ALBUQUERQUE, NM—On Christmas Eve at Taos Pueblo in northern New Mexico, the smoke of bonfires turns the dusky sky black as embers shoot up to mix with starlight. Gunfire echoes in the frigid air, and when the church doors open we hear the traditional hymns sung in Spanish and in English, accompanied by a violin and native drum.

On this night, nowhere in America do Native American, Hispanic and Anglo cultures so freely mingle to share the spiritually of the season—creating a palpable sense of unity and hope.

To mark this yearly celebration, Taos Pueblo artist and musician Robert Mirabal introduces a new CD, Pueblo Christmas, a dozen classic Christmas Carols that he has arranged for an array of Native American flutes, tribal percussion, and cello. Recorded at Taos Pueblo, these renditions of holiday favorites have been stripped down to their most hauntingly beautiful.

On December 13th Mirabal will bring his Pueblo Christmas show to Albuquerque’s Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. The concert will also feature Mirabal’s video presentation “Spirits in the Blood.” On this heroic video canvas are painted the strong, beautiful faces of the people of Taos Pueblo, who after a thousand years still practice the ceremonial life passed on to them by their ancestors. Using rare archival photographs, “Spirits in the Blood” juxtaposes the ancient and modern worlds in an unforgettable way.

“People ask me why I’ve made a Christmas album after all the struggles between Indigenous Peoples and Christianity,” says Mirabal. “For many Americans, Christmas is a time when they become conscious of their spirituality, and I wanted to connect our cultures at this special time. No matter what the politics were like when these songs were first heard, the music was created to fill the listener with love, hope and joy. They show that beauty can go beyond conflict to a place where music is the hero.”

Mirabal says that music so traditionally rooted in a non-Native expression sets up a kind of radical confrontation in his soul, but that this project has given him the room to explore those feelings and find some common ground. “After all,” he says, “this wasn’t the music of governments and armies, but the popular music of the people — beautiful, uplifting and inspiring.”

In the past year Mirabal was awarded “Best Male Artist” for 2007 at the ninth annual Native American Music Awards and won his second GRAMMY Award in 2008 for Best Native American Album of the Year with Johnny Whitehorse Totemic Flute Chants.

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