Born c. 1967 in Taos Pueblo, NM; married; wife's name Dawn; children: Aspen Dawn, Kona Sunrise. Addresses: Record company--Silver Wave Records, P.O. Box 7943, Boulder, CO 80306, phone: (800) SIL-WAVE, website: http://www.silverwave.com. Publicist--Schatzi Hageman, Hot Schatz PR, 1024 16th Ave. S., 2nd Fl., Nashville, TN 37212, phone: (615) 782-0078, fax: (615) 782-0088. Website--Robert Mirabal Official Website: http://www.mirabal.com.
It is rare for a musician to receive virtual artistic freedom from a major label, and equally rare for a culturally authentic act to achieve mainstream popularity, yet Robert Mirabal has managed to do both. Nicknamed Toop-yah-oh (Flute Song) in his Native American Tiwa language, Mirabal is a multitalented instrumentalist who plays percussion, keyboards, ocarina, didgeridoo, and even crafts his own flutes. A true renaissance man, Mirabal has also written poems, prose, and screenplays.
Born in the American Southwest in the late 1960s, Mirabal hails from the high northern desert of Taos, New Mexico, an ancient land that sits at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The land has been the tribal territory of Taos Pueblo Indians for more than 1,000 years, and it is still home to 2,000 people who live in harmony with ancestral traditions, governed by a tribal council.
Raised almost exclusively by his mother in a matriarchal community, Mirabal endured separation from both his father and from his brother, Patrick, for much of his childhood. During these years he lived closely with his grandparents and helped care f or them in their old age. Although their small group was comprised largely of women, children, and the aged, the environment was a stable one.
Simple Beginnings, Broad Horizons
Mirabal's early musical education was limited to middle school enrichment courses at the Pueblo Indian School. After trying the clarinet and saxophone, he took up piano and developed a marked interest in percussion as well, gradually adding new inst ruments to his repertoire.
At 18, using funds borrowed from his grandmother, he bought an Adam Trujillo flute at auction. In time Mirabal's fascination with the flute became a serious artistic pursuit, and he crafted a double-chambered instrument of his own. During these earl y days he performed with the Taos Mountain Shadow Dancers from the Pueblo.
Mirabal was also inspired by popular mainstream musicians such as Bruce Springstein, John "Cougar" Mellencamp, and the Doors. A 1987 trip to Russia introduced him to the balalaika and gave him the opportunity to talk to other musicians. On his retur n to the United States he borrowed more funds and in 1988 recorded a self-produced album, Robert Mirabal. By the early 1990s he had produced three albums on cassette through his independent label, Yellow Aspen Cloud Productions, in Taos.
In 1990 Mirabal toured internationally with Japanese dancers Eiko and Koma, which gave him the opportunity to study the rigorous art of Taiko drumming during a visit to Japan. A dance suite, written by Mirabal on commission from Eiko and Koma, won a New York Dance and Performance Bessie Award in 1992.
Major Label Career
After releasing his independently produced album Song Carrier in 1995 he signed a deal to record seven albums for Warner Western, a Native American label backed by Warner Bros. Records. By 1996 he had released three albums through Warner Western, selecting the 90-minute dance suite commissioned for the Eiko & Koma Troupe as his Warner debut. For this recording Mirabal headed eastward, to Echo Park Studio in Bloomington, Indiana. There, working with Mike Wanchic, Miraba l recorded the eight-track dance program and titled the album Land. Warrior Magician, released soon afterward, showcased Mirabal on flute and didgeridoo. He was by then well established on the New York club scene, where he maintained a band called the Kraze Kunoe Tribesmen, whose members hail from the West Indies, Britain, and Australia. In other collaborations, he worked with Bill Miller on Native Suite--Chants, Dances, and the Re membered Earth.
In 1997 Mirabal's career took a new turn, expanding into a style that was whimsically billed as "alter-Native" music. He began to experiment with new rhythms and styles, combining creative groupings of instruments and experimenting with hip-hop, techno, and other popular genres. He expanded his touring schedule and released an album reflecting this new mood, Mirabal, in that same year.
By 1999 Mirabal was a respected crossover artist. He was accompanied John Tesh on One World and cohosted a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) fund-raiser of the same name with him. Mirabal brought a new dimension to his perf ormances that year by recording several songs in his native Tiwa tongue. They were featured on a 13-track album called Taos Tales, which, despite the songs' authentic language, was recorded in the rock tradition, a decided contr ast to the ethereal tone of his earlier recordings. As the year wound to a close Mirabal completed a run on Broadway in Peter Buffet's Spirit--A Journey in Dance, Drum, and Song; in December of 1999 he embarked on an Americ an tour with the production.
Mirabal, known for his musical diversity, does not hesitate to incorporate electric guitars and synthesizers into the rustic mix of native flutes and ocarina. He is equally comfortable on percussion and keyboards, and is recognized for his artful fu sion of hip-hop, West Indian, and West African influences, which he blends with Japanese drums, Celtic rhythms, and traditional Native American harmonies. As he confided to interviewer Rita Rose of his eclectic style, "My music comes from an ancient place ."
In 2001 Mirabal released Music from a Painted Cave, a live concert recorded on December 16, 2000, at the Fox Theater in Mashantucket, Connecticut, before a crowd of 2,000. For this elaborate program Mirabal was joined by o ne of his bands, a group called Rare Tribal Mob (an anagram of Robert Mirabal). Mob musicians vary, but the group regularly includes Heart bassist Mark Andes and his brother Matt Andes of Spirit. Mirabal's cousin, Reynaldo Lujan, contributes tribal rhythm s and vocals; Michael Kott performs on cello; and Estaban (Steve) Castillo is lead guitarist. Also joining the group on Painted Cave were vocalist Star Nayea, Robin "Hood" Peffer on bass, and Mirabal's brother, Patrick, on vocal s, flutes, and percussion. Drummer and percussionist Kenny Aronoff--often seen with John Mellencamp--is also heard on this album. Choreographed by Boye Ladd, a video version of Music from a Painted Cave aired as a conc ert special on PBS on March 8, 2001. Reviewing a live performance of this work, Daune Stinson in News from Indian Country said of the extravaganza, "It's just about the most beautiful piece of theatre, and ... splendor." Native American Times called this work, "An evolutionary vision of one man from birth's breath to the metamorphosis of time." The album peaked at number six on the Billboard charts.
In 2002 Mirabal appeared at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival's Celebration of Native American Art. In 2003 he released a DVD-enhanced compact disc, Indians, that treats listeners to traditional spoken stories i n addition to songs and music.
Mirabal and his wife, Dawn, own and manage their own company, Mirabal Enterprises. They have two daughters: Aspen Dawn and Kona Sunrise. His short story collection, Skeleton of a Bridge, was published by Blinking Yellow Bo oks in 1995. His flutes have been displayed at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and his artwork was included in Native American Artists of North America. Mirabal's writings were used by Robert Redford to compile th e documentaries Silent Witness and Sacred Sites.
Mirabal has received numerous grants and academic honors, among them a Meet the Composer Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In the fall of 1995 he served as artist in residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and held simil ar posts at Dartmouth College and Cambridge. A respected composer, Mirabal's works have been performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. On May 30, 2003, the Taos County Chamber of Commerce proclai med Robert Mirabal Day in Taos.
by G. Cooksey
Robert Mirabal's Career
Performed with Taos Mountain Shadow Dancers, 1980s; released self-produced album, Robert Mirabal, 1988; signed to Warner Bros., 1995; released album Mirabal, established him as a cro ssover artist, 1997; in Broadway performance of Spirit--A Journey in Dance, Drum, and Song, 1999; released enhanced CD Indians, 2002.
Robert Mirabal's Awards
New York Dance and Performance Bessie Award, 1992; Native American Music Awards, Songwriter of the Year, 2000; Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, and Best Album of the Year, 2001; First Americans In the Arts Outstanding Achievemen t in Music, 2001; Native American Music Awards, Music Video of the Year, 2002.
- Selected discography
- Song Carrier MTI, 1995.
- Land Warner, 1995.
- Warrior Magician MTI, 1996.
- Mirabal Warner, 1997.
- Taos Tales Silver Wave, 1999.
- Music from a Painted Cave Silver Wave, 2001.
- Indians Indians Silver Wave, 2003.
- With others
- (With Robby Bee and the Boyz) Reservation of Education Warrior, 1992.
- (With Bill Miller) Red Road Warner Bros., 1993.
- (With Nomad) Nomad Australian Music, 1994.
- (With others) Mti Santa Fe Sampler, Vol. 1 Silver Wave, 1995.
- (With Michael Martin Murphey) Sagebrush Symphony Warner Bros., 1995.
- (With Bob Miller) Native Suite--Chants, Dances and the Remembered Earth Warner Bros., 1996.
- (With others) Native American Currents Silver Wave, 1997.
- (With others) Tribal Fires: Contemporary Native American Music Earthbeat, 1997.
- (With others) Tribal Waters: Music from Native Americans Earthbeat, 1998.
- (With others) Under the Green Corn Moon Silver Wave, 1998.
- (With John Tesh) One World Get Records, 1999.
- (With Peter Buffett) Spirit Hollywood, 1999.
- (With others) Urban Skins, Vol. 1 Warrior, 1999.
- (With others) Prayer for Peace Silver Wave, 2000.
- (With others) American Roots Music Palm Pictures, 2001.
- (With others) Under One Sky: Native American Flute & Rhythm Red Feather, 2001.
- (With Peter Kater) Red Moon Silver Wave, 2003.
- Akwesasne Notes, March 31, 1996, p. 122.
- Indian Country Today (Lakota Times), October 26, 1994, p. D4; June 1, 1995, p. C4; April 4, 2001, p. B1; April 16, 2003, p. D1.
- Native American Times, September 1, 2001, p. B1.
- News from Indian Country, October 31, 1999, p. 13B; November 15, 2001, p. 14B.
- Pequot Times, February 28, 2001, p. 11.
- Whispering Wind, October 31, 2002, p. 33.
- "Robert Mirabal," Silver Wave Records, http://www.silverwave.com/mirabal.html (August 21, 2003).
- Robert Mirabal Official Website, http://www.mirabal.com (August 21, 2003).