Yovany Alas

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The son of a traditional Cuban singer of guajira, Yovany Alas began living in the United States when he was a teenager. American culture obviously had a serious impact on him, an opportunity to jam with…
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The son of a traditional Cuban singer of guajira, Yovany Alas began living in the United States when he was a teenager. American culture obviously had a serious impact on him, an opportunity to jam with Alice Cooper perhaps representing the depth of his submersion in Americana. That detail could easily evoke a reaction of "Alas!" -- the word, not the name -- from Cuban music listeners who are purists. Yet the young Alas -- the singer, not the sigh -- has a musical background that actually seems an almost even mix of American, Cuban, and European influences. His father, Carlos Alas del Casino, was a major performer from the '40s through the '60s who eventually moved his family to Miami. The female head of the household was Parisian, completing a triangle of cultural diversion.

Singing was something Yovany Alas began at an extremely early age, allowing him plenty of years to enjoy an instinctive approach of childish enjoyment before getting slapped around by the music business. His own biographical material makes the claim that at the age of three he had "started to master" the singer/songwriter's basic skills of writing poetry and setting it to music. Alas began stroking a classical guitar at eight, going on to pursue serious study of music theory. By 11 he had begun performing on television in Havana. Two years later the entire family fled Cuba, apparently under pressure and with an initial result of the young Alas losing interest in creativity for at least a year.

In his last years as a teenager, Alas relocated to New York City and began a new series of collaborative ensemble ventures. It is quite possible that he, or some other Miami transplant, came up with the combo name of Cold Winter. Alas was the lead singer for this outfit, which during the mid-'70s worked at a variety of trendy Manhattan clubs. At one such venue Alas wound up meeting the aforementioned glam rock maestro when both performers answered to a name shouted with a Brooklyn accent, something halfway between Alas and "Alice." Fans of Latin rock fusion who feel Santana never went far enough may lie awake at night wondering what happened to a jam session tape from the infamous Studio 54 featuring the obviously contrasting singers, obviously a project that should be called "Alas Cooper."

Alas' career continued with another Miami sojourn, a diversion into work as a percussionist with a lounge group, the Blue Notes. When his own wife and children finally arrived from Cuba in 1978, Alas left full-time music for a bit more than a decade. The family relocated to Sarasota and Alas began a busy schedule of activity: first the Lotus Fire, then the new Yovany and Latin Passion, in which he performs with his wife, singer and dancer Lydia Alas. Another member is skilled Latin pianist Pepe Olarte. The Alas repertoire has begun to look back into the body of music performed by his father, classics such as "Contigo en la Distancia," "Perfidia," and "MaƱana de Carnaval."