Dominican musician and researcher Irka Mateo has been studying Taino culture for years. The Tainos were the indigenous people living in some of the Caribbean islands like La Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), Cuba and Puerto Rico. The native population declined pretty rapidly upon the arrival of European settlers due to the spread of diseases like smallpox and intermarriage with Spanish colonists. Despite this background, Irka Mateo has tried to uncover elements of Taino culture that may have survived.
Her album Anacaona is dedicated to a legendary Taino queen. Musically, Irka Mateo uses elements from the mestizo culture that is present in her homeland, which includes indigenous Taino, Spanish and African melodies and rhythms. With her captivating vocals, she elegantly blends Dominican folk with Brazilian jazz, boleros, echoes of Cuban Nueva Trova and Native American-style chanting and even a new genre she calls neo-Taino music.
The CD booklet contains the original lyrics in Spanish and English-language translation, as well as photos of the artist in neo-Taino outfits.
With Anacaona, Irka Mateo emerges as an inspired and passionate advocate for the popularization and preservation of Dominican native culture.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.