Alex Cuba: Sublime

Tipping Toward Joy

Listening Post 251. Dickens was right in concept but exaggerated the singularity of his age: It is always, in every era and every land, the best and worst of times. Great art often emerges from hard lessons, but sometimes songs written before a crisis rush toward our freshly frazzled nerves like first responders. When he released Sublime last fall Alex Cuba couldn’t have known a pandemic was imminent but today the music of his seventh album penetrates the haze of uncertainty with sparkling 2020 vision. Cuba (born Alexis Puentes), takes his name from his native island but has lived in Canada for two decades, developing a multi-cultural, tropical-subarctic style; his new album’s title works in Spanish, English and French. Maybe one reason these 12 exceptional tracks take on higher resonance is that they accentuate in art what is often missing in leadership—the melding of disparate perspectives into a coherent message. On Sublime, Cuba flawlessly blends trova, folk, jazz, cumbia, reggaeton, soul and pop (among other genres) into elegant melodies and his own comforting voice—plus the invited voices in six finely sculpted duets. His songs meditate on love and often sound conversational. Cantando de Alegría (Singing of Joy, video 1) grew out of fan feedback and also echoes eerily of now. Ciudad Hembra (Female City, video 2), discerns a feminine spirit in Havana’s mystery and tenacity; while Las Mujeres (Women, video 3) is one man’s appreciative surrender. Cuba views respect for human differences through the lens of romantic love in Dividido (Divided, video 4) and examines romance through the lens of time in Hoy Como Ayer (Today, Just Like Yesterday, video 5). The effect of his stylistic, cultural and personal layering is both magically natural and stunningly calm. As long as despair and inspiration are in perpetual competition, artists like Alex Cuba will appear on the plus side of the scales. (Caracol Records)

Alex Cuba: Sublime
Alex Cuba: Vocals, bass, requinto guitar, percussion

Guest artists:
Kelvis Ochoa: Vocals
Silvana Estrada: Vocals
Pablo Milanés: Vocals
Leonel García: Vocals
Omara Portuondo: Vocals
Alex Ferreira: Vocals

 

Cantando de Alegría / Singing of Joy
Alex Cuba

(From the Spanish lyrics)
It came to me in a text/
In English
From someone who doesn’t understand Spanish
That’s how it was/Straightforward

I’m sure (he reasoned)/You will understand
That I’m asking for a moment of your attention
Please/Don’t be offended

I want to tell you that you changed me/One morning, your singing gave me faith
I woke up, innocently turned on the radio to discover/A symphony of fear
No mercy, no forgiveness/Generating endless despair

Singing of joy makes life better
ooh oh oh hu hu
Singing of joy, you live better/A bright melody takes away the pain
oh oh oh hu hu
That alone can tell you what love is like

I am (he continued)/Now capable of altering
The sadness that comes/With hearing the news

That’s it, resolved/Every time
And though I only know English/I took the liberty of writing to you

To make sure you are well/That you remain faithful to your soothing voice
The voice that conveys to me in Spanish the beauty, the passion/That opens us to the ability
To love, to give/What is only found inside the heart

Singing of joy make life better
ooh oh oh hu hu
Singing of joy, you live better
A bright melody takes away the pain
oh oh oh hu hu
That alone can tell you what love is like

I know/The cynics can’t control me
Because/If I don’t buy what they are selling
Fear can’t touch me/I’ll know how to create good
I know/That you understand me, that no apology is needed
Not wanting to bother you further/But hoping to hear from you again
See you, I end with a full stop

 

Ciudad Hembra (La Habana) / Female City (Havana), ft. Kelvis Ochoa
Alex Cuba
From the album notes: 
This is a song that acknowledges how we all have different views, how we see, from our experiences, what we want to see. Quite metaphorically, I am choosing to say that Havana is a city with a female energy because of its vibrant creativity, a place where time does not exist and nothing is either true or false.

There are in Havana, as anywhere else/Those obsessed with appearances
Those who hide all innocence/Those who never learned respect

But as anyone can tell you/Just judge from to your experience
Let your observation of life teach you/Let the lights shine

They are trying to catch the eye/Of those who want to daydream
Play dumb/So they can play yey ye yey ye

Havana is a female city/No brakes, let alone reins
A place where if you fall asleep they leave you the bill
Where time no longer exists/And nothing is ever true or false

I am the mystery of a reality/That doesn’t want anyone to understand
That never stops spinning/That can’t stop

But the deeper you look the more you’ll find/And if you pay careful attention
If you can, you’ll understand it/You’ll know in the end

They are trying to catch the eye/Of those who want to daydream
Playing dumb/So they can play yey ye yey ye

Havana is a female city/No brakes, let alone reins
A place where if you fall asleep they leave you the bill
Where time no longer exists/And nothing is ever true or false

 

Las Mujeres / Women
Alex Cuba

Women, women
Women, yes they have/More strength than men
They say out loud what they are thinking/And with the same voice they provoke you
And so today I give up
Right now, out of respect/I tip my hat
And if I am the first/May many follow me, many follow
Those who have faith in life/In pleasure and wonders

If I were that man/I’d go to her side happily
I would live just to kiss her until I felt
Inside of me/That there’s no need for power
If the joy fills you/Just as you are

Women
Women

Women, women
Women, yes they have/More strength than men
They say out loud what they are thinking/And with the same voice they provoke you
And so today I give up
Right now, out of respect/I tip my hat
And if I am the first/May many follow me, many follow
Those who have faith in life/In pleasure and wonders

I’m tired of domination/By brute force
Which is not smart
Many people just throw darkness/Not really knowing
How to reach a moment of happiness/Which could be
Just minutes away/In any face you see

 

Dividido / Divided ft. Silvana Estrada
Alex Cuba & Silvana Estrada

So many people in the world/And you look at me
In this sea of ​​colors/You picture me as I am

I like the night/And you’re an early bird
It’s so strange that time/Wanted us to find each other

Without trying to understand/I find it perfect
Our difference is the reflection of the world
It’s a worn-out idea/Believing that life is better
When everything is the same

Divided/The world is divided
If you want to dance with me/Choose any path

Hearing this melody/I decide to dance
Maybe I can see in your eyes/That you’d rather sit

You like quiet/And I talk nonstop
It’s fun, even magical/Seeing from another point of view

Without trying to understand/I find it perfect
Our difference is the reflection of the world
It’s a worn-out idea/Believing that life is better
When everything is the same

Divided/The world is divided
If you want to dance with me/Choose any path

Birds are right to migrate/Flying for a change of air and place
Crossing the storm/Not afraid to discover what is new

Divided/The world is divided
If you want to dance with me/Choose any path
If you want to dance with me/Choose any path
If you want to dance with me…

Choose any path

 

Hoy Como Ayer / Today, Just Like Yesterday feat. Pablo Milanés
Alex Cuba & Fernando Osorio 

Today, just like yesterday/I look at eternity
To understand the covenant of my being/With the universe

Today, just like yesterday/Time doesn’t exist
Because I’m still the same dreamer/Of past seasons

And I love like that still/Without hiding who I am
Without haste or fear/Without guilt or betrayal

Dance as if there is hope/Reach for the cry that resonates in my throat
She is the center of my sun/The reason why today I feel desire
I feel desire

She wakes me in the morning/In her most natural and tender manner
She is the center of my universe/The heart for which today I feel desire

Today, just like yesterday/Our fear surrenders
When we lay bare happiness/In every moment

Today like yesterday/And perhaps tomorrow
There will be words to fall in love with/Our feelings

And I love like that still/Without hiding who I am
Without haste or fear/Without guilt or betrayal
Dance as if  there is hope/Reach for the cry that resonates in my throat
She is the center of my universe/The reason why today I feel desire
I feel desire
She wakes me up in the morning/In her most natural and tender manner
She is the center of my universe/The heart for which today I feel desire

 


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