October is Latin American Heritage Month in Canada, a celebration of the cultures, achievements, and contributions of the Latin American community. The Latin American diaspora has vastly enriched the nation’s cultural scene in a number of ways, particularly when it comes to music. To celebrate and commemorate this month, we are highlighting a few of the many Latin American musicians who have brought their distinctive rhythms and melodies to Canada’s musical landscape.
Alex Cuba, a Cuban-born, Canada-based singer-songwriter defies musical conventions, blending Cuban traditions with global influences. His deep immersion in music from a young age laid the foundation for his impressive career, which took off after relocating to Canada. Here, he gained recognition for his first two solo albums Humo De Tobaco and Agua Del Pozo. As a multi-award-winning artist, including JUNO, Latin Grammy, and Grammy accolades, Cuba’s music transcends borders by infusing the heart and soul of Cuban music with North American elements.
Lhasa de Sela known as Lhasa was a remarkably talented trilingual musician who created music in Spanish, French and English. Despite her tragic passing in 2010 from breast cancer, her distinctive blend of Latin folk paired with her evocative storytelling has made a lasting impact on Canadian music. Lhasa, who viewed her music as a way to connect people, described it as “a way of breaking the solitude, of letting you show yourself and other people that we are all together and all living the same experience.” Her JUNO-winning debut album, La Llorona, a poetic homage to her Mexican heritage, continues to be celebrated as a masterpiece.
Oscar Lopez is a multi-JUNO Award-winning artist hailing from Santiago, Chile. His musical journey, influenced by his early experience with the violin and mandolin, eventually led him to master the nylon-string guitar. Currently based in Calgary, Alberta, Oscar’s music seamlessly combines Latin influence with jazz, blues, and pop elements. His infectious rhythms and guitar mastery on his albums My Destiny Mi Destino and Armando’s Fire have earned him two JUNO Awards for Instrumental Album of the Year.
Hilario Durán, a JUNO-winning jazz pianist and composer born in Havana, Cuba, has become a fixture on the Toronto music scene. Renowned for his exceptional jazz compositions, Durán’s music resonates with the vibrant rhythms of Latin jazz. With a career spanning decades, he has collaborated with world-class musicians and released critically acclaimed albums such as From the Heart and Motion. Duran’s innovative approach to jazz, infused with his Cuban heritage, has earned him accolades and established him as a trailblazer in the genre.
OKAN, the dynamic JUNO-winning musical duo composed of Grammy and Latin-Grammy nominees Elizabeth Rodriguez and Magdelys Savigne, brilliantly intertwines Afro-Cuban roots with jazz, folk, and global rhythms. Named after the Afro-Cuban word for heart in Santeria, their music encapsulates the spirit of cultural unity and delves into themes of immigration, resistance, and love. Their album Espiral which took home the JUNO for World Music Album of the Year, stands as a testament to their mastery of blending diverse eras and genres of Cuban music with a contemporary 21st-century language.
Featured image: JUNO Songwriters’ Circle. Alex Cuba. Jack Singer Theatre – Arts Commons, Calgary, AB. April 3, 2016. Photo: CARAS/iPhoto