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Yerba Buena - Profile of Latin Funk's Yerba Buena

By

Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena

Courtesy Razor & Tie

Music:

Eclectic and electric fusion of Latin groove, funk and hip-hop

Core Band Members:

  • Andres Levin - Guitar, Electronics, MD
  • CuCu Diamantes - Vocals
  • Xiomara Laugart - Vocals
  • Pedro Martinez - Percussion, Vocals
  • El Chino - Vocals
  • Sebastian Steinberg - Bass
  • Terreon Gully - Drums
  • Skoots Warner - Drums
Watching Yerba Buena perform is a banquet for the senses. First there’s the sound of Afro-Cuban traditional rhythms and melodies, some mixed with Colombian cumbia, usually a dollop of Nuyorican funk, lots of hip-hop, the sound of steel drums in one number followed by a conga solo or just about any other energetic world music rhythm that catches the group’s imagination.
Visually, this is a band that never stops moving. They seem to have fun with every song, teasing each other, broadly winking at the double-entendres suggested by the song lyrics (which are often outrageous and hilarious) and performing at an all-out, high energy, foot stomping, hip swiveling, infectious, boogaloo pace.

Multi-cultural Cast:

With a core musical cast that comes from Cuba, Venezuela, St. Thomas, Colombia, Brazil and the U.S., Yerba Buena (which means ‘Good Grass’ or ‘Good Weed” and was the original name of the city of San Francisco) is most often described as a ‘collective’ of musicians rather than just a band; live concerts often include special guests such as John Leguizamo, Les Nubians, Orishas, M1 of Dead Prez, Gogol Bordello – well, the list goes on.

At the Helm - Andres Levin:

Andres Levin arrived from Venezuela in 1989. In the ensuing years, he wrote and produced music for artists like Chaka Khan, Tina Turner and David Byrne. More recently he became involved in the Latin alternative music world, producing albums for Aterciopelados and Los Amigos Invisibles, among others.

In 2002, he and Cuban CuCu Diamnates (real name Ilena Padron, and Levin’s wife) started Yerba Buena with the goal of creating a new and distinctive urban sound. His concept was that the group would be a living, breathing workshop, collaborating with a caravan of artists that were open to experimentation and shared his vision of taking urban Latin music in new, ever evolving directions. There is little doubt that he is succeeding in his goal.

President Alien:

Yerba Buena's debut album, President Alien (a wordplay on Levin's status as a 'resident alien'), was released in 2003, and was an immediate succes as well as earning a Grammy nomination as Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album. The 12-track President Alien also included a list of guest artists including Brazilian percussionist Carlinhos Brown, jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove,rapper Sticman of Dead Prez and keyboardist Money Mark.

Island Life:

Island Life was released in 2005 and cements Yerba Buena's reputation as a group that continues to evolve. With surprises like the double entendres in "Bilingual Girl" ("two tongues are better than one")and the hilarious "Bla Bla Bla", an ode to empty rhetoric with some great bloopers by President Bush, there's a novel idea, lyric or musical fusion with every track. Yerba Buena's music is hot, fun and very, very danceable. It's not surprising that Island Life's "Sugar Daddy" was nominated for the 2006 Billboard Latin Music Awards in the "Latin Dance Club Play Track of the Year" category.

So don't just sit there. Listen to Yerba Buena and have some fun!

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