Alex Cuba’s Evolution From His Home Island To The Grammys With A Stop At Festival Place

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There are a number of expectations that come with having a name like Alex Cuba.

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“I think it’s taken a while for people to know that my show isn’t about salsa because of its name,” the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist laughs from his home in Smithers. , British Columbia. “That’s not what I do. Of course, there are danceable beats in my music, but the connection with my audience is the most important thing.

Cuba, who started life as Alexis Puentes before taking on the stage name referencing his native country, has been battling lazy ideas about his music since arriving in Canada in 1999 with his brother Adonis. The two joined forces as the Puentes Brothers before going their separate ways into solo careers, with Alex choosing to blend in dollops of funk, jazz, bossa nova, soul and more in a simmering sonic stew. You can hear it on last year’s release, Mendó, which loosely translates to “essence” or “soul.”

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Recorded at home, with international artists like Lila Downs, Gilberto Santa Rosa and Cimafunk adding parts from a distance, Mendó went on to great success, earning both a Grammy nomination for Best Latin Pop Album and a wink. eyeing the Junos for World Music Album of the Year. The Grammy Awards take place in Las Vegas on April 3, while the Juno Awards take place on May 15 in Toronto.

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“Looking on the bright side over the past few years, recording this album has opened a door for me,” Cuba says. “I’ve been asked to produce many artists over the years, and now I’m taking that seriously by building a studio in my garage next month. It took me a while to make that decision because I always been on the road, but now I have to set aside time to do it.

For a man who takes musical leaps with every album, Mendó is a sign that Cuba is determined to continue forging its own path – artistically, anyway. It’s the sound of a man with infinite horizons, or perhaps a music nut who needed to get out of his home to overcome the constraints of a country with a strong musical culture.

“It’s true,” he said. “I was the kind of kid who would spend hours in his room practicing bass, and I was heavily influenced by American music from an early age. It was a point of no return for me, and I started to have a curiosity for music beyond Cuban music. Everyone knows it’s a great musical country, but the downside is that when you live in such a strong culture like this- there, it’s hard to find support for anything outside of the culture. That’s when I started building my own identity from the music I was listening to, and for becoming it, I had to leave.

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Cuba’s loss is our gain, and there is reason to be intrigued by Mendó. The irresistibly groovy double bass and Hablando x Hablar jam handclaps, the loose, hypnotic groove throbbing through Si Tú Me Quieres, the pensive vocals of Lila Down on Mundo Nuevo. It sounds like a creative peak for Cuba, but the fact is, it’s already looking beyond that.

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For some time, Cuba has wanted to incorporate electronic elements into their music. Unfortunately, it has been difficult for him to balance these parts against the organic components without draining them of all their life. It was a back-to-the-drawing-board moment for Cuba, but he found his way through the artistic conundrum.

“I went to a few beatmakers and tried to explain what I was looking for, but I wasn’t happy with what I got in return,” he says. “I couldn’t see myself there; my identity was sticking out the window and the music was getting cold. So I decided to do it myself by buying a MIDI controller and doing it myself. Now I have managed to merge the two worlds in such a way that my identity remains. It was important because life is too short for me not to try new things. You can’t stop evolution!

yegarts@postmedia.com

Alex Cuba

When Wednesday March 16 at 7:30 p.m.

Or Festival Square, 100 Festival Road, Sherwood Park

Tickets From $29.75 at the door or in advance from Ticketmaster.ca.

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