Cimafunk, the kinetic Cuban artist who made Coachella history

INDIO  -  A magnetic performer who fuses Caribbean groove with New Orleans-style brass, Cimafunk made history this weekend as the first Cuban-born artist to play Coachella. It’s a cherry on top for the rising artist who’s collaborated with Afrofuturist funk royalty George Clinton and drawn comparisons to James Brown, as he fills venues across North American and Europe. “I’m making the dream come true,” the 35-year-old told AFP backstage, just after delivering a kinetic set with his nine-person band, La Tribu, or, The Tribe. Cimafunk is a growing influence in contemporary Cuban music, redefining traditional rhythms with infusions of funk, Afrobeat and hip hop. His frenetic live shows are an exploration of movement and physicality set to infectious beats with spirited brass zeal. Wearing studded, oversized sunglasses, sinuous flare pants and no shirt -- he’d removed his boldly patterned, bell-sleeved cloak as he raised the temperature of Coachella’s Gobi tent with his high-octane performance -- Cimafunk explained that his music is about “relief.” “I explore what I feel inside, people receive that, and they have this one or two hours of relief,” he said. “You’ve got that hour of happiness.” The artist was born Erik Alejandro Iglesias Rodriguez and raised in a town west of Havana. It had been his destiny to study medicine -- it runs in the family -- but as a young adult he decided it was music where he could fully thrive.  He released his first album, “Terapia,” in 2017, releasing a second studio album in 2021 -- “El Alimento” -- to great acclaim and a growing global fan base, as well as a Grammy nomination. His music has also become a mingling of African cultures that explores Afro-Latin identity throughout the Americas.

The “cima” in Cimafunk refers to cimarrones, enslaved African people who escaped and formed free settlements.

It’s a history that’s also informed his growing association with and inspiration from New Orleans: “The slave trade was so long and intense between Havana and New Orleans,” he said.

“When I write there is the same healing, the people have the same remedies, the communication is really similar, the mood is really similar,” Cimafunk continued. “And then there is the groove -- there is music everywhere, and people just playing music with the soul.”

“They’re living from music, even when they’re not famous... the environment is really healthy for me.”

Cimafunk said performing itself is a political statement -- and that taking the right to “enjoy yourself” an act of defiance.

“You become your own work” of art, he said, “your own body, your own soul, your own mind, your independence of thinking.”

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt