Robert Mirabal’s Native American heritage and the Taos Pueblo homelands where he was born and raised have always been an integral part of his music and his very being as an artist and storyteller. Having spent the past two decades sharing some of the rich culture and traditions of his people through song, dance, poetry, painting, acting, composing and working the land, the celebrated, Grammy-winning performer returns to television once again with the creation of a brand new PBS special. Robert Mirabal: Music and Myth will explore the history of the Pueblo peoples of the Southwest like never before, through music, dance and stories from his early life as a child growing up in northern New Mexico.
The new special is inspired in part by Robert’s experience over the past decade in the foothills of the sacred Taos Mountain, working the land, revisiting childhood memories and renewing his faith in indigenous teachings. He and his family maintain a contemporary life that is informed by the centuries-old customs of the Pueblo people, and those customs will be uniquely woven throughout this latest production. Mythical characters of the Pueblo people, including Corn Maidens, Raven Mocker, Drought and Pollen Boy will be brought to life through dance, music and narration. Authentic singers and dancers from Pueblo communities will appear in the production illustrating the stories being told. A hallmark of Robert’s music is his uncanny ability to imply a visual setting solely through rhythmic and melodic means, and that gift is evident throughout Music and Myth.
A true renaissance man, Robert has dedicated his life to expressing himself through his art. He has a unique talent for merging mystical elements of ancient cultures with modern influences in his music. He keeps a foot in both worlds, effortlessly drawing upon both for inspiration. Robert’s creative evolution has been continuous since he first started playing and making flutes at the age of 18. He still recalls the fateful first moment when the instrument changed the course of his life forever. “Adam Trujillo, a man in the Pueblo from my grandpa’s society made flutes and donated one of them to a pow-wow, and for some reason I really wanted that flute,” he remembers. “And as soon as I began playing, people would ask me to perform. They say the flute chooses you, and it certainly has changed my life – since then, I’ve spent most of my time traveling and playing music. I had no clue what was going to happen with all of it, but after awhile I realized how valuable the flute was for me. That piece of wood gave me a life, a way to survive. And it gave me a way to communicate.”
With loaned money from his grandmother, who helped raise him, Robert began recording his music, and was soon releasing albums for several labels, including Warner Western and Silver Wave Records. His music has since taken him from Europe and North America to Russia and Japan, and the exposure to sounds and rhythms from around the globe has had a profound effect on his own musical vision throughout the years. Robert has studied Japanese Taiko drum techniques, rhythms from West Africa and Haiti, and even Celtic music, yet was equally influenced by rock and roll, blues, and hip hop as well. His albums “Mirabal” and “Taos Tales” combined some of those influences for a unique look at the stories and music of Native American communities in New Mexico, and both received critical acclaim, landing him Songwriter of the Year nods at the Native American Music Awards. Writing has always been an important part of the process for Robert, whose poetry and stories filled his journals and gave life to his songs. “I feel I’m more of a writer than a musician,” he says. “As a musician and performer in concert I portray my writing. I value the written word.”
In 1990 Japanese dancers Eiko and Koma performed in Taos and were inspired to create an original dance. They commissioned Robert to write and perform the score to “Land,” a piece combining Native American instrumental sounds with Euro-American elements. The work was later awarded the New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” award for outstanding composition. During this time Robert also gained national recognition from appearances on two PBS fundraising specials, “One World” with John Tesh, and “Spirit: A Journey In Dance, Drum & Song,” which were some of the most successful fundraisers in the station’s history. He was also a featured performer in the Native American production of “Spirit,” touring in 15 cities performing eight shows a week.
While on the road acting and touring in support of his albums, he began thinking about creating an ongoing troupe that could combine all aspects of his artistic personality – music, song, dance and storytelling into a larger-than-life, multi-media experience, and that dream came to fruition with the creation of his 2001 PBS special, “Music From A Painted Cave.” The sparkling production featured his band and world champion Native American singers and dancers in dazzling regalia with special lighting effects that created the illusion of a petroglyph-filled cavern where a tribal ceremony takes place. Filmed during three performances at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut in front of a live audience of 2000, the PBS special netted Robert a huge number of new fans, breaking through the glass ceiling of the mainstream music industry.