As Andres Levin will tell you, even he has trouble explaining his career and life in a succinct, organized, bite sized way. He’s a record producer, bandleader, filmmaker, composer, philanthropist, New Yorker, Venezuelan, Jew, funk practitioner, latin soul ambassador, big picture guy with a granular understanding of the mechanics of the business for over 30 years.
Andres grew up in Venezuela, a child of immigrants (an exile baby, he calls himself), Jewish, his father is an electronic musician. But in middle school he ended up spending time in North Carolina where he connected with black culture and music. After heading back to Venezuela for high school he ended up moving to Boston and then New York for two years of college. But quickly he left school and started assisting the legendary producer Nile Rogers. So before he was 25 he had worked on records for the B-52’s, Chic, Chaka Khan, CeCe Peniston, Tina Turner, even Eddie Murphy.
Then he started thinking about how to apply his already not insignificant experience to Latin music, and produced a series of groundbreaking and genre defying records that would impact modern Latin music (Los Amigos Invisibles, Aterciopelados, Ely Guerra, Marisa Monte, and his own band Yerba Buena to name a few). He has had some notably lengthy creative relationships with the likes of Arto Lindsay, David Byrne and the singer Cucu Diamantes.
For more than 15 years, he has spent at least half his time in Havana, and is deeply enmeshed in the Cuban scene, both as a musician and a culture broker - he organized the first TED conferences in Havana, and works as a liaison for foreign projects on the ground in Cuba.
He tells me that he spent much of 2020 quarantining in an apartment in Havana, operating his international business from an island that is notoriously disconnected from much of the rest of the world. That’s how he ended up, after three decades of being the guy behind the guy, writing and singing the song “Ode To Quarantine” and then filming a kind of retro futuristic post apocalyptic video for his love song dedicated to the virus.
We talked about where he is, how he got there, how long he plans on staying, and where he’s going next. Along the way we also talk about learning how to produce, being comfortable in any room, programing synthesizers, eating sushi all day, and when to turn up the kick drum.