Video

Mirel Wagner Performs Haunting Ballads Live On KEXP

Ethiopian-born Finnish folk singer Mirel Wagner performs haunting ballads off 'When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day' live at KEXP.


While on tour in Seattle last month in support of her stunning new album When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day, Ethiopian-born Finnish folk singer Mirel Wagner stopped by KEXP to spin her haunting ballads live on The Midday Show with Cheryl Waters. Wagner, who signed earlier this year with Seattle's iconic Sub Pop, performed four songs off the record, including album openers "1 2 3 4" and "The Dirt" plus "What Love Looks Like" and "Taller Than Tall Trees." Speaking on the role of sadness in her work, Wagner recently told us:

"There’s nothing sort of wrong with melancholy. Sadness is sort of like pathetic and sort of boring. But it’s all human emotion. I find wonderful the feedback that I get when I write and perform and record these kinds of songs. Some people come to me and tell me that they can relate to these songs, and first what you sort of think is, “Oh, these songs are sad,” and so on. But the amount of people who feel that they can connect and feel while listening to these songs tells that these songs and themes, this sort of discussion, is important and necessary for people."

When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day is out now on Sub Pop. Watch Mirel Wagner perform four songs off the album below. For more from KEXP catch Mercury Prize winners Young Fathers play live in studio.

>>>Read: ‘But It’s All Human Emotion,’ An Interview With Mirel Wagner

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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