Carlos Vives’ Universe: A Label, A School, A Venue and More

Although Carlos Vives is best known for popularizing Colombian music worldwide, his activities include multiple ventures in his homeland that collectively employ some 250 people.


The singer and his wife, Claudia Elena Vásquez, call their overall enterprise Universo Vives. “We have interplanetary meetings,” jokes Vásquez, who has worked alongside her husband since 2012 and is CEO of the entity.

While Vásquez, a former chemical engineer and entrepreneur, readily admits she “didn’t know much about the music business” before, she has come to effectively oversee this particular universe. The ventures include:

Gaira Música Local
Although Vives founded his own record label (named after an area near his hometown of Santa Marta) over 30 years ago, he relaunched it in 2019 with local artists like Gusi and Estereobeats. Gaira, distributed by The Orchard, also releases one-off projects, like Vives’ 2008 album, Pombo Musical, and helps curate artist performances at Cumbia House.

Cumbia House
Formerly known as Gaira, this successful bar, restaurant and live music club launched in 1998 and has become a must-visit in Bogotá that also houses Vives’ recording studios. A business with 170 employees, it also has franchises at airports in Bogotá and Medellín.

Río Grande Music School
Launched in 2016, the Bogotá school educates children ages 6 to 18 “with the purpose of teaching them how to be original in music without biases,” according to Vásquez. The school has 200 students, with plans to expand its size and provide scholarships for needy children.

Tras La Perla
Vives has long supported myriad causes. But his Tras la Perla foundation, created in 2015 and based in Santa Marta, is focused on giving back to the neighborhoods his father introduced him to as a child, particularly El Pescaíto. The low-income historic area is the birthplace of some of Colombia’s top soccer players, “and we think it has great tourism potential,” Vásquez says. “Our goal is to improve Pescaíto and provide infrastructure. We wanted to bring together people who love this city and build projects around it.” With funding support from the private and public sectors, as well as Vives himself, Tras la Perla has finished projects including a House for Dance, a “spectacular” toy library, reading clubs and multiple initiatives in association with Magdalena University, Vásquez says. The venture has also worked to improve infrastructure in Santa Marta’s palafitte townships, where homes are built on stilts over water.

This story originally appeared in the Aug. 26, 2023, issue of Billboard.

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