Audio

Lhasa de Sela

  • February 21, 2018

Singer and songwriter Lhasa de Sela appeared seemingly out of nowhere in 1997 with her debut album titled La Llorona; a release that defied definition, capturing a Latin world of her own imagination born of an itinerant childhood spent between Mexico and the US. The music was both familiar and truly unique, a mix of ranchera music, Eastern European gypsy music, country, and popular songwriting, with intensely personal lyrics in Spanish, and an absolutely passionate vocal delivery.

The seeds of Lhasa’s unusual songwriting lay in the cultural background of her parents and the nomadic lifestyle they had chosen. She was born in a cabin in Big Indian, New York state, the daughter of a Mexican father and American mother who at the time of her birth were hippies. She and her sisters grew up in a converted school bus in which the family crisscrossed North America and Mexico. Settling first in San Francisco with her mother when her parents split up, she moved in her late teens to Montreal. She honed her craft singing in bars and began composing songs in three languages – Spanish, French and English.

This playlist features selections from her four albums, the Spanish La Llorona (1997), the French-Spanish The Living Road (2003), Lhasa (2009) in English, and a recently released live date Lhasa Live in Reykjavik (2017). These albums together with a 1999 track from a Lilith Fair concert; a cover of the Chavela Vargas lament “Llorona”; and a duet with Bïa Krieger are filled with songs fuelled by dreams, love, relationships and life events filtered through an imagination shaped by folk tales.

Lhasa de Sela died in 2010 from the effects of breast cancer. She was only 37. Her memory lives on through her extraordinary music.


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