Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Alex Cuba just 'needs to sing'

Eclectic world-music performer kicks off Centerís summer concert series

Express Staff Writer

Alex Cuba will kick off the Sun Valley Center for the Arts summer concert series June 19. Photo by

Singer-songwriter Alex Cuba knows no boundaries. Born in Cuba and now a resident of Canada, he is leaving his current homeland for a three-stop tour in the United States that begins in Tennessee, ends in New York and includes a layover in Hailey.

Cuba will play the first show of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts' summer concert series Friday, June 19, at the organization's Hailey location.

Like his tour schedule, Cuba's music also knows no limits, blending Latin rhythms with North American classics and even pop.

The son of a music teacher, Cuba made his first stage debut as a 4-year-old playing the claves, a percussion instrument. At age 6 he learned the guitar and later the bass. As a young man, Cuba practiced his instruments constantly, often clocking as many as eight hours in a single day.

"When I was 14, I started playing bass, and with the bass I got the full impact of American music and then everything was mixed," Cuba said.

Cuba also credits listening to the so-called "King of Pop" as a major turning point.

"I started dressing up like Michael Jackson and I learned all of his moves," he said. "I'm not sure how cool it is in the United States, but I'm proud of it."

It was not until his 20s, however, that Cuba decided to try singing.

"One day, it just happened," he said. "For me, singing is something completely spiritual. It comes from the soul. It is an expression of the soul, and at some point, I just needed to sing."

Cuba's work recently earned him recognition as a "Favorite World Music Artist" at the Canadian Music Week. He has also earned two Juno awards for Best World Music Album.

While largely popular in Canada, Cuba is beginning to make headlines abroad, especially in the United States.

He credits living in Canada, where there is no set Latin music market, as allowing him to be flexible in his approach to melodies and rhythms.

"There is no market to aim to in Canada," Cuba said. "It is like a big, huge playground for me and that is why I go from one style to the other in a very natural, fluid way and they all feel comfortable."

As a result, Cuba's fans have associated his style with a variety of performers. While some have likened his music to the popular sounds of the Latin band Buena Vista Social Club, others have compared him to North American notables such as James Taylor, Al Green and John Mayer.

"I'm happy that people can put so many references on the table," Cuba said.

Alex Cuba concert

Tickets for Alex Cuba are $10 general admission and $5 for kids 12 and under. They can be purchased online at or by phone at 726-9491. The concert, held in association with the College of Southern Idaho's Sun Valley Summer Spanish Institute, will take place Friday, June 19, at 7 p.m. at The Center, Hailey. Picnics are welcome but pets are not.

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