Lhasa de Sela
I wanted to take a break from writing about equipment and the film/TV biz to talk about an artist that really inspired me in a huge way. Back in 2003, I had really grown tired of Rock music, or really anything very mainstream. I had been introduced to the concept of “World Music” a couple of years before (not counting what I knew about Ravi Shankar and what George Harrison promoted musically), so I was starting to get a taste of how music could sound if the objective was not to make a hit according to MTV standards.
My roommates and I were planning to go to France on vacation at the most affordable time for us, which was during the winter time. At this point I was living in a house in Escondido, California with three of my friends, two of which were going on the trip with me. At the time I was going to community college, managing two bands, and working a part time job as a sign maker. By the time I was going to go to France, my boss had forgotten that I had put in for time off, and so I was let go.
Anyway, we flew into Charles de Gaulle, and proceeded to begin our two weeks in Paris at the cheapest hotels we could find. We did however venture into any record store that we saw because we all loved music and were interested in exploring what France had to offer.
January 2004 saw the release of the second album by an artist I would learn to be Lhasa de Sela. Her first album, “La Llorona” was being displayed in the listening stations at one of the stores we wandered into. As was my custom, I’d listen to everything on display, and within the first 30 seconds of the first track “De Cara a la Pared” I was hooked. I skipped ahead and listened to bits of a couple of other tracks, and decided that I was going home with a copy. I did not realize it at the time, but there was a second album out, but the store either was out of copies or I just neglected to look. Either way, it wouldn’t be until a few months later that I would discover it.
“La Llorona” is entirely in Spanish, and is masterfully done on all levels: writing, singing, playing, recording, mixing. I was just blown away at every turn. I don’t think I had ever heard someone sing with such passion, and show such reverence for culture and folklore, but done so beautifully. Most traditional music from various countries and cultures has beautiful elements, but the catalogue is often a lot of the same sounding thing, as opposed to a variety of songs, each with their own voice, story, musicality, and soul. However, these are all things that I found with Lhasa, and even to this day, fourteen years later I still go back and listen with awe.
The second album, “The Living Road” expressed still more variety, as this album was written in Spanish, English, and French. The style and linguistic variety, as well as instruments used, varied a lot from track to track. Some songs were a lot more experimental, where others had a more traditional flare to them. I could definitely sense that she was forming a sound or a style with this album that we would see to come. I later learned how popular she really was due to the fact that gradually many of my friends and family would discover her music on their own, and I’d also sometimes hear her songs played through licensed venues such as grocery chains and coffee shops.
In October 2004, I moved to Nice, France, to pursue an education in Audio Engineering at L’Ecole Supérieure de Réalisation Audio-Visuelle. A friend of mine had recommended the school, having had studied at the Paris location himself. During my time there, I was lucky enough to see Lhasa live at an intimate show in Marseilles.
A few years later, I was living in Los Angeles, Ca; dirt poor and trying to make my way the best that I could. A good friend of mine from Nice had sent me an email alerting to the fast that Lhasa has passed away. I also learned of a new self titled album that came out around the same time. The third and final album really felt like a goodbye. Entirely in English, parts of it did remind me of the previous album, however nothing really called back to “La Llorona” except for the soul of the voice, but it was musically, stylistically, and conceptually a very different album.
This past December, by chance I had discovered that not only was “La Llorona” was now available on Vinyl LP, but there was a new release available. Lhasa’s final performance had been recorded and was now available.
“Lhasa Live in Reykjavik” is a last glimpse into the life and sensibility of this fragile artist who seemed to have a lot to share, but had a hard time doing it. I won’t get too biographical here, there is enough written on the subject available on the internet.
I just wanted to share with those who care, some music that really doesn’t follow trends or hype, but is in my opinion much better and more timeless than most anything available today. If you’d like to learn more about her, please see the links that I am providing for you below: