Alex Acuña'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.
Born in Pativilca, Peru, 100 miles north of Lima, 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. Acuña taught himself how to play the drums from the age of 4. By the time he turned 10, 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, Acuña also earned a glowing reputation for his live performances. So much so that at the age of 18 he was chosen by the great Latin band leader, Perez Prado, to join his big band. It was with the Prado band that Acuña first traveled to the United States. In 1967, he 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.
Acuña moved to Las Vegas in 1974, where he played with such greats as Elvis Presley and Diana Ross. 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 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.
Acuña next moved to Los Angeles 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, Chick Corea, Julio Iglesias, Koinonia, Juan Gabriel, Luis Miguel, Placido Domingo, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, and many more. Acuña has also performed live with the likes of Al Jarreau, Roberta Flack, Antonio Carlos Jobim, the Gipsy Kings, Paco de Lucia, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, Christina Aguilera, and Tito Puente, to name a few. Additionally, he has recorded film scores under the direction of Dave Grusin, Alan Silvestri, Michel Legrand, Bill Conti, Michel Colombier, Marvin Hamlish, Maurice Jarre, Mark Isham, Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Lalo Schifrin, 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 five consecutive years.
Acuña 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 College of Music, and other top international schools of music. DW Drums, Zildjian Cymbals, Gon Bops Percussion, Gibraltar, Vic Firth, Evans, and Shure microphones all sponsor Acuña. 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 signature line of congas, bongos, timbales, cajons, and bells from Gon Bops Percussion.