Canadian Musician - May/June 2023 - Page 35

ONLINE READERS CLICK HERE wanted to learn . I remember sitting in front of him watching him play and being completely captivated by the movement of his hands , by the sounds , and then he would go away and put the guitar on the bed . We didn ’ t have stands back then , I guess . And I would grab it and try to play while he was playing , a little piece of something . That kind of music was a calling for me from a very early age .”
While a childhood fascination with Arnold Schwarzenegger would lead to a short detour from music , a performance from a visiting band from Havana got Cuba back into the groove — with the help of an instrument he ’ d never seen before .
“ That was the first time that I saw an electric bass ,” Cuba explains . “ And my dad saw me looking at it . I was like , ‘ What is that ?’ And he goes , ‘ Hey , did you like that ?’ I said ‘ Oh , my God , I freaking love it !’ The following week I had one , he found one for me , in the House of Culture where he used to work . I guess they had one there [ unused ] because electric bass wasn ’ t too popular in Cuba yet . He gave it to me , and I started plugging away . And then immediately I found who was the best bass player in town so that I could get some lessons . I went to the first lesson and it had a lot to do with my influences . The first lesson , I thought it was the most boring lesson ever in the whole entire universe . Because he said , ‘ Hey , kid , nice to meet you . Awesome that you are interested in learning electric bass . Here is this wack of cassette tapes .’ Back then we didn ’ t have CDs or anything . So he gave me like 15 cassette tapes . He said , ‘ Go home , and I ’ ll see you next month .’ That was the first lesson . I was like , ‘ Wow , that ’ s pretty lame .’”
Cuba ’ s teacher knew what he was doing , however . “ When I came back from that month of listening , I knew what I liked ,” says Cuba . “ I was listening to Jaco Pastorius , Charles Mingus , Alain Caron from Montreal , and Marcus Miller . And I fell in love with American music . I was like , oh my God , the funky stuff and the slap bass . And so , I went back , and I already knew a few of the solos by memory . [ My teacher ] said , ‘ Okay , let me see .’ He knew that I was going to react to those tapes , and whatever he was going to see in front of me after a month was what I liked . And he started teaching me from that point forward , music theory and the bass . But all my influences from that point forward [ were ] bass players . To that point forward for me , life was about the bass , everything in my life was the bass . I would practice like six hours a day . My parents would have to tell me that I was forgetting lunch .”
Cuba immigrated to Canada in 1999 following his marriage to Sarah Goodacre , daughter of the late NDP politician Donald Goodacre . First settling in Victoria , BC , Cuba performed and recorded with his twin brother Adonis as The Puentes Brothers , before parting ways to launch solo careers in 2004 .
“ When I came to Canada I was a bass player , a pretty good one ,” he reflects of his early life in Canada . “ I came here with the idea that maybe I was going to be lucky enough to get to play with Alanis Morissette or Bryan Adams ; I heard both of their music
in Cuba . But as soon as I got here , things changed .”
Barely able to afford the application but encouraged by his wife and children , Cuba applied to the BC Festival of the Arts for a three day workshop . On a whim , Cuba picked up a guitar and started singing . In the room was Sal Ferreras — lead percussionist for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra . “ He saw me playing and singing and he comes quietly beside me , and he goes , ‘ hey you applied here as a bass player ; you kind of blew everybody ’ s mind . But we didn ’ t know that you can sing so beautifully . And play guitar .’