Cuba's Cimafunk Celebrates Musical Freedom With US Gigs

Eloy Costa
Cimafunk

Cimafunk’s Afro-Cuban funk part comes to Los Angeles for the holiday weekend, followed by gigs in NY and Miami.

Los Angeles' most grooving party of the Fourth of July weekend will no doubt be happening around the pool at The Standard hotel in Hollywood on Sunday (July 7), where Afro-Cuban funk artist Cimafunk, who we expect could be wearing a sequined Speedo and patterned silk robe, will be performing.

Guests are advised to dress, like the band, “retro and funky”.

Cimafunk, the stage name of Erik Alejandro Iglesias, is a Cuban star for the Instagram age. Designer Samantha Chijona curates the band’s tropi-fabulous style, which like its music, is a mix of African, Cuban and American references with a cool nod to the 1970s.

A 30-year-old former medical student, Iglesias is from rural Pinar del Rio, where he remembers standing out in bell bottoms and flip flops. “If you want to wear some kind of costume, the time to do it is during the show,” tells Billboard from Paris, where last week he was doing promotion before a gig later this month. “Dressing up gives you more freedom.”

It’s freedom, he stresses, that is at the root of the music of Cimafunk which combines cimarrón -- Cuba’s emancipated slaves who he says laid the foundation for what became Afro-Cuban culture, with American funk. “The message is to have a good time.”

Cimafunk’s sound has a strong afro beat, stemming from his exposure to his now-hero Fela Kuti and rhythms like coupé-decalé from the Ivory Coast on previous trips to France. His vocal stylings reveal inspirations ranging from R&B duo Sam & Dave (“Soul Man”) bolero and trova singers and Cuban funk pioneers Los Van Van.  

“Music is always being recycled,” says Cimafunk. “It goes around and around; it doesn’t belong to anyone; everyone feeds off what came before.”

Cimafunk played SXSW earlier this year, and the band’s summer tour includes U.S. stops at Central Park Summerstage and the Miami Beach Pop Festival, as well as this weekend’s L.A. gig.

The band’s return engagement in the States comes at a time when President Trump’s aggressive policies against Cuban travel and increasingly severe visa application rules threaten to stem the flow of Cuban musicians coming from the island.

Cimafunk’s view on that is as cool as his music.

“I’m not worried about anything,” he says. “There’s no way to stop the music.”