Looking For Mizan

Looking For Mizan

MIZAN K, THE LATEST SIGNEE OF TERRIBLE RECORDS, STEPS OUT OF THE SHADOWS WITH NEW EP

MIZAN K, THE LATEST SIGNEE OF TERRIBLE RECORDS, STEPS OUT OF THE SHADOWS WITH NEW EP

Text: Ian David Monroe

“I bought a little keyboard and put it in the closet. I was literally a closeted musician.”

Mizan K might have started making music between racks of clothes, but with the release of her first EP, Dark Blue, she’s breaking out into the world. Still, the six tracks retrain all of the characteristics of bedroom-production: downtempo melodies, restrained vocals, and an intangible intimacy one could only capture in a sacred space. Her sound is closest to ‘80’s R&B—there’s an undeniable similarity to Sade on track “Looking For”—but lyrically it explores the shadowy corners of existence that few venture into, or share honestly.

“I’m not afraid of darkness. I think that it’s easy for me to go there. I actually find a lot of satisfaction in tackling things that are dark, but I also don’t fetishize darkness. That to me is dangerous,” she says when I attempt to compare her to The Weeknd, whose detractors criticize his glamorization of drug abuse. She’s not commenting directly on him though; her only exposure to his record comes from cab rides.

While she rejects the musical comparison, the two do share something in common: their Ethiopian heritage. In Amharic, the country’s official language, Mizan means balance, which is representative of her work and what she is trying to achieve with it. She describes her EP in two parts. There’s a “simple” side consisting of her trusted keys, and a side that explores electronic elements. “Those two sides represent who I am and what I want to do with music.”

In a recent interview, Mizan described the music as “uplifting.” Can music be both uplifting and dark? She clarifies her meaning: “It’s a little more complicated than singing about happiness. On my song ‘Anxious,’ I’m talking about anxiety. I’m talking about restlessness, and that’s not necessarily uplifting, but it has an uplifting effect. Being able to discuss those kinds of feelings that we all have that we are ashamed of, and think of as abnormal, and put them on a shimmery groove, on a dance-y beat, is a way of doing away with that shame. It’s a way of having people work out their issues without feeling guilty about it.”

Ridding one’s self of guilt is somewhat of a theme in the singer’s life, and the reason she was hiding that keyboard in her closet. “Where I come from there’s a lot of poverty. Doing things like art, and especially conceptual art—that feels very luxurious.” She’s not alone, though; her sister is an artist, too, and contributes to Mizan’s visuals.

Another key collaborator is str8ngecreature, who has been a friend of the singer's since 13, and a part of Dark Blue since its inception, having produced some of the tracks. She speaks of him with high esteem: “He’s been a huge, huge, contributor. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without his help. For my show, he’s building programmable LED lights. It’s like a ten-foot by ten-foot curtain. Each LED light is like a pixel, so you can program it to project images.”

When asked if she would be up for working with other artists, she says no. “Maybe part of it is because I’m scared of opening up to other people.”

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