Last Tuesday evening (July 14th) Dominican singer, composer and arranger Irka Mateo captivated a diverse and enthusiastic capacity crowd at the legendary New York City venue Joe’s Pub as she and her band debuted her new compositions and arrangements featuring Latin American accordion styles. Irka, as she is known to her fans, quickly proved her prowess as a top Latin world music composer and performer to both new and established fans as she and her band ignited the energetic set with a rollicking cumbia with hints of Haitian kompa “Pecao Aciguatao”. The audience was next treated to a fresh arrangement of the tune “Liborio” in the comarca style from the southwest of the Dominican Republic, revealing Irka’s clever insertion into her compositions of her work from ten years spent researching rural Dominican folkloric music styles.
Irka and her band moved seamlessly from one song to the next, serving up innovative fusions at each turn. Every song explored the roots and the boundaries of Dominican and Latin American music. The first single from Irka’s upcoming release “Vamo a Gozá” established a bachata groove rhythmically, but the accordion exuded a melancholic tango melody. “Taínos” lyrically documents a wealth of taíno vocabulary as a basis for Dominican Spanish set over the rhythm of the congos, an afro-descended rhythm which has been preserved for 500 years by the Afro-Dominican community in the town of Villa Mella. Irka’s new arrangement of “Taínos”, a familiar song from her set list at her NYC concerts from 2010 to 2012, displayed a modern Mandingo accordion over the congos, a rhythm that has survived only in the African diaspora. By the time the fiery accordion riffs of “Coje y Deja” revealed a Colombian puya over the Afro-Dominican sarandunga rhythm, Irka had the audience mesmerized with her vibrant patchwork of musical fusions.
Aiding Irka in keeping the flame on high throughout the set were some highly-talented musicians she has collaborated with on past projects as well as new talent brought on board for this venture. An emerging jazz composer and performer, guitarist Yasser Tejeda, a frequent collaborator of Irka's, presided as producer and co-arranger of her new project and musical director of the show, displaying his skill and range with a simmering intensity. Irka's most veteran collaborator, Joel Guzman, moved effortlessly between congas, guiro and other percussion instruments, adding at intervals unique flairs of showmanship. Mary Spencer Knapp commanded on the accordion, the unmistakable backbone of the evening’s musical journey. Kyle Myles and Otoniel Vargas also gave solid performances on bass and drum set, respectively, adding to the high quality of the band. Myles not only kept the rhythm tight, but he also demonstrated his skills melodically. Vargas proved himself as a key new representative of Dominican drummers who translate folkloric rhythms to the drum set.
When it seemed Irka had exhausted all the tricks from her magician’s hat, she sang at ease in Portuguese as her band blazed through the Brazilian rhythms of “Magia”. Then another unexpected twist: Percussionist Joel Guzman picked up a chekere and suddenly, Irka and her band had the Joe’s Pub crowd seduced with the funky, full force Afrobeat “Corazon” in which the stunning singer further expanded her range as she delivered most of the lyrics as a rap. A familiar song to Irka’s veteran fans, but with a vibrant new arrangement, “Temprano” concluded Irka and her band’s extraordinary set, followed by an extended standing ovation. This high-octane concert whetted concertgoers’ appetite for other opportunities to catch Irka and her band live and has created high expectations for her upcoming CD, currently slated for release at the end of 2015.
Follow this link to read the review of Irka's concert in Spanish: http://www.diariohispaniola.com/noticia/14189/entretenimiento-y-cultura/irka-enciende-el-legendario-joes-pub-de-new-york.html
For more information about Irka, her website is the following: www.irkamateo.com
Born in Ohio, grew up in Indiana, lived 4 years in the Dominican Republic, 1 year in Germany, 8 years in metro Boston and since 2005 call New York City home. Have traveled extensively in Europe and Latin American and have cultivated a deep interest in Latin American music and enjoy many styles of music from all over the globe. more
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