Photo Credit: Christina Woerns
The world is full of talented artists, but sometimes the dividing line between success and obscure genius is determination. For Alex Cuba, diligence has paid off in two Juno Awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy), a chart-topping collaboration with Nelly Furtado and a bevy of non-Spanish speaking fans for music sung primarily in Spanish. He attributes his success to good, old-fashioned hard work.
“At the end of the day, it has been the willingness to keep working and touring and getting out in front of people,” says Cuba. “The persistence and the belief in every minute have made the difference.”
The singer-songwriter’s popularity has soared within the last few years, but he is by no means a newcomer. His first television appearance was in his native Cuba at age 4. He went on to win a national songwriting contest at age 18 and he spent many years as a jazz bassist. But he came into his own as a musician after moving with his wife to her native country Canada. The magic began when he opened his mouth and sang.
Cuba's intoxicating voice is the backdrop for his romantic melodies and thoughtful lyrics. He developed a style that combined his early Cuban influences, the music of his adopted country Canada and a quirky ‘70s soul sensibility. And soon the comparisons rolled in – Marvin Gaye, John Mayer, Carlos Santana. A recent interviewer on CBC Radio even suggested his new album contained traces of 1970s Stevie Wonder. Does he mind the comparisons?
“I think it's great. My music is heavily influenced by American music. I think I have a somewhat soulful voice so I get some comparison. But, I didn’t grow up listening to many of the musicians I’ve been compared to. I didn't have access to them in Cuba. The first Stevie Wonder song I heard was [he sings], ‘I just called to say I love you...’ “
And his success makes it clear, critics and fans alike love Alex Cuba back. His blend of lilting love songs and funky tunes, are effectively expanding the definition of Cuban music beyond jazz and salsa. He may look retro with his big Afro, sideburns and Greg Bradyesque pants, but Alex Cuba is no throwback. He’s always looking forward. When asked to name his favorite Alex Cuba song, he quips, “The one I write tomorrow.”
On Sunday, Nov. 22, Alex Cuba will be performing at The Blind Dog in Windsor (five minutes from downtown Detroit by tunnel). Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and tickets are $12. His latest album released in Canada is the self-titled, Alex Cuba. In the U.S., he released Agua Del Pozo at the end of October.
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