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The Music
The music of Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights captures the sizzle, variety and energy of Cuban music circa 1958, and adds a subtle modern spin. In a sense, the music of Havana 1958 is modern; Cuban, Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms now infuse virtually the entire spectrum of popular music, from dance and pop to hip-hop and rock. The soundtrack was created in partnership with Clive Davis, the legendary founder of Arista Records who has nurtured such artists as Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Carlos Santana and Alicia Keyes. In 2000, Davis launched the BMG-owned J Records as the largest new label introduced in music history.

Before meeting with Davis to discuss the soundtrack, producer Bender spent many hours with Jansen and executive music producer Budd Carr listening to Latin-based songs from different parts of the world. After listening to what Bender recalls as "maybe thousands of songs,” they put together a test list and a CD of songs that represented their vision of the film's music. Bender then flew to New York to meet with Davis.

"It was an amazing experience,” Bender recalls. "I brought Clive my CD of the songs, our vision of the music. I said, ‘Well here's how we see this,” and I played him the CD. And he was like, ‘I like that … I like that … oh, that could work … maybe not that one.' Then he said, ‘Well, let me play you some stuff.'”

Bender continues, "It was before the Carlos Santana CD "Shaman” came out. He played me some of the stuff he was working on for the album, and I said, ‘This is great.' We agreed that there could be a great fusion between us. Clive has a great love of Latin-based music, and his unique sense of popular music would enable us to bring the Latin-themed music of 1958 into today's world. The philosophy was to take traditional Latin-based music – such as salsa, meringue and son – and combine it with more modern beats from rap and pop, and with a modern artist.”

Executive music producer Budd Carr embraced that philosophy in assembling a soundtrack that combines original material with new recordings of classic songs. The final disc, to be released on J Records, includes exclusive original tracks from popular and award-winning artists Mya; Santana; Jazze Pha, featuring Monica; Orishas, featuring Heather Headley; Wyclef Jean, featuring Claudette Ortiz of the alternative rap group City High; and Shawn Kane.

"We took a little bit of a license, so the music still has a Cuban flavor but also has a contemporary feel,” says Carr. "We have a broad range of writers involved, as well as artists. We went to numerous songwriters who have had a great deal of current success. We went to those who've had Latin success as well as crossover into pop. We went to traditional Afro-Cuban writers.”

Among those composing new music for the film is the critically acclaimed NewYork-based collective Yerba Buena. Founded by producer/writer/multi-instrumentalist Andres Levin, Yerba Buena has won raves for its imaginative fusion of styles like Nigerian Afro-beat, cumbia, funk and hip-hop. "The challenging thing was to make this music feel current but also feel like it's the late 50s,” says Levin, who is originally from Venezuela. "This film allowed us and other writers and producers to explore. Everyone involved was very open and driven in terms of the music. What we ended up with was a hybrid of hip hop tracks with more acoustic instruments - basically what Yerba Buena is really like.” Levin and two of his fellow band members – Pedro Martinez and Cucu Diamantes, both originally from Cuba – also appear as musicians in the film, performing with singer Heather Headley and the Cuban expatriate rap quartet Orishas.

Almost all of the music in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights is performed in a "live” setting, including the posh country club where singer Shawn Kane performs "You Send Me,” the 1957 Sam Cooke classic. Pop star Mya plays the star o


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