Mirel Wagner: Blues Stripped Bare
February 8, 2012 § 3 Comments
A rare (and fleeting) urge to deep clean seized me this week. Away with the corner cobwebs, the on-the-counter clutter, the mold above the freezer. Gone is the magazine I meant to read but never will, the shoes I will never wear, the near-empty containers on my shelves consolidated, then discarded.
Simplicity is a sweet thing.
I stood in my living room, surveying my small home, satisfied.
It was a good feeling to pair with the music of Mirel Wagner. Though I know she was Ethiopian-born and Finland-raised, I don’t know her life story, what she’s seen, felt, heard. What streets she wanders, if she walks. What people she calls home. What she maps to her past. What she leaves behind.
But the stripped down, bare simplicity of her music reveals much.
Her music reminds me of the reflection on “How to Sing the Blues” on Seattle Pacific University’s blog. The author writes:
The blues are not a mood but a lens through which we might look at anything and everything — even our victories — and thereby see them simultaneously arriving and departing … the approaching parade already gone to torn paper and burst balloons still trailing their string in sad remembrance that our dreams were once round with our breath, and so buoyant that they needed to be tied and held to the ground.
Even this excerpt, taken out of context, is somewhat melancholy. But I don’t think the blues are merely a pessimistic, depressed way of looking at life. It’s not the darkness that is found compelling, but the remembrance of dreams that would sweep you away. Mirel echoes this sentiment in an interview with the German Rolling Stone:
“It’s a bit lazy to say that I make sad music. Of course you might say the lyrics are bizarre or dark. But for me, the songs are first and foremost filled with desire. And there’s this hope in them that love overcomes everything.”
For as much as it’s simple, the music of the blues takes in the big-picture. It meets the sacred and ordinary with the same raw bravery; love with the same weight as loss. It clings to desire against a changing landscape. “I lean in to the well / black water, what can you tell?” sings Mirel. “What can you tell?”
Photo by James Boland.