|Lhasa de Sela|
Lhasa in Stuttgart, July 2005
|Also known as||Lhasa|
|Born||September 27, 1972
Big Indian, New York, U.S.
|Died||January 1, 2010 (aged 37)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Genres||Alternative rock, folk, world|
Lhasa de Sela (September 27, 1972 – January 1, 2010), also known by the mononym Lhasa, was an American-born singer-songwriter who was raised in Mexico and the United States and divided her adult life between Canada and France.
Lhasa was born in Big Indian, New York, of a Mexican father, Spanish instructor Alex Sela, and a Lebanese-Jewish-American mother, photographer and actress Alexandra Karam. Her first decade was spent criss-crossing the United States and Mexico in a converted school bus with her parents and siblings, who were home-schooled by their mother.
She started singing in a Greek cafe in San Francisco when she was thirteen. Aged 19, she moved to Montreal, and sang for five years in bars, where she developed the material that eventually became her first album, La Llorona, released in 1997. La Llorona, which mixes traditional Latin American songs with original songs, was strongly influenced by Mexican music, but also Klezmer music, Eastern European gypsy music, Middle-Eastern music and alternative rock. The album was released by the Canadian independent record label, Audiogram, in Montreal, and brought her much success, including the Quebec Félix Award in Canada for "Artiste québécois — musique du monde" in 1997 and a Canadian Juno Award for Best Global Artist in 1998.
After touring in Europe and North America for several years, Lhasa left her singing career in 1999 and moved to France to join her sisters in Pocheros, a circus/theatre company. She eventually reached Marseille, where she started writing songs again. She then returned to Montreal to produce her second album, The Living Road, which was released in 2003. While La Llorona had been entirely in Spanish, The Living Road included songs in English, French and Spanish.
A two year tour followed the release of The Living Road, taking her and her group to seventeen countries. She was a guest singer on the Tindersticks' track "Sometimes It Hurts" off their Waiting for the Moon album, and later joined Tindersticks' singer Stuart Staples for a duet on the track "That Leaving Feeling", found on his Leaving Songs album. She also appeared as a guest on the albums of French singers Arthur H and Jérôme Minière, and the French gypsy music group Bratsch. She received the BBC World Music Award for Best Artist of the Americas in 2005. The accumulated worldwide sales of her two albums are nearing one million.
De Sela's third album Lhasa was released in April 2009 in Canada and Europe. The same month, she could also be heard on Patrick Watson's new album, Wooden Arms, on the title track.
Following a 21 month battle with breast cancer, Lhasa died, aged 37, on the evening of January 1, 2010, at her home in Montreal.