Alex Cuba, who lives in Smithers, B.C., has been writing a lot of music this winter. On the phone with the Peninsula News Review, Cuba joked that it was a way to stay warm (it was minus 7 when he called).
Cuba is coming to the Mary Winspear in Sidney on March 7, after which he will also swing through Nanaimo (March 8) and Campbell River (March 9). His concert will feature music from his most recent album, Lo Único Constante (The One Constant). It drew inspiration from the filin movement, which blends Cuban trova and black Americana styles and was popular in the 1940s. It was nominated for a Grammy this year (his third nomination among other Juno and Latin Grammy wins), so he attended the Grammys in New York on Jan. 28.
He said it’s a 72-hour whirlwind, and he felt proud to get there as an independent musician. Most of the awards are handed out during the day before the televised concert and Cuba heard the Grammys sifted through 20,000 entries.
“It just makes you proud to know that there’s a lot of music out there,” said Cuba. “To be one of five in a category is quite amazing — all the way from Smithers, B.C.!”
He was in Victoria last weekend to put the finishing touches on a documentary, The Cuban Bus, which chronicled a trip through his home country two years ago. His friend Joby Baker (a musician and sound engineer) joined him in a 1950s minibus, going around the island to find talent with a camera crew.
He said he was interested to learn if other Cubans could hear the Canadian influence in his music. He hopes to release it this year, and said it was interesting to play his music in his home country.
“I’m always open to receive from the universe, I guess. You get lucky, you get wonderful surprises somehow. It’s been very gratifying to expose my music in some small way to people over there, see what they take from it.”
Cuba does three to four tours per year across Canada, and he said he likes actually meeting his fans in person.
“It’s always great to see their reactions, the audiences. I guess I enjoy that. It’s very different from the studio. It’s just you, working away, pretending that your music is the best in the world!”
He had nothing but praise for his bandmates, who are all Cubans living in different parts of Canada. Alain Berde, his drummer, was born in Miami but has been living in Montreal for almost 20 years. Bassist Yoser Rodriguez lives in Toronto but is from Havana. He has an afro — like Cuba
“Sometimes people think he’s me, and I think that’s funny.”
Jose Sanchez, the percussionist, is also from Havana and lives on Salt Spring Island.
Since they are spread across the country, Cuba said there is sometimes no opportunity to practice beforehand as a group.
“Sometimes I just meet them a day earlier, we go somewhere and run it, but sometimes that first sound check is our rehearsal for the tour.”
He said he relies on their professionalism and experience.
It’s Cuba’s second time at the Mary Winspear Centre and he said he had an “amazing show” last time.
“It’s small enough for you to feel the audience right there. It was fantastic. I’m looking forward to coming back and doing it all over again!”