Listening to the iconic and extremely catchy “Conga” song by Gloria Estefan was one of Leslie Grace’s most enduring memories as a little girl growing up in Florida.
Thirty-five years later, the star of the upcoming film “In the Heights” has joined forces with rapper and activist Meek Mill and Grammy-winning music producer Boi-1da to “recreate the track for our generation”—the song that catapulted the Estefans into Latin music royalty and helped usher in a new generation of Latin artists.
The remixed version of “Conga” was released Thursday alongside a music video that features fan video submissions from people around the world singing and dancing to the track.
“Gloria has been someone that I’ve looked up to all of my life because she was one of the first people that I saw represented my Latino heritage while singing in English and became a global superstar,” Grace, who grew up in a Dominican-American household, told NBC News. “That was always so inspiring to me being bicultural, seeing her just succeed and now being able to walk in her footsteps.”
Grace recalled when she was six years old, she “would just imagine that I was on a stage, just living it up” whenever she would hear the synthesizer fills and rippling Cuban-style piano sounds that characterize the catchy 1985 hit by the Estefan’s group at the time, the Miami Sound Machine.
“A cult classic”
Jamaican-Canadian music producer Boi-1da has worked with chart-topping artists such as Drake and Rihanna, and often taps into dancehall and reggae rhythms for hip hop inspiration. He found himself “venturing into new waters” while working on the “Conga” remake.
“’Conga’ is like a cult-classic, so in remaking it, I wanted to keep it authentic and true to the original” Boi-1da told NBC News. “I just made a kind of like a whole new beat around it with a little twist.” Grace and Meek Mill then reinvented some of the lyrics while keeping the song’s original hook.
For him, the most memorable part of working on this project was filming the music video, since it was “a cool moment to just connect because we’ve been sitting in a pandemic,” said Boi-1da. The music video also features a cameo by Emilio Estefan, who helped produce the original “Conga” track.
The “Conga” project is part of a bigger collaboration between the artists and Bacardí rum. The video will be featured in a 30-second ad set to air during Super Bowl pre-programming and multiple times throughout the February during NBA and NHL sports events.
“We’ve always seen music as such a powerful force in bringing people together, and as the world trended toward division and isolation this past year, we wanted to use music as a catalyst to bring people back together,” Ned Duggan, global senior vice president of Bacardí rum, said in a statement.
Aside from the “Conga” remake, Grace is excited about the highly anticipated summer release of the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical “In The Heights,” which was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It may seem like a lot of things were pushed back for all of us during quarantine,” said the “In the Heights” star, “but we are really so blessed if we’re above land to continue to do what we love and share amazing art that brings joy to people.”
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