Descemer Bueno is a Cuban musician, singer, songwriter, and producer whose professional career has seen him work in circles ranging from jazz to hip-hop, traditional son, and Latin pop. In the 21st century, he is regarded as one of the most important figures in contemporary Latin music.
Born in the Alquizar neighborhood of Havana in 1971, Bueno's musical education began at home, but soon became formal. He studied classical guitar and music education at the historic Conservatorio Manuel Saumell y Amadeo Roldánes, and received his degree. He began teaching music and landed his first professional job as the bassist for singer/songwriter Santiago Feliú's band. In addition to being its bassist, he also began writing and arranging for the group.
Bueno started his own jazz band, Estado de Animo, in 1990 with guitarist Elmer Ferrer and pianist Roberto Carcassés. They garnered national attention and toured Europe and South America. When the group split, he continued teaching and performing with numerous groups in clubs and at festivals.
Bueno eventually rejoined Carcassés in Dafnis Prieto's jazz band, Columna B. The band signed to Mas y Mas, recorded their self-titled debut album, and toured America. He relocated to become an artist in residence at San Francisco State University before accepting a position to teach in South Africa for a year. After his tenure there, he returned to the States and moved to New York. He spent time as a session player and associate producer on numerous artists' recordings in both Cuba and America.
Seeing and hearing rap in the Bronx turned Bueno's head around. With Andres Levin, Xiomara Laugart, and Cucu Diamantes, he co-founded the hip-hop group Yerba Buena at the Rincon Criollo Cultural Center. Under the musical direction of Tato Torres, they cut four pioneering albums between 2003 and 2007. They incorporated a wide variety of Caribbean rhythms such as bomba and plena with rap and funk. After Yerba Buena split, Bueno returned to Cuba.
Back at home, Bueno signed to Universal Music Latino and released his first album, Siete Rayo, under his first name in 2005. Much harder and grittier than the music of Yerba Buena, it combined Afro-Cuban rhythms, reggaeton, calypso, reggae, cumbia, and rap. It featured horn arrangements by Carcassés and a stellar cast of players.
Bueno was soon becoming an in-demand producer and songwriter on both sides of the Atlantic, adding soundtrack work to his résumé. He participated in one form or another in the soundtracks for American films such as Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights and Cheaper by the Dozen, in contributing music for television networks and programs, and also in composing and producing soundtracks for films shot in Cuba and Mexico. In 2008 he and Kelvis Ochoa released a duo album of more traditional son-style songs entitled Amor y Musica.
Bueno's tunes were also being recorded by an astonishing number of artists, from Andres Levin and Ana Torroja to Thalía, Baby Lores, Reyli Barba, and Fonseca. He received ASCAP awards in 2009 and 2010 for "Lloro por Ti," recorded by Enrique Iglesias. In 2011 he won the Grammy Award for Latin Song of the Year for penning the hit duet "Cuando Me Enamoro," which the singer recorded with Juan Luis Guerra. The year 2012 saw him net yet another ASCAP award for composing Wisin y Yandel's "No Me Digas Que No."
In 2013, Bueno realized a dream and recorded the song "Dragonfly" with legendary Cuban vocalist Omara Portuondo, and produced tracks by Omi Hernández and Luna Manzanares. Bueno collaborated with Iglesias again in 2014, this time sharing the billing on the hit single "Bailando" with the singer, Luan Santana, and Gente De Zona. ~ Thom Jurek
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