Indigenous Week Day 7: Mariee Siou – Grief in Exile


Artist: Mariee Siou

Album: Grief in Exile

Label: Night Bloom Records

Release Date: June 7th, 2019

Location: Nevada City, California

Written by Glenden Merrell

Grief in Exile wastes no time establishing its motifs with its opening number, Black Snakes. The sounds of water and a brief synth drone are followed quickly by a brooding fingerpicked arpeggio in E minor on Siou’s guitar. The track creates a rich atmosphere before the one-minute mark that transported me to windswept hills after the sun has gone down. But when her voice enters the song goes from atmospheric folk song to ethereal visitation from a grieving spirit.

The power of this woman’s voice cannot be understated. She is clearly a fantastic guitar player with seasoned control over the instrument and an ability to play in a variety of styles with precision and mastery over dynamics, but her voice to me is what defines her music. Her voice and her poetry. Black Snakes encapsulates this perfectly with a haunting vocal melody that leaps up and down. The texture of her voice is that of the wind itself, ephemeral yet powerful. It can feel like it is dancing playfully around you until all of a sudden it threatens to topple you over.

The track, like many of them, is a lament first and foremost. A lament that echoes across the thousands of Indigenous cultures in this country. A lament for colonization, for genocide, and for assimilation and erasure of thousands of years of tradition.

While Medusa’s head of black snakes

Tears through the loss and what remains

Praying while dogs snap between labor pains

Empty words spoken again and again

The Sacred Hoop broken that we’re trying to mend

The forceful claiming of land from the indigenous population, government-sanctioned genocide, followed by a concerted effort to destroy or assimilate what remains of thousands of different cultures is the ultimate evil. Not to mention the disproportionately high rates of domestic violence, suicide, substance abuse, and poor health that native communities are currently forced to live with. Living in a country that is actively trying to erase your identity and culture while doing little to nothing to right those wrongs is a profound kind of grief that I will never understand. But Mariee Siou and her music are a window into that feeling.

Grief in Exile is, not surprisingly, an ode to grief. Each song explores a different facet of loss from the perspective of a woman who has clearly spent considerable time trying to mend the gaps in her identity. Her own website states: “Through music she attempts to fill a cultural void left by severed connections to her Polish, Hungarian, and Indigenous North American heritages and to thereby address the broader cultural voids felt by Americans today.” As well as “…enticing the sacred work of grief back into our lives from the exile which modern society has placed it in.”

Mariee Siou wants us to embrace grief, to sit with it; to make a designated place for it in our hearts. Only by welcoming grief into our lives as a sacred act can we hope to heal. Everything from our personal relationships to cultural divides. Because the inverse of grief, of loss, of pain, is hope. It is love. And Grief in Exile is teeming with love.

The final track, My Birds is a tender ballad that holds the mission statement (if you will) for the album:

But I’m still standing while the rock in my hand turns to dust

I’m still breathing while the air in my lungs falls like sand

And I’m still needing the generous love of my man

And I’m still weaving this life with iridescent strands

And we’re all fucking nuts but the future still depends on us

To grieve is to love. And we must all continue to love even when it feels like we cannot breathe. Even when your people are beset on all sides by those who wish them harm. Because as long as we are alive we have a sacred responsibility to care for and protect one another and the world we live in. This is what I will take away from Grief in Exile. This is what Mariee Siou has taught me. She is a talented musician with almost two decades of music experience, a lover, a griever, and a healer. Listen to her music, and listen to her words.

Listen here:


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