B.C. Grammy winner Alex Cuba to be celebrated in Smithers with mural and street party

The winner of this year's Grammy for best Latin pop album will also receive an honorary degree from Queen's University in the fall

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      Alex Cuba, the Smithers, B.C., resident and celebrated musician who recently won a Grammy award for an album he recorded in his living room during the pandemic, is going to be honoured by his home town with a blowout strret party and a two-storey mural next month.

      Cuba—who took home the internationally prestigious award for best Latin pop album and who sings in both Spanish and English—was recognized by the Recording Academy as artist, engineer, and producer of his winning album, Mendó.

      The 48-year-old Cuban-born singer-songwriter and guitarist won his second Grammy at the 64th annual Grammy Awards this year, beating out Selena Gomez and four others in his category. (His first Grammy, for best new Latin artist, came in 2010.)

      Smithers is a town of about 5,300 residents situated in B.C.'s Interior, about halfway between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

      An August 18 release from Tourism Smithers said that a September 17 Grammy Block Party organized by the town, the regional chamber of commerce, and the tourism agency will feature a beer garden, food trucks, four local bands, speakers from the arts community and local government, and the 'Ewk Hiyah Hozdli Dance Group Co-op, a traditional Wet'suwet'en dance and drum group.

      Alex Cuba won his Grammy award for his Latin pop album Mendó.

      As well, a two-storey mural designed and painted by local artist Facundo Gastiazoro will be officially unveiled.

      Smithers Mayor Gladys Atrill said that Cuba has contributed hugely to the local arts community.

      “Alex is an amazing role model and inspiration for local musicians and artists," Atrill said in the release. "We have many talented people in Smithers, and Alex has provided fantastic opportunities, taking local musicians on international tours, hiring local artists and filmmakers for his award-winning music videos, and supporting the community.

      “He also speaks proudly of living in Smithers, calling this his home town," Atrill continued. "He lets people everywhere know you can live here and have an international career. We appreciate his love of community and want to give that love back to him.”

      Ontario's Queen's University has also announced that it will be conferring an honorary doctor of laws degree on Cuba in October for his "artistic and cultural impacts as a Cuban musician...while at the same time integrating yourself thoroughly and successfully in the cultures of Canada".

      Cuba—who moved to Smithers 19 years ago with his wife, Sarah, a Smithers native, after immigrating to Canada in 1999—has previously recorded duets with Canadian recording artists Ron Sexsmith (for Cuba's first album) and Nelly Furtado (for her fourth album), with whom he also cowrote several songs. (Sarah's father, Bill Goodacre, was a former B.C. NDP MLA for the electoral district of Bulkley Valley-Stikine; he died in early 2019.)

      Alex Cuba

      Mendó is the eighth solo album by Cuba, whose real name is Alexis Puentes. He received Grammy nominations for three previous albums but failed to win. His first two solo albums, Humo de Tabaco (2006) and Agua del Pozo (2008), each won Juno awards for world-music album of the year.

      Cuba has also been nominated in five different categories in the Latin Grammy Awards since 2010, winning four of them.

      The guitarist/singer/songwriter's pride in his adopted country and its influence on his musical stylings were clearly expressed when he spoke to the Georgia Straight in 2018.

      “I’ve seen a lot of interviews with immigrants that focus only on loss, you know, omitting the Canadian side,” he told music writer Alex Varty. “But my story is a little bit different, and I hope people will get that, because I am incredibly proud to talk about my Canadian side, what I’ve done here.…Because my music was made in Canada.

      "No Latin artist in the Latin world can sound like me, because they don’t have this Canadian side that I have," he continued. "They don’t have the situations, the inspirations, et cetera, that I have found in this country. For me, it’s been a huge, positive story, and it’s too sad, sometimes, when people just want to hear the sad things. I understand where that comes from, but come on, man! We choose to live in the present time, and we are going to talk happily.”