GFDD Dominican Get-togethers - Irka Mateo Concert at the United Nations (New York, NY)





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Published on Jul 19, 2012

an initiative by Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD)

Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) partnered with the Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic to the United Nations to celebrate the Dominican Republic's rich and distinct musical heritage. The Foundation was greatly honored to showcase the sensational talent of award winning singer, songwriter and researcher of Dominican folk music, Irka Mateo.

The singer and ethnomusicologist brought audience members on a journey to discover the splendor of Dominican music, from the origins of the country's root music to the propulsive rhythms of today's contemporary genres. Mateo's unique interpretation of Dominican musical traditions reflects the historical and cultural transformative processes that have led to the country's vibrant Taino, African and Spanish musical heritage.

The internationally acclaimed artist and expert on Dominican folkloric music and culture opened the evening with a discussion on the historical beginnings of the country's numerous musical genres. Mateo described the diverse cultural influences that have fused together to shape the culture and music of the Dominican Republic. She spoke of the religiousity of both Taino and African derived root music, the closeness of both the cultural groups to nature and ancestor worship. She explained that Dominican culture, and the root music reflective of it, is emblematic of a type of folkloric and religious synchronism that merges Taino and African religious practices, beliefs and deities with the Catholicism, leading to the emergence of a version of Catholicism that allowed Taino and African descendants to continue to worship their deities under the semblance of European imposed Catholicism. Mateo provided insights into the cultural importance of key African derived musical varieties, including congos, salves, palos and sarandunga, as well as the uniquely Dominican conmarca, mangulina, carbine and merengue -- outcomes of the country's melding Taino, African and Spanish cultures. She also referred to more recent musical influences brought to the island by immigrants from Saint Kitts and Nevis to San Pedro de Macoris and by the freed slaves from Louisiana that arrived to Samaná.

The artist's musical performance to follow ignited the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium of the United Nations Headquarters in New York, rousing many audience members to leave their seats and dance in the aisles -- and inspired one audience member to even join Mateo and her ensemble of percussionists, guitarists and an accordionist on the stage.

Mateo captivated the audience with her powerful vocals, energetic dance moves and Taino inspired dress. The event came to a close with a standing ovation.

GFDD would like to thank all who contributed to the makings of this successful event, and would like to also acknowledge the participation of special guests Haitian-American musician, producer and politician, Wycef Jean, and Ambassador Andrew J. C. Kao, Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York.


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