Q&A with Jazz Fest headliner and Cuban sensation Cimafunk
Medical student turned Billboard “Top 10 Latin Artist to Watch,” Cimafunk has become one of the most exciting new faces in the Latin music space thanks to his bold mix of funk with Cuban music and African rhythms. Ahead of headlining the 2022 Rosslyn Jazz Fest, the Afro Funk musician shared some insight on musical inspirations, background, and more.
What drew you to the music industry? Is there an artist(s) who inspired you to enter this field?
I was always crazy about music; making a lot of songs and playing with my childhood friend José Antonio Morejón in my hometown Pinar del Rio. But academically and professionally, I had taken another path, and I was studying to be a doctor at medical school.
When I visited La Habana for the first time, however, I was really impacted by what music can do. I started to go to live shows, see the people's reaction to the show, and understand the flow. Everything was super new for me and very tempting. I didn’t think about it twice, I decided to quit medicine, take the risk, and follow my dream to make music.
There are so many musicians that have influenced me – sometimes you don't even realize it because it's subtle. But funk, Motown and African artists, as well as so many Afrocuban musicians and showmen have touched me.
Can you speak to how your background has influenced your sound?
Since I was a kid, I’ve listened to a lot of music. But several artists have influenced my path: Juan Formell y Los Van Van, Los Papines, Benny More, José Luis Cortez (El Tosco), Irakere, of course, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince…all of that music was being played every day at home.
In my family, everybody dances a lot, so upbeat music was always around, like La Charanga Habanera and many others. I think that all of these different music genres had a major impact on how I started producing by mixing and playing with the groove in my songs.
You’ve been touring Europe this summer. How have those concerts gone, and what have you enjoyed most?
All the shows have been especially fun! It’s always crazy what happens in every performance – people coming to the stage and dancing without restraint. The whole tour has been amazing overall!
What does it mean to share your music with audiences around the world, and what do you hope people take away from your music and lyrics?
It means happiness. I’ve been dreaming and working a lot for this moment. To finally be able to share the groove that’s part of me and my tribe with people everywhere and to see them dancing, feeling, jamming with the music, it’s just perfect. Every person feels it in a different way, and that’s what I’d always hoped for.
You’ve collaborated with several Cuban musical icons, such as Omara Portuondo, Chucho Valdes, Juana Bacallao, Los Papines, and La Orquesta Aragon, among others. As a Cuban musician yourself, what do these collaborations mean to you?
All these collaborations have been amazing for my personal and professional life. It’s something that I have always dreamed of, to make songs with musicians that I admire, with the professors of my generation. They know things in a pure way…they built the roots!
Are there other artists you aspire to collaborate with in the future?
Yes, I have a long list. From Cuba, I would love make some music with Pancho Céspedes, Pablo Milanés, with Alexander Abreu, Osain del Monte, Yoruba Andabo; and from the U.S. Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Bootsy Collins, Anderson .Paak, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Niles Rodgers, Eminem, Nathy Peluso, Akon, Burna Boy, among others.
We’ve read that you are passionate about your career path. What do you think others can learn from your unconventional journey to music?
If you love something and you are good at it, follow your heart and pursue it. And if it gives you enough economy to live well and help your tribe, it could be an interesting chance to take. It’s your life and it’s just one, so make the most of it!
Cimafunk will take the stage at Rosslyn Jazz Fest at Gateway Park from 5:30-7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10.