photo courtesy of artist

Adonis Puentes & the Voice of Cuba Orchestra

Cuban son Cuba by way of Vancouver, British Columbia
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Photo Credit: photo courtesy of artist
photo courtesy of artist

Adonis Puentes has said, “My mission in life is to share my music, giving people joy.” Propelled by the rhythms of his sextet, the Voice of Cuba Orchestra, the multitalented Puentes—an accomplished guitarist, percussionist, and songwriter—transports listeners to Cuba, his birthplace, through the mesmerizing sounds of son.

Son comes out of the centuries-old Afro-Cuban musical tradition, which married African percussion to the melodies and instrumentation of the Spanish cancion. After the abolition of slavery in 1886, many Cubans of African heritage moved from rural areas to the cities, and by the start of the 20th century, son emerged from this working-class rural/urban interchange. Son matured in the 1920s, becoming the island’s preeminent musical style, featuring a sextet configuration of guitar, tres (triple-stringed guitar), bongos, claves, maracas, and double bass. As the city of Havana became a cosmopolitan center, teeming with Americans looking to avoid Prohibition, soneros embraced the hot, new sounds of American jazz, introduced by the visiting musicians. Before long, a horn section became an integral component of son. Although eclipsed in popularity by newer genres in the 1940s, son remains a foundational Cuban style, a key inspiration for contemporary genres like salsa and timba. Even before Buena Vista Social Club’s mid-1990s recordings sparked a worldwide revival of interest in classic son, those same musicians had already inspired a new generation of Cuban soneros like Adonis Puentes.

Adonis Puentes was born in 1974 in Artemesia, a small town in the western part of Cuba. The atmosphere was rich with music: it drifted daily into the Puentes home from the Casa de Cultura across the street. Adonis’ father, Valentin Puentes, was a respected instructor at the cultural center, and he taught Adonis and twin brother Alexis (the musician Alex Cuba) to sing and play guitar. By age six, the boys were performing in a children’s guitar ensemble. At home they jammed with their father’s visiting friends, musicians like the legendary Ibrahim Ferrer. Adonis began writing his own songs as a young teenager, and at 21 gained national notice as a finalist on a televised Cuban salsa and son competition. In 1998, the Puentes brothers moved to Canada, and in 2005 Adonis began his solo career. He has played with legends like Ruben Blades, Celia Cruz, and Eddie Palmieri. A Grammy® nod and multiple Juno (Canadian Grammy) nominations later, Adonis Puentes is recognized as one of the Cuban diaspora’s leading young bandleaders. None other than Juan de Marcos, leader of the Afro-Cuban All Stars and a driving force behind the Buena Vista Social Club, has called Adonis Puentes a “verdadero sonero,” a true sonero.

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