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Cimafunk is the recording and performing alter ego of composer, singer, and producer Erik Alejandro Iglesias Rodríguez. As evidenced by Terapia, his 2017 debut long-player, his musical mestizaje ("miscegenation") blends Cuban and Caribbean sounds, from ancient to current styles, with Afro-Latin rhythms -- including salsa, guaguancó, urban rumba, nueva trova, timba, and Santería ritual music -- alongside modern funk, soul, pop, hip-hop, and EDM. His lyrics derive directly from Havana's street culture. The first half of Rodríguez's stage name derives from the Spanish word "cimarron." It refers to Colonial-era runaway slaves who found refuge in Cuba's remote mountain communities with other ex-slaves. These regions fostered new forms of cultural expression in art, theater, writing, and of course, music. In 2021, Cimafunk issued his sophomore full-length, El Alimento. Rodríguez was born in 1989 in Pinar del Río and grew up singing in church. Almost everyone in his family works in the healthcare field. His high school and college studies were all geared toward following in his family tradition, though advanced musical studies also had a place. He spent two years at university studying medicine before shifting gears to pursue a career in music. Rodríguez moved to Havana at age 21, and from 2010 to 2015 he worked as a choir director for various top-shelf Cuban musicians including Raúl Paz, David Torrens, and Liuba María Hevia. In 2014, he joined the infamous Interactivo as a singer and composer. The band, known for their sophisticated vanguard performances, is directed by renowned Cuban pianist Roberto Carcasses. Most of its members are composers and producers who lead their own musical projects at the forefront of Cuban music. Following their example, Rodríguez left the group in 2016 to start Cimafunk, a band that changes shape and size depending on the music. He self-released Terapia in 2017 and took the group on tour across Cuba and the Caribbean. In 2018, he issued the single "Me Voy," and won global notice from critics as well as DJs. Based on the single and album, Billboard selected Cimafunk as one of the "Top 10 Latin Artist to watch in 2019." He made his U.S. debut at South by Southwest that year and took the festival by storm with his high-energy stage show, outlandish costumes, and the band's top-level musicianship. Cimafunk sold out shows in Washington, D.C., Miami, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Mexico, and all across Europe before returning to the States to perform at New York's Central Park SummerStage. He returned to Cuba with a hero's welcome and performed a star-studded, three-hour, revue-style show at Havana's prestigious Fábrica de Arte Cubano, while "Me Voy" won Cuba's Lucas Prize for most popular video. Though Cimafunk was sidelined from touring throughout 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, he issued a slew of singles including the five-track Cun Cun Prá EP that featured icons Omara Portuondo, Orquesta Aragón, Chucho Valdés, and Pancho Amat on the track "El Potaje." In 2021, Cimafunk issued the single "Rómpelo" featuring Lupe Fiasco, and in October he released El Alimento, his sophomore album, on his own Terapia Productions through Thirty Tigers. The set included guest appearances from George Clinton, El Micha, CeeLo Green, Los Papines, and Valdés, to name a few.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo
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