Remembering Lhasa’s Gifts

Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis

The year began with a blast of sadness: news that Lhasa de Sela, one of Canada’s finest musicians and a friend of ours, had died of breast cancer at 37.

Lhasa’s songs—performed in Spanish, French and English—have an utterly unique sound, like lullabies for a world in pain. But Lhasa also understood the power of music to transform, and she was quick to share her great gift with social movements that inspired her. "I know a song sung at the right moment can be such a very powerful thing," Lhasa wrote to us a few years ago.

That was certainly our experience with Lhasa’s music. For our 2004 documentary, The Take, she recorded an original version of "Yo Vengo a Ofrecer Mi Corazón," the Latin American classic made famous by Mercedes Sosa. Her voice became the soundtrack for the film’s emotional climax, when thousands of workers and their supporters faced extreme police repression outside the occupied Brukman factory in downtown Buenos Aires. The only version of that remarkable recording is the one that appears in the film, so we wanted to share it—and the scene it infused—with all of you, in loving memory of the soaring light that was Lhasa.

Lhasa’s old friend Jules Beckman recently wrote this: "We have always heard something ancestral coming through her. She has always spoken from the threshold between the worlds, outside of time. She has always sung of human tragedy and triumph, estrangement and seeking with a Witness’s wisdom. She has placed her life at the feet of the Unseen."

Here’s a video from Lhasa’s final album, recorded in the midst of her battle with cancer.

Thank you Lhasa, your music lives.

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