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- Posted on Mar 13th 2010 11:50AM by Samantha Shrader
Cuban singer and instrumentalist Adonis Puentes is referred to as a Cuban sonero. The term "sonero" comes from the style he plays; the word means "son". It is a traditional Cuban sound from which salsa music was derived. The sound influences him Puentes greatly, though he also feels inspired by jazz, among other styles. Puentes brings this Cuban style and tradition with him and is noted among his fans as being a dynamic live performer. He states that his mission is to "make people dance." But more than that, he is a smooth-voiced troubadour with a message and many stories to tell. Spinner talked to Puentes before he heads to SXSW.
Describe the sound of your music in your own words.
I'd like to say my music is acoustic pure music in modern times, with elements of my culture, roots and traditions. Very friendly -- you don't need to be familiar with Cuban music to get used to it. I like to keep it [with] acoustic sounds. I do my own compositions. I do my own sounds. It's very traditional Cuban music in modern times.
What are your musical influences?
Growing up in Cuba I was exposed to many types of music, including jazz -- which is very important to what I do -- and also funk; a little bit of everything. I take influence from as much as I can.
How did you get started with music?
I've very proud to say that I grew up in a musical family. My father, Valentin Puentes, is a great guitar player and also a musical instructor. My twin brother, Alexis [aka Alex Cuba], is a great composer and musician. We come from a town called Artemisa, a small town [with] about 75,000 people. It's a town rich with cultural traditon. So since I opened my eyes, I remember myself singing and listening to my dad's guitar and also rehearsing. Growing up across the street from a cultural center also gave me a lot of exposure to all kinds of music.
What inspires your lyrics?
Lyrics, you know, when you write music, you write songs. I can write inspired from love, [or] also from nature or a beautiful story. It doesn't have to necessarily be my own story -- [it can be] somebody else's story. Lately, I've been more inclined to write about my revelations, part of growing and learning life. The title of one of my latest songs means 'My Inspiration.' It talks about how important it is to find inspiration at every second, at every moment in life, to keep on living, to be happy and to make the best of every time.
Is Adonis Puentes your given name?
[Laughs] It is my given name. Actually, I would like to mention that back home, it's fairly common ... I know at least two more [people with the name] Adonis. Here in North America, people tell me all the time, "Wow, your mom must have had high expectations for you!" [laughs]. It's a Greek name for a god of beauty. I'd think, if given anything due to that name, I'd say that the beauty comes from within, from the soul. That's the biggest and most important beauty.
You're working on your second album. Does it have a title or many songs written yet?
I have 14 or 15 songs, and I'm hoping to choose 11 for this album. I like the number 11, as it's not to long. You want to get people excited but not to be sitting around for too long. It's important to say what you have to say with beauty and with depth, in a good sense of timing. This will be the first time I've recorded an album with only my own compositions. I'm very excited about it and super happy. It does not have a title yet. But once you hear the album, it's like looking at a newborn baby, and then you can tell the name that suits the album. I'm hoping it will fall in place to release later in the year or beginning of next year. I have big, big dreams for this album. It's going to cover the whole spectrum. It comes from a dance gender of a solero, of which I am a Cuban solero, but also has some beautiful ballads. Most important is the lyrics. I use my revelations of living and my experience in life with lyrics that could perfectly be anyone's story.
What can people expect from your performances?
I like to have different moments in my concerts. I like to have moments just to dance, I like to have moments to listen, I like to end it up in a good climax. If everybody's dancing at the same time and grooving to the music, that's more than fantastic. That's the mission accomplished. It's important to enjoy the moment. I play music to bring that Cuban message and Cuban culture that it's just important to enjoy the moment [and] the blessing at the moment. Basically, that's my expectations of the concert -- that people have a good time, and that people get a good connection with what's happening on the stage. At the end of the day, if I get to say hi to people and shake their hands, that would be mission accomplished.
Do you ever get nervous before a performance?
Always [laughs]! You know, I don't take what I do for granted. I believe that I'm a blessed man. I've been blessed with a voice and with the ability of writing songs. Once you start playing the first or second song, that nervousness becomes a different kind of energy, it becomes more love. From then, I feel much better.
What aspect of Cuban music do you hope to bring to the US?
What I'm trying to bring to North America -- from the point of being a Cuban musician, composer, singer and writer -- I would like to show that it's more than just what sometimes people frame it as. Cuban music is open, [full of] variety, and what I do is mainly based on my own songs. Sometimes you don't understand the language, but you know the feelings and emotions that go beyond the language and cultural barriers. In my case, I would like to share that: Cuban music from the point of view of a person that is young, that's from a new generation of young musicians, and a person that has a message to say beyond just come and dance. Beyond all that, just come and have a good time, listen and enjoy the beauty of music.
What are your musical guilty pleasures?
I'm wide open to all kinds of music and genres. Even though it's been said before, there's only two kinds of music: the good kind and the other kind [laughs]. The more music there is on the planet, it's better for all of us. Music is a gift of the supreme power of God, and it's put here just to make the journey easier for all of us. There's music for every occasion -- for happy moments, sad moments, big moments, slow moments, and it's fantastic. All kinds of music are welcome. I feel if it touches my heart, I feel if it comes from an honest point of view, I'm more than open to listen to the music.
What's in your festival survival kit?
The most important thing to bring is the soul. Bring the soul and the love for the music.
What are your expectations of SXSW?
I would love to connect with a lot of people and share my music, [to] meet as many people as I can and bring my music to many different places. If I play there and people have a good time with my music and pay attention to my music and we enjoy it together, and get the music in front of as many people as I can.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I would like to say for those out there who are music lovers, come to my concert with an open mind. Cuban music is wide open, a different genre. It's not just dance. There's a message in the music. So if you have an idea of what Cuban music is about, just come and listen and see! Each song has a different nature. I invite you to experience the music from the point of view of a Cuban singer and composer.
Samantha Shrader is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.