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In the short space of the few months since the completion of their four-song demo, the Afro-Cuban hip-hop funk band YERBA BUENA has become a critical favorite, a potent club attraction, and a very exciting new name on the Gotham music scene.
The group is led and guided by Andres Levin - a gifted songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist whose skills are currently in high demand throughout the fast-growing world of "Latin alternative" music. The Caracas-born Levin has produced albums for Aterciopelados, Los Amigos Invisibles, El Gran Silencio, Ely Guerra, Carlinhos Brown, Moreno Veloso, and La Portuaria, and cut tracks with Caetano Veloso and Marisa Monte. A New York resident since 1989, Andres' resumé includes writing and/or producing for artists ranging from Chaka Khan and Tina Turner to David Byrne and Arto Lindsay. His most recent credits include D'Angelo, Macy Gray, Dead Prez, and Me'Shell Ndegeocello, and he is currently collaborating with Ricky Martin on music for his next Columbia album.
Yerba Buena's sound is a product of Levin's vision: a blend of Afrobeat, funk, hip hop, and pop elements with a firm Cuban foundation, richly melodic and intensely percussive. The recent arrival from Cuba of the acclaimed vocalist Xiomara Laugart and the gifted songwriter and bassist Descemer Bueno gave Levin the core musicians needed to form the band. Their flexible approach was exactly what was necessary to move into the studio. Levin's production skills are evident on this surprising demo in which he has managed to assemble so many elements into an effortless, energized sound.
The front line of Yerba Buena is Xiomara, Descemer, and two other young, top-notch Cuban players: Pedro "Manotas" Martinez (congas/vocals) and Ahmed Barosso (guitars/vocals). After attending one of their earliest showcases in New York, Ben Ratliff of The New York Times hailed Yerba Buena as "one of New York's best new dance bands, mixing up the Latin boogaloo of the '60s, Cuban religious music, some American soul, and Fela-like Afrobeat."