Winnipeg State of Mind

by Nigel Weber

“Lest I must confess, my destiny’s manifest” – Lauryn Hill

Playing Big Fun Festival in January was a big show for Marisolle Negash. She was premiering a new song with new visuals filmed by Victor Ilunga. But it was far from her first performance at a music festival. The local singer and multi-instrumentalist began performing at classical music festivals at the age of 8. Classically trained on both piano and voice, Marisolle’s music has come a long way from her roots in the classical world.

Marisolle and Victor first connected through Instagram. Being mutual admirers of each other’s work, they decided to collaborate. Victor, who goes by the artistic name Plutoe, is a graduate of Vancouver Film School. In late 2018, after only a couple months of knowing each other, the pair were approached by Synonym Art Consultation to help produce a music video and debut it at Big Fun. Victor and Marisolle, still getting to know one another, fast-tracked the process. Marisolle describes the filming process as a learning experience for both of them as Victor “was intent on making a project that was totally up to me”. With a deadline to meet, Marisolle had to quickly learn the language of film to communicate her ideas so Victor could interpret them visually. “In The Way” was picked for the video “very late in the filming process” and because it is “a very vulnerable song.” Marisolle said she was forced “to get over [herself] really quickly,” to get the work done.

The beat for “In The Way” was made by local producer, New Picasso, in one of their first collaborations together. “In The Way” was the first time Marisolle was working with a visual collaborator, though she’s worked with endless musical collaborators. She plays piano and sings backup vocal in Super Duty Tough Work, a group she refers to as “the dream team”. She also plays shows solo, both on piano and guitar, and has worked with many different musicians in her own bands.

Marisolle eschews traditional musical genres like soul or jazz when referring to her sound, opting to call it “mood-based”. Hesitant to describe her music at all, Marisolle usually just plays her music for a curious fan. Having spent many years studying music it is no wonder that “there’s a lot of classical pedagogy and approaches,” to her writing style. Marisolle doesn’t want a listener to be prejudice of her music based on a single-word genre that has decades of connotations. The mood-based approach allows the listener to emote with the music and feel Marisolle’s mood coming through her vocals. Basing it on mood allows the music to be subjective so each listener finds their own vibe. “In The Way” is driven by sparse but heavy drums, leaving room for Marisolle’s voice to fill the song. The piano and bass round out the track, but it’s only natural that the vocals are the focal point.

Having spent her formative years in classical training, Marisolle grew up playing other people’s music. But that all changed when she started writing her own music and “realized [she] had [her] own ideas.” Marisolle acknowledges the many performances she did as a child have made her a better and more confident performer today. She sees herself standing apart from every musical genre, saying, “I feel like I belong to whatever idea I’m creating in the moment.” The freedom and fluidity within her music is

what makes Marisolle unlike any other musician in Winnipeg. Even though she is “really supported by people who are on that same wave as well,” Marisolle Negash is doing her own thing. Using her music as a form of expression, Marisolle is finding her truth, saying, “music was a way for me to find belonging in my own narrative.”

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