Leslie Grace Teams Up with Meek Mill for Bacardi’s Remake of Gloria Estefan’s Iconic Song “Conga”

Leslie Grace is letting her body do the conga…

The 26-year-old Dominican American singer-songwriter has joined voiced with rapper Meek Mill to release a reimagining of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine’s smash hit single “Conga.”

Leslie Grace & Meek Mill

The new version, which gives the ‘80s party banger a rhythmic-pop-urban twist, is part of Bacardi‘s “Conga Feat. You” campaign that launched in November.

“Bacardi presented this amazing plan, where they wanted me to recreate ‘Conga,’” Leslie Grace tells Billboard. “I couldn’t believe it was possible but they assured me that both Gloria and Emilio [Estefan] were on board. They wanted to entrust me with this project and I couldn’t pass on the opportunity.”

Calling the process “innovative,” Grace explained that the project originally began at the end of 2019 but was put on pause because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“I went into the studio pre-Covid with Boi-1da. We immediately hit it off. I had written the first verse and the pre onto a loop he had sent me,” she notes. “Everything else was basically done remotely. Meek Mill jumped on the track later on after listening to the structure we built.”

The Estefans were also part of the process “every step of the way.”

Grace adds: “Everyone was really focused on maintaining the essence of this iconic track. Having their support and suggestions was beautiful. They approved every single thing on the project. This was really a labor of love and really intentional every step of the way with the original creators involved.”

“Conga” was the first Billboard Hot 100 hit for Gloria and Miami Sound Machine, peaking at No. 10 in February 1986. The song also hit No. 1 on Dance Singles Sales for one week in November 1985, and No. 7 on Dance Club Songs. The new version, at the helm of Grace, Mill, and Boi-1da, marks the first and only official remake of the original Latin dance classic in over 30 years.

“I’m a nineties baby, my generation grew up with ‘Conga’ and I grew up listening and dancing to the song in my living room,” Grace recounts. “Gloria is an inspiration to me. She’s one of the first artists I saw singing in both languages. I feel so honored and blessed to do this with Boi-1da and Meek Mill.”

Lucrecia’s “Celia Cruz: The Musical!” to Open in New York City’s Lehman Center in November

Lucrecia is ready to bring a legend’s story to life in the Big Apple…

The Lehman Center for the Performing Arts has just announced the New York premiere of Celia Cruz: The Musical!, starring the 52-year-old Cuban singer as the late Queen of Salsa, scheduled for November 16. 

lucrecia-as-celia-cruz-the-musical

The show, which premiered at the Starlite Festival in Marbella, Spain, and has been performed at Miami’s Adrienne Arscht Center, was written and directed by Gonzalo Rodríguez and Jeffry Batista, with Omer Pardillo-Cid, the executor of the Celia Cruz Estate, as executive producer.

Pardillo has described Cruz as “a black woman, who was poor, who left Cuba and conquered the world,” becoming, he says, “the Lady Gagaof her time.” 

The musical, which Pardillo ensures tells the true story of the woman known all over the world as the “salsa queen,” re-creates Cruz’s final concert before her death in 2003 at age 77, flashing back to episodes cued by well-known songs, from “Quimbara”to “La Negra Tiene Tumbao.”

Celia Cruz

“Celia conquered the world with her voice and her huge heart,” Lucrecia says. “She was noble, a woman of the old school. She remembered everyone’s name. You’d meet her once and she’d be sending you postcards for the rest of her life.”

During the show, Lucrecia makes 18 costume changes, wearing dresses and wigs that a Miami seamstress painstakingly copied from Cruz’s original show wardrobe. The singer performs monologues that encapsulate different periods of Cruz’s life, setting up songs that took her career from Cuba, where as a young woman she had her big break with La Sonora Matancera, to the heady days of New York salsa with the Fania All Stars, to her later years as an international icon.

“My admiration, respect and love for Celia runs very deep,” Lucrecia says. “I do the show with love, without any sense of rivalry or trying to take her place. I come out on stage to bring her alive.”

Lucrecia, whose given name is Lucrecia Pérez-Saéz, became known in Cuba as a lead vocalist and pianist with the iconic all-women band Anacaona. In 1993, she settled in Barcelona and formed her own group. The Latin Grammynominee (for 2010’s Álbum de Cuba), frequently recognized on the street by her trademark colored braids, is now a household name in Spain for her role as the singing host of the children’s television series Los Lunnis; she also appears in movie based on the series that premiered in Spanish theaters early this year. 

Lucrecia is set to receive recognition as the Best Latin American Children’s Movie Actress and Best Children’s Music Singer at the Premios Latino 2019 awards in Marbella in September.

In 1998, Lucrecia appeared with Cruz, the great bassist Israel “Cachao” Lopez and actor, musician and producer Andy Garcia at an event organized by Bacardi rum in Marbella.

 “I met her at the press conference,” she recalls. “I was so nervous.” During that presentation, Cruz called Lucrecia her successor.  Lucrecia wrote a song in Cruz’s honor, “Agua con Azucar y Ron.”

Lucrecia recalls Cruz calling her when she was pregnant, and later bringing gifts for her son. “La Vida Es un Carnaval” was the first song that Lucrecia sang to him in the hospital. They remained friends until the end of Cruz’s life.

Celia’s career was long, and when you have a career like that you can start on one path and then take another,” notes Lucrecia. “Of course, there are evolutions,” she says, pointing to Cruz’s 2001, “La Negra Tiene Tumbao,” which has an urban beat and premiered accompanied by a fabulous video by Cuban director Ernesto Fundora

“Reggaeton was just coming out at that time, and there she was, doing reggaeton!

“They called her the queen of salsa,” Lucrecia adds, “but she was always the guarachera de Cuba. It was always about her Cuba, and taking it with her around the world.”

Swizz Beatz Hosting Three-Day Art & Concert Series at Art Basel Miami Beach

Swizz Beatz is bringing a mix of art and music to Art Basel Miami Beach this year.

The 37-year-old half-Puerto Rican hip-hop artist and record producer is collaborating with Bacardi for a three-day art and concert series at North America’s foremost international modern and contemporary art fair next month to showcase up-and-coming artists — both visual and musical — on a platform that will also feature performances from Alicia Keys, Pusha T, A-Trak, DMX and Wiz Khalifa, among others.

Swizz Beatz

The collaboration, called Casa Bacardi at Wynwood, will be curated by Beatz’s The Dean Collection and encompass two separate yet connected events.

The first, running from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Dec. 3-5, is a No Commission Art Fair, where artists will be allowed to showcase their work for free and take home 100 percent of their proceeds, a departure from the industry standard where galleries both take a percentage of profits and charge for booth space.

The second, running from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. each night, is the Bacardi Untameable House Party, a concert series with both established and emerging musicians and DJs.

“It’s by the artist, for the artist, with the people,” Swizz tells Billboard. “And I think a lot of people forgot the message of why they’re even going down to Basel. You’re going down to Basel because there are amazing, creative artists who took a lot of time out of their lives to put together some masterpieces and hope for entry in a great collection or for somebody to be inspired. And not taking anything away from Basel or from the galleries, but I just chose to do something different. And I think the world needs more powerful collaborations that are willing to push the envelope and not really follow the necessary rules that are laid out.”

Swizz’s connection to the art world goes beyond his own Dean Collection; he also joined the board of the Brooklyn Museum in October and has been curating at Basel for years.

“This is something that just has to happen,” he says. “Because if we’re not pushing the envelope, then who do we expect to do it? I think the most important part of the message is the give back factor. And the other part of the give back factor is having a brand like Bacardi supporting that. There’s no punch line, there’s no catch. This is a genuine thing.”

The No Commission Art Fair will be free and open to the public, while each night’s House Party will be free via RSVP.

“We totally connected on the need to help fuel the hustle and provide artists with a stage to showcase their passions,” says Zara Mirza, head of creative excellence at Bacardi. “Bacardi has a deep heritage in music and the arts, from Prohibition parties in Havana, Cuba in the 1920s to some of our more modern partnerships like the Untameable Artist Series.”

Artists showing at The No Commission Art Fair:
KAWS
BK The Artist
SWOON
Jenks Imaging
Cyrcle
David Choong Lee
D*Face
Wolfbat
Derrick Adams
HOXXOH
Doze Green
Dustin Yellin
Eddie Colla
Gabriel Dawe
Gordon Parks Foundation
Gregory Siff
Hebru Brantley
Hyon Gyon
Jaybo Monk
Jerome Lagarrigue
Jill Greenberg
Kehinde Wiley
Lyle Owerko
Maya Hayuk
Michael Kagan
Michael Vasquez
Mickalene Thomas
Sandra Chevrier
Sanford Biggers
Sean HRT
Shepard Fairey
So Youn Lee
Sue Tsai
Timothy Buwalda
Todd James
Tomokazu Matsuyama
Miss Van
CRYPTIK
Zio Zigler