Robert Mirabal may not be the most famous musician to perform at New Mexico Tech’s Macey Center but he is certainly on that list for New Mexico artists. The native from Taos Pueblo, flautist, singer and storyteller will return for an online concert streamed live from Macey Center, on Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Sponsors for this concert are New Mexico Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and Bob and Kathy Markwell.
Mirabal is dedicating this show – the song, stories and dances – to “our pueblo grandmothers, who survived the good along with bad and whatever life threw at them.” He will bring with him traditional dancers Evan and Marcus Trujillo, the Mirabal vocalist sisters Aspen, Kona and Masa, and drummer, Joel Fadness.
“Born a Pueblo farmer, raised a Pueblo farmer, will die a Pueblo farmer. Nothing more, nothing less,” is the way Mirabal portrayed himself to a recent interviewer. But to others, he is a renaissance man. He began making flutes at the age of 19 and learned how to play a variety of instruments in school. He was inspired by the renowned Native American flute player R. Carlos Nakai, whom he met as a young man.
This will be Mirabal’s fourth performance with the Performing Arts Series and PAS director Ronna Kalish promises an excellent concert.
“Robert is just a natural performer, so he’s always special,” Kalish said. “Each show has been very different and this one will be as well.”
PAS members will get a chance to speak with him via Zoom after the show.
Mirabal was twice named the Native American Music Awards’ Artist of the Year, and received the Songwriter of the Year award three times.
Mirabal has performed in Socorro several times, the first as part of the launching of the PBS program about Mirabal: Music from a Painted Cave. The program was receiving rave reviews and it sold out in Socorro.
“That was one of the few shows where we actually made a little bit of money; people came from all over the state,” Kalish said.” It was a great show. We had booked early and it got really big and they still honored our contract.”
The second time Mirabal appeared was through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in an experimental collaboration with Dancing Earth.
“The artistic director of Dancing Earth, Rulan Tangen, had been to Socorro many times with NDI, and I had always wanted to have Robert and Rulan work together in Socorro” Kalish said. “And they both told me they wanted to do the same, so it seemed like a natural combination. He did three concerts in Alamo and Magdalena for students and the community. They were all so excited to see and talk to Robert.
“The final performances incorporated a lot of modern indigenous dance with tribal rock. Some of our audience liked it, but not everyone,” Kalish said. “Sometimes folks want what they know. Modern dance can be like a poem, sometimes elusive to understand.”
The next time was for a Festival of the Cranes, which was a more traditional show. That time he brought the Zuni Dancers who performed the Blue Corn Dance.
“They don’t do that in public very often,” Kalish said. “That too, was a really special and moving performance.”
One of Robert Mirabal’s earliest projects was an album titled Land, composed for two Japanese avant-garde modern dancers Eiko and Koma, who choreographed a dance production inspired by their impressions of the land around Taos. The performance toured Japan, Europe and the U.S. and in 1992, Mirabal was given New York’s Dance and Performance Bessie Award for the score.
His 1996 collaboration with Grammy Awardwinning Native American singer-songwriter Bill Miller produced an album Native SuiteChants: Dances and the Remembered Earth with both traditional and experimental pieces.
Then he formed the band Mirabal with bassist Mark Andes, and Reynaldo Lujan. In 1997, they released the groundbreaking album “Mirabal” that fused rock, funk, and other contemporary forms of music with traditional music, drawing on the legacy of other Native American pop/rock musicians, but creating a unique sound that would set Mirabal apart and gain further mainstream attention. He has released nearly a dozen discs since then ranging from traditional to avant-garde.
Mirabal also published a book of storytelling, poetry and prose in 1994 entitled Skeletons of a Bridge and is currently writing a second book, “Running Alone in Photographs.”
Aside from his artistic talents, Mirabal is a father and a farmer, living in Taos Pueblo and participating in the traditional ways and rituals of his people.
Kalish said the concert is sure to be fascinating, informative, and uniquely New Mexican. It’s a free show, “but if you would like to donate to PAS and for more information, visit nmt.edu/pas or call 575- 835-5688.”