Saturday, January 09, 2010

Lhasa De Sela - The First of the Gang to Die

The first musician to be taken from us in 2010 is the exotic half-Mexican half-Jewish singer from Canada, Lhasa De Sela.

Listen to "Bells," on this download sampler, and you might figure her influences to be fellow Canadians Leonard Cohen and the latter-day jazz-influenced Joni Mitchell.

She died on New Year's Day, just before midnight, following over a year of medical treatment for breast cancer.

As Warren Zevon did, Lhasa used the time remaining to complete one final album, and lived to see it released. It's certainly a more somber and minor-key effort than her previous releases, which combined to sell over a million copies thanks to her strong international following (and being able to sing in both English, Spanish and French).

While she could be quite fiery (especially on the early Spanish numbers) your download of samples reflects more of the Cohen influence (she was a guest star on a "Tribute to Leonard Cohen" Canadian TV special.)

Lhasa was born in Big Indian, New York (September 27, 1972) but moved with her family all through the U.S. and Mexico, often living aboard a converted school bus. She ultimately settled in Montreal, recording for an indie record label, winning a Canadian Juno Award for Best Global Artist in 1998, despite recording the album entirely in Spanish. Unable to make much of a living, she moved to France in 1999, and with her three sisters formed a theatre company called Pocheros. She came back to Montreal in 2003 and released a new album that mixed English, Spanish and French songs. She won the BBC World Music Award for Best Artist of the Americas in 2005

As she matured, her jazz sensibilities melded with her interest in the same shadows and substance, fragility and strengths seen in Leonard Cohen's music and lyrics. The difference is that the grimness and grit in Cohen's work was replaced by an intoxicating and smoky voice and the pretty sensibilities of minor-key Latin balladry. Some of the music harkens to the gentle and melancholy melodies of Victor Jara, the Chilean martyr and friend of Phil Ochs, a man that Lhasa hoped to some day immortalize via an album of cover songs.

It is sad when the introduction of an artist is also the announcement of her death. Four tracks for you; "Desierto" in Spanish is from her first album ("La Llorona" 1997), "La Confession" in French is from "The Living Road," 2003, and the two English tracks, "Bells" and "A Fish On Land" are from the new one, simply titled "Lhasa."



Anonymous said...

Heaven is a big bowl of cheerios.

Anonymous said...

Don't you wonder about people who have no life and leave pointless comments? Too cool!