Singer-songwriter Alex*Cuba hails from Artemisa, Cuba (1 hour west of Havana) and resides in Smithers, B.C. (14 hours north of Vancouver). Musically, he lives everywhere in between. His trademark sugarcane-sweet melodies, pop-soul hooks and rock chords subtly subvert commonly held notions of what Cuban music is. Alex is on the vanguard, crafting a cross-cultural sound that mirrors his geographical journey. Not tied to tradition, this Cuban-Canadian prefers his vintage Gibson over el sencerro (cowbell) anytime.
Forgoing conventional stereotypes that typify much of the Latin music landscape, Alex is instead defining his own “Latin Soul” genre. Like the handful of unique, genre-defying artists before him, Alex' uncompromising “go your own road” approach was difficult and lonely at first, but is now beginning to pay dividends.
From his earliest years in Artemisa, he was immersed in music. Alex's first stage appearance on national TV was at the tender age of four, playing claves (a percussion instrument) in a group directed by his music instructor father. Alex went on to study guitar, tres, percussion and bass, practicing eight hours a day during his teens.
After a stint with his twin brother Adonis to record Morumba Cubana, as The Puentes Brothers, Alex departed from Cuban music norms to follow his own path. His debut CD with the Alex Cuba Band, “Humo De Tabaco”, earned him a Juno award for World Music Album in 2006, with the single “Lo Mismo Que Yo”, featuring Ron Sexsmith charting in the Top 20 at BBC Radio 2. For “Humo”, Alex took UK producer Martin Terefe to Cuba to record the album's funk infused horns and percussion, a sound that got under Terefe's skin. By extension, that “Alex*Cuba sound” is now evident on Terefe's productions for Craig David, Ron Sexsmith and Jason Mraz.
After a musical and spiritual evolution, Cuba returned to the studio, this time with co-producer Joby Baker of Victoria, to record “Agua Del Pozo” which was released in Canada in February 2007 under his own Caracol Records imprint. Acclaimed for its blend of tempo, instrumentation and songwriting, the album is a clear evolution from the debut, punctuated by the introduction of Alex's electric guitar, a vintage Gibson. With the soul-pop sensibility of tracks like “Si Pero No”, the album revealed Alex' Latin Soul DNA. The song, which was an iTunes Single of the Week in Japan, proved to be huge with fans and confounded radio programmers who didn't know which format in which to program it. “Agua” earned Alex his second Juno Award for Best World Music album 2008. “Agua Del Pozo” was released in the U.S. with two unreleased tracks on September 22, 2009 to fan and critical acclaim alike.
In the digital space, Alex*Cuba has had four iTunes Singles of the Week (Canada, U.S., Japan, Netherlands), has charted on various iTunes charts in Canada, the U.S. and Japan and has independently built an impressive, loyal online community around the world.
Alex recently collaborated with Nelly Furtado for her Spanish language debut album “Mi Plan” (My Plan) which was released September 2009 around the world (Universal). The creative chemistry between Alex, Nelly and James Bryan was magical and resulted in nine co-writes including the 1 single “Manos Al Aire” (Hands in the Air) and the title track where he appears as an invited guest on vocals. A prolific songwriter, Alex is continues working on new collaborations with writers and artists on various projects.In between tour dates and the Nelly Furtado collaborations, Alex recorded his third album at Baker Studios in Victoria, B.C. The self-titled project was released October 27th, 2009 in Canada and the U.S. release is slated for June 8th, 2010. Featuring surprising new grooves, innovative electric guitar inflections and varying tempos and structures, the album is an important step in Alex Cuba's ongoing musical revolution. The first single “Caballo” (Horse), a Cuban-funk-rocker, was also made into video conceived and produced in Smithers. Other highlights are “Solo Tu” (Only You), a moving, mid-tempo rock ballad, “Tierra Colora” (Red Soil), a samba-rock-surf-punk sizzler and the funked up “If You Give Me Love”, Alex' first-ever song in English, which was recently serviced to radio, video and online outlets in Canada. The album was just released in the U.S. to acclaim by media outlets and his growing, loyal fan community. Early radio accolades for the album include an NPR “First Listen” feature, an “Album Of The Week” feature at Jazz FM UK, a glowing Billboard review and lead-off track “Directo” was selected as KCRW's “Today's Top Tune.”
Critical to Alex' success has been constant touring with a live show that has been described as explosive. Again, his visionary rebel nature is revealed in the fact that contrary to the prevailing Cuban and Latin big band formations, Alex Cuba performs as a trio (Alex on vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, electric bass and drums). The simplicity, power, and sheer efficiency of this formation has stolen the stage from bands quadruple their size and has confused many production teams expecting the typical big band at load-in. Doing more with less is an ever-present mantra for Alex*Cuba.
With a heart as big as his retro 'fro, Cuba takes it all in stride and focuses on what he does best: crafting songs that cut through linguistic and cultural barriers like a machete through sugarcane.
Tickets for ALEX*CUBA at the Iron Horse at 7PM on Tuesday, November 16th are $12.50 at Northampton Box Office, 76 Main Street, 413-586-8686, and online at IHEG.com