CIMAFUNK on top: interview by Cubahora

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Erik ‘Cimafunk’ (photo credit Oncuba)

In 2018 the track and video clip “Me voy” by Cimafunk has been a massive hit of the Cuban music scene …Cubahora caught up with Cimafunk in late November, before the Lucas Cuban music video clip awards were announced in December…

I took a look at the Lucas (Cuban music video clip awards) website to check how the nominations were shaping up, without much expectation except that Cimafunk would be at the top. A musician based on the Island, with a video produced here, by almost unknown filmmakers, not only dethroned Gente de Zona but was positioned in first place of the lucasnometer for nine consecutive weeks.

This is the video ‘Me voy’ (I’m leaving), one of eight tracks on ‘Therapy’, the first musical production by Cimafunk, this singer from Pinar del Río who has been launched by force of originality and “a big bang ” onto the music scene of the country’s capital, and a little beyond. The single has been positioned in Spotify and has entered the list ‘Funky Ways of Noble Vibes’, where the track is alongside those of Bruno Mars and Daft Punk.

The official video clip was recorded in Havana locations – under the direction of Alberto Rambaudi, along with Cimarrón Productions and Guan Caña Films. Presented as “Afro Cuban funk for your body”, it was published on 1 September on the artist’s YouTube channel. The next day, in a Facebook post, announcing the video, Cimafunk thanked “all the patients who participated nearby or faraway in this madness”. Especially, to Alberto Rambaudi and Raymo Herrera (Guan Caña Films), James Partridge and Juan Carlos Pérez Cendán and David González del Valle, for the images, but also to the rest of the production team.

The video centres on Cimafunk himself, with its quirky camerawork, his afro hair and clothing inspired by the fashion of funk’s golden years. His performance is accompanied by nine dancers, representing the diverse public he is addressing. The 1970s style references make you smile but it is not a pastiche.

There are some genius shots, like that of a close-up of the singer’s hair and the dancers in the background, or when they capture the image of Cimafunk in the mirror of a rickshaw. Majito’s editing is in perfect harmony with the rhythm.

The creative group Guan Caña Films, with its particular aesthetic, has produced videos for emerging artists such as Michelle Fragoso, Jorgito Kamankola and Negro Wadpro, among others. This is the first video clip directed by visual artist Alberto Rambaudi, is also director of Baudi videos.

The singer, composer and producer Erik Alejandro Rodríguez, Cimafunk, was born in a rural area 4 km from the city of Pinar del Río, on April 7, 1989. He studied medicine until one day music grabbed him and said: “Brother, this is your thing.” He began performing reggaeton and trova locally.

After moving to Havana and spending a year working “sanding cars in a workshop”, Erik worked with musicians Raúl Paz, David Torrens, Liuba María Hevia, Hoyo Colorao and with the pop group Los Boys. However he continued to develop his solo project and also collaborated with Interactivo group, led by Francis del Río and Robertico Carcassés. Their shows at the Bertolt Brecht venue are the most famous and popular of the nightlife of the capital. Erik acheived first place of the “First Base” contest at the Havana World Music Festival 2018 and was winner of the Grand Prize at ‘Cuerda Viva’ 2018, in the new group category and nominated in the Funk category. Last July, in the framework of the 14th  International Film Festival of Gibara, he shared the stage with the Argentinean composer and performer Fito Páez who presented him as “Cimafunk: the future” and described him as “ebony god”.

On his stage name, Cimafunk, Erik has said: “I chose that name because I wanted to combine the idea of ​​the cimarrón* with the music I like, funk”.

* [Cimarron is the word used in 19th century Cuba for a slave who had escaped from a plantation and lived freely in the mountains.]

The name is as eclectic as the music’s influences. The music is a fusion of forms which emerged in the 60s and 70s, with a very contemporary projection. With African roots, expressed through American funk, plus the Pilón or the Cuban mozambique, Jamaican reggae and afrotrap coming out of France. With influences such as Fela Kuti (Nigeria), James Brown and Prince (USA), and the Cubans Benny Moré, Bola de Nieve, “El Guapachoso”, Rolando Laserie and Juan Formell.

“I have my sights on all those people,” he confessed.  ”I copy the music, I study it, because in the end the music has already been made. Everything we are doing is recycling, and if you recycle what is good you have the possibility of achieving better things than if you recycle just the most recent stuff, which is not bad but is already the product of a recycling process. The best thing is to recycle the pure product. I prefer to go back and forth, and look there, feed from over there and then transmit it my way. Those musicians made their mark, they really created something. They worked from zero and ‘boom’ made something incredible; we are here making a remix, everyone together. ”

And it is his approach to climbing these “pure” summits, that marks him out. The cimarron who reaches the top when he succeeds in breaking the mould imposed by the hegemonic cultural industries. As he himself has said: “The cimarron also is about abandoning what is there, because the cimarron was the black slave who escaped from the life he led. And for some time I wanted to do something that others were not doing. And it worked, I’m a bit like that cimarron who goes off to find something else, to live my way. ”

‘I’m leaving’, ‘Alabao’, ‘Stop the Time’, ‘Fever’ and ‘The Patient’ are songs that can be written about in the same way as other contemporary urban music. Like reguetón, “they are quite hot”, but they do not get to “hit” anything that seems too abrupt, they do not have endless “double meanings”, the sensuality does not clothe itself with vulgarity to make people enjoy it. This and the absence of self-aggrandizement keep this cimarron from being harassed.

Cimafunk does not have the promotional team that Gente de Zona have. Its foreign distribution was through CD Baby, digital global distributor of music, that spreads its content in the most popular streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify, or in download stores like iTunes and Amazon. Within Cuba, he has taken the most informal routes, from hand to hand in flash memory sticks, in El Paquete or via Zapya. The radio stations of Havana have given him a lot of support.

It sounds to me, for this grandson of a Nigerian slave, the son of Victoria “Vicky” Lodeley Rodríguez and Luciano “El Majá” Iglesias, an admirer of José Luis Cortés and Los Van Van, no summit is impossible.

Link to the original report by Cubahora in spanish here

Translated by Google Translate and Cuba50

Watch the video ‘Me Voy’ on youtube