Alex Cuba recalls the first time he saw an electric bass he was hooked.
Growing up in Artemisa, Cuba the Latin Grammy and Juno award-winning musician was immersed in music from a young age. His father, Valentin Puentes, a guitarist and teacher began teaching Cuba the guitar when he was a young boy.
“I can’t remember the exact age, but I started learning when I was six because my father waited until my hands were big enough,” said Cuba.
It was the electric bass, however, that inspired Cuba towards a career in music.
“When I turned 14 a band came to my town and I saw the band. They had an electric bass. It was the first time I’d ever seen an electric bass,” said Cuba. “I said to my dad, ‘Oh my god, what is that?’ He said, ‘It’s an electric bass.’ I said ‘I want one.’ My dad got one for me and from that point forward there was no return.”
Prior to that Cuba says he had considered a different career path. He spent several years in his youth thinking he wanted to be a doctor.
“I took a biology class at school and was really interested in it. That was my best subject in school. I liked dissecting things so I thought, ‘Maybe I can be a surgeon.’ That lasted for about three or four years.”
Cuba moved to Canada in 1999. Already an accomplished and well-known performer, he decided he wanted to continue in his musical career. A new family made this difficult and at one point Cuba decided he would just go get a job – any job.
“I made a resume and just thought I’ll take any job, even a dishwasher. Nobody called me back,” he said.
It turned out to be the incentive Cuba needed to focus on becoming a touring musician in Canada.
“I put my attention and focus on making that happen. Once you start learning you realize there aren’t that many differences between the Canadian and Cuban musical scene. Maybe in Cuba there are more musicians, but I think that is more of a cultural thing,” said Cuba. “When you move to a new country the first thing you notice is the differences. As you start growing roots you start making a switch from seeing the differences to seeing the similarities.”
Cuba not only performs as a touring musician, he’s also worked collaboratively with a number of well-known musicians. Among his accolades is a BMI Latin award for his songwriting on Nelly Furtado’s “Manos Al Aire”.
“The collaborations have come at times where I’m reaffirming my view and take on music. It makes me a better songwriter. It stretches your creativity,” he said. “One thing I’m very comfortable with is to collaborate with the right musician, people you have a vibe with.”
Creating a vibe and sense of connectivity is something Cuba says he enjoys when performing in smaller communities.
“As a touring musician you can never take any place you play for granted no matter how small. You always have to go out there and deliver 100 per cent because you never know who’s watching,” he said. “People are grateful you came to their little town and at the same time they are proud of their town. You connect on a more human level. It’s a beautiful challenge for a musician.”
Alex Cuba performs at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre on Saturday, November 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and are available at revelstokeartscouncil.com.
This story first appeared in the October/November print issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.