

At this studio, musicians, engineers, and quite possibly a music-loving ghost carry on Puerto Rico's musical traditions. 

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Located in the heart of one of the busiest neighborhoods of Puerto Rico’s capital city, you’d probably stroll right past San Juan Sound if you didn’t know it was here. Radio waves have been broadcasting since 1922 in this half-abandoned building that once housed WKAQ, the first radio station in Puerto Rico, second in Latin America, and fifth in the world. 

Starting out with just two to three hours of broadcasting a day, and growing to cover the whole island, the original radio station was the only one in Puerto Rico for at least 12 years. In the early days, musicians would record at the WKAQ radio station. In the 1940s, WKAQ moved out and the building was vacant for almost a century. 

Matteo Burr, a record producer and drummer from the band Grace Potter and the Nocturnalscame to San Juan in 2015. While looking for a place to build a radio station and studio, Matteo found the old WKAQ building and was immediately drawn in by its history. Burr was inspired to revive the space and celebrate its legacy not just in Puerto Rico, but all over the world. 

Today, San Juan Sound is a multipurpose recording studio that offers live performances, private recording sessions, and partnerships with schools across Puerto Rico. Burr also runs a charity called Gift of Sound, which provides instruments, classes, and recording sessions to young musicians who might not be able to afford them. 

The history of this establishment’s music is kept alive by a jukebox that Matteo bought for the space. It was purchased from an older Puerto Rican gentleman whose late wife had a deep love for music and listened to her favorite songs on the jukebox every evening. It is still filled with the woman’s records, and it’s said the jukebox will often turn on though no one is touching it.

Burr says that he feels “grateful to live a life dedicated to making the world sound and feel better.” Visitors can now enjoy tours, classes, shows, and other community events at San Juan Sound, experiencing the rich history and culture of Puerto Rican music, all while supporting local artists and musicians on the Island today.

Know Before You Go

San Juan Sound is open every day from 10 am to 10 pm, and if you want to visit, it's best to make an appointment. Tours are free and sending a DM via Instagram @SanJuanSoundPR will get you a quick response.

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June 10, 2022

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