This is the fourth installment of our “Helping Hands” series for this week where we give thanks to those extraordinary Latinos whose mission is to help others.
It’s difficult to know where to start when talking about Andres Levin. The Venezuelan-American musician, filmmaker and producer is the man behind the unique sounds of Natalie Merchant, Common, “El Cantante,” and “CSI: Miami,” to name just a few. He’s won Grammy Awards for Best Cast Album of “In the Heights” (2009) and Best Tropical Fusion Album for Fonseca’s “Ilusión” (2012).
In addition to owning his own advertising company, Pirata, he also founded Music Has No Enemies in 2008. The organization empowers the socially conscious message of non-profits and businesses around the world through the elaborate production of concerts,workshops and videos orchestrated by Levin.
Next week, he will be playing guitar and electronics at Red Hot + Cuba, a concert with an all-star cast of young and veteran Cuban musicians, on Friday, November 30 and Saturday, December 1 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), in New York. He co-directed the multi-media performance with the singer of his band, Yerba Buena, Cucu Diamantes. A portion of the proceeds will go towards AIDS awareness and prevention in Cuba.
“I really love what I do, and it doesn’t feel like work,” says Levin in his deep bass voice. “I never stop, especially with the foundation — that’s my biggest passion.”
He says he’s been involved in music from very early on.
“I come from an upbeat musical family in Venezuela,” says the talented producer. “There was always a lot of strange electronic instruments around the house…I played guitar in a bunch of bands in Caracas.”
He eventually came to the U.S. on a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music, but he admits he dropped out because he wanted to go to New York. He wasted no time and went to Julliard instead. That is where he his BA in composition four years later.
Regardless of Levin’s countless accolades, he says that right now, Music Has No Enemies is what pulls at his heart the most. He says not only do these projects challenge his creativity, they also challenge him to try to save the world, little by little.
“It’s really finding the unique creative voice to use music as a healer and a powerful tool to bring a lot of people together for one cause,” says Levin about his ongoing projects, which he hopes serves an example for the entertainment industry as a whole. “We work with big organizations such as Amnesty International to single hospitals to a concert at BAM.”
Levin says all causes are worthy of attention, and if he feels he can do something exciting and innovative, then he’ll get involved — such as an impromptu songwriting/recording session for six high schools on Grammy Career Day, in which students made a music video dedicated to the President on Election Day. And a recent project he did in collaboration with Gustavo Galindo was dedicated to helping the young patients of the Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers. Two days after, he says he got letters from parents saying their children’s health improved 20 to 30 percent after the presentation.
“Probably the one I’m most excited about now is Red Hot + Cuba for AIDS,” says Levin about the project he’s been collaborating with Red Hot now for more than 10 years. “It’s massively exciting, because of the very different eclectic artists me and Cucu will be sharing the stage with. We’re really trying to bring to the NY audience a very unique experience of what one night in Havana is like with us.”
He says the concert will unite three generations of Cuban artists who haven’t shared the stage before, let alone a multi-media one.
“There will be 17 people on stage for two and a half hours,” says Levin excitedly about the upcoming performance to raise awareness for World AIDS Day. “We’ll be connecting art and music. We hope to the same for NY back in Cuba.”
He says he has a lot of faith that Music Has No Enemies is going to make an impact on the world as it grows.
“I feel like I found a way to [help] that’s original and new and effective,” says Levin. “I love projects that are well-rounded and everybody gets something life changing out of it.”