How language influences Alex Cuba’s music
We have a very special guest. This is Cuban artist Alex Cuba whose real name is Alexis Puentes and is based in Canada. How are you feeling?
I am very well. I would like to make a small correction before starting the conversation. I am Cuban-Canadian because I have been 23 years in this country. I am as Cuban as Canadian. It is very important for me to mention that I am Cuban-Canadian.
Perfect, thank you very much for the clarification. You sing in both English and Spanish. How much has this bilingual approach of languages helped your career?
Most of my work is in Spanish. There is very little that I have done in English. I think what has most helped my career has been my diversity and my ability to enter any musical genre.
I have noticed that when you sing in English, you usually focus more on pop or genres that are more popular in the Anglo-Saxon language.
Not necessarily. I also make pop in Spanish. Language does not define pop music because you can find pop in any language in the world. I do things depending on how I feel them, how they come to me at that moment and how it makes sense to do them.
Do you achieve more receptivity on the part of Spanish-speaking or English-speaking audiences?
As you know, my native language is Spanish, so it makes total sense that I reach out more to the Spanish-speaking world than the English-speaking world.
You are the son of a guitarist and music teacher. How do you think this influenced the path you would later take?
Definitely, had I not been the son of a guitarist, I do not think I would be a musician now. I would probably be a doctor or a sportsman. I was lucky that he taught me to play guitar and my father definitely had a major influence on my path.
Besides being an artist, was there another profession you entered or became interested in?
When I was a teenager, I was interested in science and medicine. At some point, I wanted to be a surgeon, but my love for music came back permanently when I was about 14 years old. That’s the only thing I’ve done since then.
Has Cuban culture influenced his music?
What led you to enter Cuban jazz and folk?
I had the opportunity to have a very wide musical training that goes from jazz to rock, blues, folk, nueva trova, guaguancó, salsa, timba and many more genres. Music is all the same for me, I only divide it into good and bad music. Life led me to become a jazzman first because I was attracted to jazz and I think that has no explanation. It’s like love. You see something or someone and you like it. You see a person and you do not know why, which happened to me with jazz. So, jazz was a great start for me. When you begin a career in music like I did, I think you see music from the inside. Besides all the study and dedication needed to play jazz, you have to know an instrument pretty well and know in depth music.
I never sang in Cuba because I left when I was only 21 years old. It was when I arrived in Canada that I started singing, people liked my voice and that gave me the push I needed to be who I am. We are talking about a career in life.
Do you think those 21 years in Cuba influenced the music you play today?
I wouldn’t say that those 21 years influenced the music I play, but further trained me for the future. Cuba trained me and Canada fulfilled me. If I Could not make music without targeting a specific audience as we do in Cuba or Miami, I would not be who I am now. If I had not come to Canada, I would not be the person I am now.
After being away from your native country so much, what things do you retain from Cuba?
I still like Cuban cigars. I really like Cohiba cigars. I’m a big fan of Cohibas and I love to smoke them while drinking whiskey.
Do you think your music and way of life are a mix of both nations to a certain extent?
Yes, definitely. It is a seed that grows between mango and apple. A tree that is born and grown between two places.
How has the course of your work and artistic activity during the pandemic?
Everything has gone successfully. I have dedicated myself to creating, recording, composing, releasing singles and many other things.
So things didn’t stop for you
Not at all and I don’t think it happened that way for many content creators. Creativity is in need of nothing because it simply happens. That has been my case and that of many creators with whom I have been in touch in the past year because I have several guests on my album “Mendó”, of which we have just released a single and a new video for the song “Amor A La Distancia”. That album was created during the pandemic and all the collaborators with whom I had contact were at the same rate as me. We were all trying to do something and not hold us up because of the situation. It was nice to get that vibe.
What projects do you have pending for 2022?
I have pending tours that have been delayed since 2020. I’m going to tour and keep releasing music. That’s the point. I still don’t want to go to the moon in a rocket (laugh).
So, you haven’t resumed your activities on the stage to date.
I haven’t wanted to yet. I’m having trouble returning to the stage because it feels weird. I don’t think I’m psychologically prepared for that, but there will be.
Would you have a message for those future artists who come to read this interview?
They must ensure that the desire to be an artist or express art comes from the heart and the soul. That’s very important. If that’s how you start in the art world, it will be like this forever. If you start on social media, you will get to the point where you will not like it anymore.
Your social networks and website for people to follow you
My website is alexcuba.com and you can find me on Instagram as @Iamalexcuba. On Twitter, you can find me as @alexcuba and on Facebook as Alex Cuba.
- The Rumba Madre and its roots in Basque culture - November 28, 2023
- Producer and saxophonist Martin Franco talks about his passion for music - November 16, 2023
- We bring trombonist Félix O. Rodriguez from Santurce to ISM - November 12, 2023