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artist Alex Cuba

Smithers, BC, CANADA
Caracol Records
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biographical info

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 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.

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 June 8th, 2010 in the U.S.   Featuring surprising new grooves, innovative electric guitar inflections and Alex's first song in English, "If You Give Me Love", the album was an important step in Alex Cuba’s ongoing musical revolution. It went to #1 on the iTunes  Alternativo/Rock Latino chart and was named a Top 10 Latin Alternative Album of 2010 by NPR’s Alt.Latino. In Puerto Rico, the single “Directo” charted in the Top 20 on the island's major CHR stations La X, La Mega and KQ.  Alex was honored with the award for Best New Artist at the 2010 Latin Grammy Awards which took place Nov. 11th in Las Vegas. The album “Alex Cuba” was also nominated for Best Male Pop Vocal Album, and Alex received a Grammy nominations for Best Latin Pop Album.

Now Alex unveils the latest chapter in his musical evolution:  Ruido En El Sistema / Static in the System, recorded in the spring of 2011 at Baker Studios in Victoria. 

Having delicately peeled away the complexity of Cuban music to rediscover its soul – and having begun the process of remaking it in his image by infusing it with flavours of the pop, rock and funk he listened to as a teen in his homeland – Alex takes both processes to the next level on Ruido, simplifying his melodies to make way for soaring pop hooks and driving power chords, and expanding his sonic palate yet again.

The first single, “Are You” – which has already received video play on Aux, Musimax and the Much Music Alternative Hour – features funked-up, rock n’ roll verses, soaring pop choruses, and impassioned, screaming vocals over the final bars.  “Nadie Como Tu” – a duet with Nelly Furtado – is pure Latin party-pop, mixed with Tex-Mex-like guitars and a Cuban brass section recorded at Havana’s Egrem studio.  “Creo” is a driving roots rock anthem punctuated by the ambient sounds of a military battlefield.  And the irrepressibly cool-sounding title track is part Cuban dub, part 60s psychedelia and a touch of reggae.  When it was posted to Exclaim.ca in August, it became one of the site’s Top Stories of the week.

Critical to Alex’ success has been constant touring with a live show that has been described as explosive. Revealing his bass player past, Alex picks, plucks, strums and rocks his Gibson ES355, equipped with the heaviest guage steel strings available, without a pick. With Alex its just skin on steel, with solos that often lead to bleeding fingers. His visionary rebel nature is evident 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.

 

lineup

Alexis Puentes Leader, singer, songwriter

influences

Sly Stone
Pablo Milanes
Jimi Hendrix
Ray Charles
Ruido En El Sistema / Static in the System
Caracol Records
October, 2012
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Alex * Cuba
Independent
October, 2009
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Agua del Pozo
Caracol Records
February, 2007
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Humo De Tabaco
Independent
May, 2006
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