Erik Iglesias Rodríguez, the Cuban funk artist who performs under the name Cimafunk, says the greatest influence on his style is the “cimarrón.” Originally used to refer to a fugitive slave during the colonial era in the Americas, the term has since taken on a more symbolic meaning in Cuba, as the image of a person pursuing freedom.
Everything about Rodríguez’s persona shouts freedom, from his dazzling costumes, which include women’s jackets and sequined pants, to his music, an intoxicating blend of Afrobeat, Latin music and American funk and soul.
“I just work within my lived experience,” Rodríguez says. “My music was African, transformed by America. And the cimarrón is like the main character.” He planned to bring that character, plus his outlandish outfits and his exuberant tunes, to The Ringling courtyard for a special concert on Friday, May 1; however, the COVID-19 outbreak has forced the performance to be postponed.
Rodríguez was born in Pinar Del Río, Cuba, where he grew up singing in church. He moved to Havana at age 21 and has since launched an international music career. His first album, the self-produced Terapia, came out in 2017, and his 2018 track, “Me Voy,” has racked up almost 2.3 million views on YouTube. Last year, Billboard named him one of the magazine’s “10 Latin Artists to Watch.”
“Music is ubiquitous in Cuba,” Rodríguez says. “It’s in every house, every school, every office. In my home, I live with music and dance every day.” Rodríguez draws from the sounds of Cuban artists like Rolando La Serie and Arsenio Rodriguez, but mixes those influences with the music of Americans like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Prince.
Rodríguez’s tour, which was supposed to bring him to Sarasota prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, also planned to bring him everywhere from France to California. “We’ve had crazy crowds everywhere that add to our family,” Rodríguez says. If you're able to attend a show in the future, expect to submit to what Rodríguez calls the “power of the groove.”
Head to ringling.org to find more information about future events.