February 12, 2008

Why Mirabal invented Whitehorse

Taos Pueblo Musician's Cd, Recorded Under a Pseudonym, Honored With GrammyAs if we didn't need more proof of Grammy myopia, Taos Pueblo flutist Robert Mirabal's win for an album produced under a pseudonym clinches it.

Mirabal won for best album in the Native American music category for "Johnny Whitehorse: Totemic Flute Chants," a CD he recorded to fulfill a recording contract with Boulder's Silver Wave Records.

"At the time, the record label didn't have the funds to support a large contemporary album with a full band," Mirabal said in a telephone interview from Taos.

"Out of frustration, I said, 'What do I need to do, change my name to Johnny Whitehorse?' "

The record company bought the ruse, even though they knew Whitehorse was Mirabal's nom de plume.
Apparently Mirabal's gambit happened to coincide with the Grammy organization's preferences:The native category is still in its infancy; the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences launched it in 2000. The judges rejected Mirabal's drum kit-and-bass-pumped "In the Blood" from the nominations, saying it was too contemporary.

Grammy officials told Mirabal they lacked enough native membership for a contemporary category. In a letter to Mirabal manager Andrew Flack, senior awards director Bill Freimuth said the current description covers only recordings containing "substantial traditional elements."

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