January 4, 2010 1

Lhasa de Sela

By in montreal, sketches, watercolour, women


Going to miss Lhasa de Sela. Not that I played her music a lot around here, but I always paused when La Lorona or one of her other haunting numbers came on the radio, or played at a friend’s place. Kind of a female version of Leonard Cohen, at least in the sultry romantic aspect of her music. She was the only person I met and chatted with in Montreal who later became famous. Trying to remember now, but we had drinks in the Cheval Blanc, and maybe one other place. She was a friend of a friend’s girlfriend, and had interesting stories to tell.

Her family was with “the circus,” maybe something to do with the military also, so her early life was spent travelling from place to place. She was an American/Mexican, so was worried about being able to stay in Montreal. She went to school in California with Alice Walker’s daughter, who, it seemed was a little snooty. We talked about books and things. She really didn’t talk about her singing.

I’d see her around town sometimes, because she was like me, one of those rootless Montreal artsy types. Then she got well-known. I’d still see her once in a while, when she popped into Welch’s, the used bookstore where I worked for 5 years in the early 90s. She’d say “hi,” don’t know if she really remembered me. Very shy and soft spoken.

When I had met her, she had shaved her head. I don’t think that had anything to do with the cancer that killed her, so early in life with such a great career. She just had a new album out this season, so I was thinking about her again. Now she joins that pantheon, in one’s memory. The good thing about being an artist is that you affect a lot of people, and can leave something behind. Though it’s a shame she didn’t have many years in which to sing and record more of her music.


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One Response to “Lhasa de Sela”

  1. Jeremiah Duboff says:

    Wow. Sad. Like Cohen, vaguely. Also, very vaguely, the chick who fronted for Portishead. She gets in your head like smoke in a steamy room.

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