HAVANA – His mix of funk and Cuban rhythms has sparked great excitement in his homeland. The crowds go wild in every venue where he performs and fans sing along every time the urban artist takes the stage. But now, Cimafunk wants to also get new fans in the United States and Europe dancing.
The singer and producer, included by Billboard on its “10 Latin Artists to Watch in 2019” list, debuts this week with his band at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, after which he will kick off a tour that will take him to more than 10 other US cities, including Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco and Miami.
In July, Cimafunk plans to head across the Atlantic to Europe, where the most popular songs from his first album “Terapia” are already being played, sung and danced to.
“Terapia,” recorded in an improvised studio, shattered the monotony of the Cuban music scene, which is dominated almost exclusively by salsa and second-rate reggaeton, and surprised the music-loving public with a new – but at the same time familiar – fusion sound.
On the island, the 29-year-old Cimafunk can hardly take a step without someone asking him for a picture.
Argentina’s Fito Paez – a singer/songwriter, author and film director – saw him perform in Cuba and immediately dubbed him “a rising superstar” in the music world.
“My sound is very Cuban, both musically and in the lyrics. I sing as people speak in Cuba,” Cimafunk, whose real name is Erik Iglesias, told EFE.
His stage name comes from the term “Cimarron” (“renegade”), which was given to African slaves who managed to flee from their masters.
The name suits perfectly the music made by the former medical student, who has managed to introduce people to a new sound when everything else seemed to have been invented already.
“The creative process to come up with this sound was not premeditated. I was making music with other bands until I decided to do my own thing. I relaxed, and it came out,” said Cimafunk, who grew up listening to Los Van Van, Funkadelic, Lionel Richie, James Brown and Prince.
The use of “language very typical of the Cuban (people)” in his lyrics, loaded with internal codes and words that are only understood on the island, is not an impediment to extending his music’s reach, the artist said.
“I think the show is the most important thing, it’s what I always put the most weight on, I think if I enjoy the moment, people will also enjoy it. At least I will enjoy it,” he said.
His 1970s image and his magnetism on stage have earned him the label of the “Cuban James Brown,” a comparison that the artist discounts while laughing in disbelief.