Über Yerba Buena
Co-founded by producer Andres Levin (of Red Hot and Rio fame) and vocalist Ileana Padron (aka CuCu Diamantes), Latin soul/funk/rap collective Yerba Buena was born in Manhattan but owes as much to Cuba as New York. Fusing son, salsa, boogaloo and rap, the group's 2003 release, President Alien, was a sleeper hit, slowly gaining a small but devoted fan base thanks to their audacious disregard for pop norms and eminently danceable music. When "Guajira (I Love U 2 Much)" was featured in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, the group's fortunes improved, and 2005's Island Life had a much higher profile release, as evidenced by the multiple reggaeton remixes of first single "Sugar Daddy." The album also saw the group casting a wider musical net and coming up with new influences, including Afrobeat, flamenco and Middle Eastern pop. Sadly, Cuban bassist and songwriter Descemer Bueno left the group because of creative differences before Island Life was released, and his absence is evident.