Born in Pativilca, Peru, 100 miles north of Lima, Alex Acuña was born into a musical family that inspired him and helped shape him as a musician. His father and five brothers were all musicians. Alex taught himself how to play the drums from the age of four. By the time Alex turned ten, he was already playing in local bands. As a teenager, he moved to Lima and became one of Peru’s most accomplished session drummers, performing on many recording projects for artists, as well as film and television productions.
In Lima, Alex also earned a glowing reputation for his live performances. So much so, that at the age of eighteen, Alex was chosen by the great Latin band leader, Perez Prado, to join his big band. It was with the Prado band that Alex first traveled to the United States. In 1966, Alex moved to Puerto Rico to work as a studio musician and play locally. During this period, he also studied for three years at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, playing as a classical percussionist with the Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the famed Spanish cellist master Pablo Casals.
Alex moved to Las Vegas in 1974, where he played with such greats as Elvis Presley and Diana Ross, Paul Anka Olivia Newton John. Between 1975 and 1977, he made part of jazz history when he became both drummer and percussionist for one of the most innovative and pioneering jazz groups of our time, Weather Report. He first performed as percussionist (October 1975 to April 1976), and later as drummer (April 1976 to October 1977). He recorded two albums with the group: “Black Market” (1976) and the highly successful “Heavy Weather” (1977), which included the famous tracks “Birdland” and “Havona.” “Heavy Weather” became the first jazz-fusion album to sell a million copies.
Alex next moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1978 where he quickly earned the position of a valued session drummer and percussionist for recordings, television and motion pictures. His countless album credits include such diverse artist as U2, Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, Whitney Houston, Sergio Mendes, Yellow Jackets, Chic Corea, Julio Iglesias, Koinonia, Juan Gabriel, Luis Miguel, Placido Domingo, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul and also has performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, Metropole Orchestra. Alex has also performed live with the likes of Al Jarreau, Bobby McFerrin Roberta Flack, Antonio Carlos Jobim, The Gipsy Kings, Paco de Lucia, Celia Cruz, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, Christina Aguilera and Tito Puente, Roy Orbison, Bruce Springstein, name a few. Additionally, Alex has recorded film scores under the direction of Dave Grusin, Alan Silvestri, Michele Legrand, Bill Conti, Michele Colombier, Marvin Hamlish, Maurice Jarre, Mark Isham, Michael Gianchino, John Powell, Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Lalo Schiffrin, and others. He became the recipient of many awards and honors including the Emeritus MVP award from NARAS (National Academy of Recording for the Arts and Sciences) and winner of the “Best Latin/Brazilian Percussionist” of Modern Drummer’s Readers Poll for fifteen consecutive years.
Alex’s South American and Caribbean roots and understanding of contemporary and classical music make him a complete and skilled master musician. In 2000, Alex Acuña y Su Acuarela De Tambores received a Grammy nomination for “Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album” for “Rhythms for a New Millennium”. This solo album included varying styles of Latin, South American and African percussion. The nomination confirmed Alex’s vast knowledge and expertise of percussion rhythms. Zan Stewart of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Alex Acuña is the epitome of the world music percussionist, to whom no style is a stranger”.
Alex also received two Latin Grammy nominations in 2003. Los Hijos del Sol “To My Country”, which was released by his independent record label – NIDO Entertainment. The second Latin Grammy nomination came for Tolu’s “Bongo de Van Gogh” released by Tonga Productions. In 2004, Alex released his follow up album by Alex Acuña and the Unknowns titled “No Accent”. In addition, Alex has composed music for various artists and produced “Thinking of You” by Alex Acuña and the Unknowns, “Rumberos Poetry” by Tolú and “Aliyah” by Kay Silberling. This year will see the release of some new DVD projects for Drum Channel.
Alex is widely known as an educator, gifted teacher and clinician of drums and percussion. He has recorded four solo instructional videos and provides seminars at universities such as UC Los Angeles, Berklee School of Music in Boston. USC and other top international schools of music. DW Drums, Zildjian Cymbals, GonBops Percussion, Vic Firth, D’Addario – Evans Drums heads and Shure microphones all sponsor Alex. He is also credited with the design of Zildjian’s “Azuka” line of cymbals, signature Vic Firth sticks and the caddy stick bag, the Alex Acuña line of Signature percussion instruments with GonBops – 4 Special Edition Congas, 5 Cow Bells, Timbales, Bongos and his own Special Edition Peruvian Cajon, handmade in Peru.
Innovation, energy and pure heart characterize Alex’s playing. It is easy to see why Alex Acuña is one of the most sought after musicians of our time. Alex recognizes his music as a gift from the Lord Jesus and gives all the glory to God!