Yerba Buena (band)
Yerba Buena is a Grammy-nominated fusion band based out of New York City. The project was started by Venezuelan songwriter, producer and instrumentalist Andres Levin, and Singer, Composer Cucu Diamantes who brought Cuban composer Descemer Bueno to New York. All worked together during the conception of the band, but soon after Bueno left the group to pursue a solo career. The original lineup included Cuban singer Percussionist Pedrito Martinez and singer Xiomara Laugart.
Yerba Buena's music (as described by Razor and Tie, the band's record label) is a blend of African-rooted Latin music (Cuban Rumba, Colombian cumbia, Pan-Caribbean Soca, and Cuban Boogaloo) with hip-hop, Motown soul, West African Afrobeat with a dash of Middle Eastern themes.
Prior to the release of their album President Alien, Yerba Buena collaborated with Me'Shell NdegéOcello on a track titled "Gentleman" for the Red Hot Organization's tribute compilation album for Fela Kuti, Red Hot and Riot. They also appeared on a track called "Colonial Mentality" for the CD. The Paul Heck produced album was critically acclaimed and donated all its proceeds to various AIDS charities.
The band's debut album, President Alien, was released on April 15, 2003. For the recording of the album, Levin and Diamantes invited several colleagues with whom he had collaborated in the past, including:
- singer Xiomara Laugart
- singer/bassist Meshell Ndegeocello;
- Brazilian singer-songwriter and percussionist Carlinhos Brown;
- guitarist Marc Ribot;
- keyboardist Money Mark;
- jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove;
- rapper Stic.man (of Dead Prez fame);
- drummers Horacio “El Negro” Hernández and Terreon “Tank” Gully;
- bassist Sebastian Steinberg, and a host of other artists.
- Guajira (I Love U 2 Much)
- Tu Casa, Mi Casa
- La Gringa
- Solito Me Quede
- Electric Boogaloo
- Wassamatter Baby?
- Bote Bote Va
- Follow Me
- Definition of a Warrior
- Rompe El Cuero
President Alien was an immediate success. In 2004, the 12-track album was nominated for the Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album Grammy Award. The band supported the debut CD with extensive touring.
August 2005 saw the arrival of Island Life, the band's second album. This CD focuses more on hip-hop but without abandoning the band's Afro-Cuban rhythmic heritage.
- El Burrito
- Sugar Daddy (single version featuring Celia Cruz & Les Nubians)
- La Vida La Life
- Belly Dancer
- La Candela featuring Orishas
- Corazon Bandolero
- Bilingual Girl
- Bla Bla Bla
- Cityzen Citysoy
- Te Estoy Amando Locamente
The popularity of the band has taken the group to play at multiple summer festivals such as Central Park Summerstage, The Hollywood Bowl, The Newport Jazz Festival, Montreal’s Nuits D’Afrique and Tempo Latino in France among others.
Ben Ratliff of The New York Times has described Yerba Buena as “one of New York’s best new dance bands, mixing up the Latin boogaloo of the 60’s, Cuban religious music, some American soul and Fela-like Afrobeat. It’s a history of the transmission of Yoruban culture in a nutshell, and it’s a good party.”
Since Island Life, both Diamantes and Laugart recorded solo albums, with both artists veering closer to traditional Cuban music, while Yerba Buena is yet to release a third CD. Diamantes placed the emphasis on her own compositions, while Laugart recorded the classics "Manicero", "Son de la Loma" and "Besame Mucho", among others.
Current Band Members
- Andres Levin – Guitar, Electronics, MD
- Cucu Diamantes - Vocals
- Pedrito Martinez – Percussion, Vocals
- Skoota Warner - Drums
- Ron Blake – Saxophone, Flute, Vocalss
- Alfredo De La Fé - Violin
- Mauricio Herrera - Percussion