Alex Cuba: From songwriter to Grammy award-winning solo artist


This article by Mariana Dussan appeared in NBC Latino. Follow the link below for the original report and videos.

You’ve heard his lyrics before.  Listen to Nelly Furtado’s “Mi plan” and you can hear Alex Cuba’s prose on how love can consume you with words like “you are my light in the darkness, you are my life’s plan.”  For Cuba, writing in Spanish has been natural but now he is trying to capture a bigger audience by singing one song in English in his new record “Static in the System.”

“It’s my fourth studio album and for some reason this one feels very special,” says Cuba. “It’s an album full of surprises from one song to the other.”

The Latin Grammy award-winning artist has made it as a solo artist in Canada and is now trying to find the same success in the U.S.  He owns his own music label called “Caracol Records” so he can stay true to his music.  With this new album, audiences will hear yet another side of Cuba. “The new album has more upbeat songs and maybe more towards pop music,” he says. “It’s the evolution, you can’t stop evolution.”

As an artist, Cuba has never been the one to marry one type of genre or language. In “Static in the System” his English song, “Are You,” is the translation of “Eres,” also in the same album. In the songs, Cuba questions whether everything that surrounds him is this woman that he is singing to. “Are you the brown in my complexion? Are you the prettiest deception? Are you?”

Cuba learned how to speak English in Canada, and while he is aware he has an accent when singing in English, he thinks his fans won’t mind. “I try to make sure that whatever I sing in English is still art to the point where, hopefully, I can make that accent not be so important,” he says. “It’s been my goal to create some kind of music that crosses the language barrier and that is totally accessible.”

Born Alexis Puentes in Artemisa, Cuba, he always knew music would be his life. “I was one of those kids that didn’t want to do anything else, just play music.” he says. “I would come back from school take out my guitar and go play something or go see my dad play somewhere.”

Growing up he studied the guitar, the tres (similar to the guitar but with three double strings), percussion, and bass. His first stage appearance, which aired on national TV, was at the age of four. Cuba played the claves in a group directed by his father.

Although he knew music would be his career, the  plans Alexis Puentes had for his life were very different from those of Alex Cuba. “In Cuba I wasn’t a singer. I was a bass player and I was sure that was what I was going to do in life,” he says. Though not a singer, he was always a poet and was inspired to write songs at the age of 16.

In 1999, at the age of 25, he ventured off to Canada to pursue Alexis Puentes’ dreams of becoming a famous bass player. “I get to Canada with the few songs that I have and one day I started singing somewhere and a couple of people came to me and said, ‘You have a beautiful voice. I don’t have a clue what you’re saying but you made me cry,’” Cuba says.

It is at this moment that the transformation into Alex Cuba begins. “One day the name just appeared in my mind and I liked it,” he said. Although, “Alex Cuba is only my artistic name. My family and friends call me by my real name, Alexis Puentes.”

Canada has had a huge influence on him, he says.  “It has allowed who I am to come out, which I don’t think would have happened in Cuba.” Today Cuba plays the guitar and is the lead singer of his band, Alex Cuba.

Living in Canada has also pushed him to make some changes to his Cuban traditions. “I got so well-adjusted to Canada that I hardly maintain any conscious hobby or special food,” Cuba said. “I remain like a sponge and I’m still discovering new things.”

He says that he rarely misses the traditional arroz con frijoles negros, his Cuban side will never disappear.  “I’m not completely disconnected,” he says.  ”The Cuban will never be possible to take out of me and I will express that through my music and through the way I am.”

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