The Canadian musical scene, especially Toronto’s, is being increasingly influenced by styles, artists and sounds from Latin America and the Caribbean. The country’s extraordinary ethnic diversity has attracted talent from every corner of the earth, which has been blended with artists that import different cultural legacies and traditions, thus creating a priceless musical universe. The Canadian people, who like Caribbean and Latin American music, have embraced these new artists. They have found in Canada a perfect country to develop their talent, share their influences and musically grow. We have handpicked eight artists as representatives of the dynamic Latin American-Caribbean scene in Canada. Some of them are acclaimed artists with long careers and there are young prospects that explore new languages and fusions. There are many more, but this is a small sample.
HILARIO DURÁN (CUBA)
Hilario Durán is one of the heavyweight artists in Cuban music and one of the most acclaimed representatives of jazz in Canada. As a pianist, songwriter, orchestra director and arranger, Duran was a member of Arturo Sandoval’s band(1981-1990), performed at the main jazz festivals around the world and shared stage with such legendary musicians as Dizzy Gillespie and songwriter-arranger Michel Legrand. Duran created his own band in 1990, “Perspectiva”, which was very successful throughout Latin American and Europe. He moved to Canada in 1998 joined Afro-Cuban jazz band “Spirit of Havana” led by Jane Bunnett, one of the most outstanding figures of Canadian jazz and fan of Cuban music. He has performed in numerous stages and festivals worldwide with his Latin American jazz band. The group was nominated to the Grammy Awards as the best Latin American jazz album in 2007 for “From the Heart“, with Paquito D’Rivera. Hilario has won three Juno Awards and over a dozen national jazz awards, as well as prestigious “Chico O’Farrill Lifetime Achievement Award”.
MICHIE MEE (JAMAICA)
Michie Mee is a veteran in the music world in Canada. She is especially known for her original rap style that combines reggae and dancehall with hip-hop. Mee sings in both Anglo-Saxon English and Jamaican English (known as patois), so her range and rhymes are beyond the reach of most people. She was born in St. Andrew, Kingston, Jamaica, but she later moved to Toronto. During her teens, she developed her peculiar rap style, which caught the ears of Canadian and American rappers. In 1991, she launched her debut album, “Jamaican Funk: Canadian Style”, with reggae and dancehall elements in a rap concept album. Her “Jamaican Funk” single was nominated to the Juno Awards in 1992. Throughout her career, she has combined her musical facet with her movies and TV actress side. By the end of the decade, Michie Mee made history by signing with First Priority/Atlantic Records, thus becoming the first Canadian rapper to have a contract with an important record company in the United States. “Elements of Style” was Michie’s first single with the US company. Moreover, she won the Roy Thomson Hall Award given by the Toronto Arts Council, which recognizes creative, performing, administrative, voluntary or philanthropic contributions to Toronto’s musical life.
ALEX CUBA (CUBA)
Alex Cuba is a great figure of Latin American and Caribbean music in Canada, its most acclaimed star. Winner of four Latin American Grammies and two Juno Awards, Cuba is a singer and songwriter that has evolved from the tradition of his Cuban origins to contemporary styles and sounds that mix sweet sugar cane melodies, pop-soul and powerful guitar riffs. He is a loose verse within the Latin American musical scene. Throughout his successful musical career (he has launched five albums to date), he has collaborated with such artists as Nelly Furtado, Juan Luis Guerra, Juanes and Ron Sexsmith.
Alexis Puentes was born in Artemisa, Cuba. He joined his father, prestigious guitarist and maestro Valentin Puentes, and a group of 24 guitarists in a performances broadcasted by Cuba’s national television. In 1999, Alex moved to Vancouver –he married a Canadian girl-, where he soon recorded an album entitled “Morumba Cubana“ along with his twin brother Adonis, as The Puentes Brothers. He has won two Juno awards in the Album of the Year category, World Music in 2006 for “Humo De Tabaco“, and in 2008 for his second album, “Agua Del Pozo“.
In 2010, he won the Latin Grammy to the Best New Artist and he was also nominated to the Best Men Pop Vocal Album. Likewise, Mr. Cuba was nominated to the Best Latin American Pop Album in the 53rd edition of the Grammy Awards and, in 2011, he was handed a BMI Latin Award for having written the first Spanish-language hit of Canadian Nelly Furtado, “Manos Al Aire“. In 2012, Alex launched his fourth album “Ruido en el Sistema“ and conquered his second Socan Hagood Hardy Award as recognition to his great work in terms of Jazz and World Music. He also won his second Latin Grammy, as a songwriter this time round. Alex and Yoel Henriquez wrote “Toma mi vida“ for “Aquí estoy yo“ album, by Milly Quezada. They were given the Latin Grammy to the Best Tropical Song. In 2013, he collected another Latin Grammy for the video of “Eres Tu“. The fourth Latin Grammy of his career came in 2015, to the Best Singer-songwriter Album for “Healer”, in which he was also a producer.
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