Phil Benito Scores Again: Cimafunk at Gasparilla Music Festival

[I KNEW I could count on Shelly Smith and Jeffrey Moellering for photos!]

Friday, February 25, was the first day of Gasparilla Music Festival, hot on the heels of the 2021 edition, which was postponed from March to last October. As usual, the lineup was ridiculous, although many names were unfamiliar. Phil Benito, talent wrangler extraordinaire, might have outdone himself yesterday.

Earlier in the evening, an outstanding quartet from Orlando, GW Souther, blew up their all-too-short half hour set (“Who says a funk band can’t play rock?”). Put these guys on your radar. And Black Pumas had the headlining set, a beautiful, soulful set of R&B that truly connected with the crowd.

Unfortunately for Black Pumas, they had to follow Cimafunk. Are you familiar? I’d say that almost on one there was. I guarantee you they are now! For my money, NOBODY could have followed their set.

Cimafunk – GMF. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering /

Imagine stirring into a pot P-Funk, Los Amigos Invisibles, King Sunny Adé, Bosq y Orquesta de Madera, James Brown and His Famous Flames, Fela Kuti, and Irakere. What you’d pour out would be Cimafunk, the brainchild of Erik Alejandro Iglesias Rodriguez. Thom Jurek wrote that Cimafunk “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.”

As usual, your mileage may vary. This was one of the most riveting performances I’ve see in the past decade, maybe several decades. Absolutely astonishing in its power and magnificence. I observed first the standard band: guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and percussion. There was another male vocalist in addition to Cimafunk, and there were two female vocalists. Then the ladies grabbed their tenor saxophone and trombone and really funked it up. STUNNING

Cimafunk – GMF. 📷: Shelly Smith!

Cimafunk band are: Raúl Zapata Suri, drums; Mario Gabriel Mesa Meriño, percussions; Ibanez Hermida Marrero, bass; Diego Barrera Hernández, guitar; Arthur Luis Álvarez Torres, keyboards, piano; Ilarivis Garcia Despaigne, trombone, vocals; Katerin LLerena, tenor saxophone, vocals; and Miguel Enrique Piquero Villavicencio, minor percussions, vocals.

If this sounds like a good time to you, check out their music online, and try to catch a concert. Bring your dancing shoes; you’re gonna need ’em!

We will cover all of this in our complete review of Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa, but this was too explosively important to wait!



03/12  Isle of Light | Santo Domingo DOM
03/20  Lollapalooza Chile | Santiago CHL
04/27  Brooklyn Bowl Philly | Philadelphia PA
04/28  Brooklyn Bowl | New York NY
04/29  The Broadside | New Orleans LA
04/30  Festival international de Louisiana | Lafayette LA
05/03  Austin City Limits Live | Austin TX
05/05  The Broadside | New Orleans LA
05/06  New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival | New Orleans LA
05/13  Joshua Tree Music Festival | Joshua Tree CA
06/29  Roskilde Festival | Roskilde DNK
07/03  TSF Jazz Chantilly Festival | Chantilly FRA
07/08  North Sea Jazz Festival | Rotterdam NLD
07/09  Cruilla Festival | Sant Adrià De Besòs ESP
07/24  Paléo Festival Nyon | Nyon CHE
07/28  Village Underground | London GBR
07/29  WOMAD UK | Malmesbury GBR
07/30  Esperanzah Festival | Floreffe BEL
09/21  Chucho Valdés “The Creation” + Cimafunk | Los Angeles CA







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