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.

Multitalented Musician

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.

Famous Works

Further Reading

Sources

PeriodicalsOnline

Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 6 years ago

hello robert i listen too your music cause it feels my every soul. i was told that u r my actual family ,but i am not sure . if u r that would b awesome .. i dont know if u have a paltalk account cause if u did then i really did talk too u . the name u gave me is eagle wings .. it really fits me so i can soar and fly . i was also told if it really was u that u wanted me to be a butterfly dancer in one of your videos.. if that is true i would greatly b honored .. we would b considered cousins but u call me your sister ..the lady in one of your videos was your grandmother . i was also told she past ..rather this is true i really dont know . i personally would just like to know if i am actually blood line kin too u .. again it would b awesome robert .. i have always wanted to play the flute and learn of the indian ways.. peace too u and your family may u soar with the eagle in heavenly places ..:)plz contact me at the address at top ty kindly gbu all..

about 7 years ago

I have been a fan since I saw the PBS special "Music from a Painted Cave". I bought the CD and have practically played it to death. I have bought quite a few of his CD's since, but Painted Cave is my all time favorite. What has ever happened to the band "Rare Tribal Mob"? I've seen videos on you-tube with other people beside the band from the special. I am rather interested to find out about the tribal drummer (Reynaldo Lujan). I love his work, it's awsome. Still waiting for him to come to Maryland.

over 7 years ago

I just watched your "Valley of dreams" video. Its floating around facebook. Its so beautiful!

over 7 years ago

I love your music..I am a native from Canada ( Ojibway) It is wonderful to see someone so proud of who they are. Never stop you music!

over 7 years ago

just wanted to say i am touched by your music. please don't stop singing and dancing i live in the east but some day i hope to see you. i am form the Miami tribe in Indiana i am proud of my people. it is good to see someone who is proud of who his is. thank you Mr. Mirabal you are great. love your

over 7 years ago

I love your music and listen to it everyday. You have a great talent and can't wait to see you in person someday.

over 7 years ago

i want to say thank you for the gift of music and artistry you have given to us all and i thank the creator for giving you the ablitity to do so may you and your family be blesed in all you do.

over 7 years ago

Love your music. Currently reading your novel. Beautiful. Keep sharing...my students love it and america needs it! I taught in milan, italy and share about you every chance I get. Blessings 2 u & yours!

about 8 years ago

I saw Robert on the PBS special and have been a fan of his ever since. He is an outstanding musician, God bless him and his family and keep the beautiful music coming, thanks so much!

over 8 years ago

I saw Robert in 1994 and 1995 at the great Michael Martin Murphey's WestFest at Copper Mountain, CO and was at the brilliant work MUSIC FROM A PAINTED CAVE at THE MAC, College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn IL in 2001 where I gave him photos from the CO concerts. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of these performances. Robert is a national treasure, for sure !!!

over 8 years ago

I saw your performance one evening on the pbs channel a few years back and it really touched me. I have been buying your music ever since your words and music is very comforting and hopeful. Thank You I then saw your performance at the indian market in denver colorado and was able to meet you, I knew I would meet you someday thank you for continuing to spread your music and words it is very comforting and an encouragement in todays world.

about 9 years ago

Robert, My heartfelt gratitude and thanks for your precious turtle and coral necklace, you gifted to me at the Sophia Conference in Santa Fe. I have worn it ever since. Blessing to you and your family, Kathryn Webb Central Queensland Australia