With only three studio albums, one live album and three international tours, “Lhasa” de Sela still made her unique mark on contemporary popular music. “La Llorona”, “The Living Road” and “Lhasa” are all accomplished works in their own right and open the door to a strange yet familiar world, halfway between dream and reality. Full of both light and darkness, these songs are imbued with the genuine feelings of an artist whose heartfelt vocals reach out and pull the listener in, creating an intimate relationship with the audience. Looking back at the life of “Lhasa” de Sela, the makings of a legend are visible like chapters in a novel, complete with all the emotion that comes with a beautiful but heartbreaking storyline.
Teacher and writer Alejandro Selo was born in Mexico and actress and photographer Alexandra Karam was born in the United States. They had family origins from all over the world and their ancestors came from Panama, Spain, Ukraine, Scotland, England, Lebanon and Algeria. The couple loved to travel, and a bus that crisscrossed between their two native countries was what they called home. On-board were their four daughters Sky, Ayim, Myriam and Lhasa, who would play and bicker in the back of the bus and at the numerous campsites and bivouacs.
Home-schooled by their mother, they had a passion for reading the works of Dickens, Tolkien and the Brontë sisters. They listened to classical and Arabic music, works by Dylan, Violeta Parra and Victor Jara, and would daydream for hours as the long road stretched out before them. But Lhasa would daydream a little louder than her sisters and irritated them by constantly humming, no matter what they were doing. Humming sweet melodies to herself, for those around her tunes were like the sound of a fly that you can’t seem to swat away. At the age of six, Lhasa already knew that she wanted to be a singer. A conviction that would only become stronger, until it consumed her.
As a teenager, Lhasa would still hum to herself, but she also began to draw and jot down her thoughts and dreams in her diary. She was inspired by the work of other artists, poets, novelists, painters, filmmakers and of course, musicians. At the age of 16, the discovery of Billie Holiday changed her life. The young girl was infatuated by Lady Day’s songs and her sensual voice and was both fascinated and obsessed by the way she held nothing back and surrendered herself to the music. She over-played her records to the point where she could no longer listen to them. Later, she did the same with the music of the legendary Mexican ranchera singer Chavela Vargas, another passionate free spirit devoted to her work. In interviews, Lhasa regularly quoted role models such as the French Edith Piaf or the Portuguese Amalia Rodrigues, indicating the same level of commitment she aspired to have when it came to her own music. These were monumental icons whose music she needed to process before she could go about finding her own musical identity.