Salem State University | Language Resource Center | Spanish Lyrics Collection

Lhasa de Sela

Origin: Mexico, US, Quebec

Songs featured here

  • La Celestina
  • Desdeñosa
  • Los peces
  • El Pájaro

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    Lhasa de Sela was born in 1972 in Big Indian, a tiny village in the Catskill Mountains in New York State. Her father is Mexican, but he lived half his life in the US. Her mother is American, but she has spent half her life in Mexico.

    Lhasa now lives in Quebec and she just published her first record, called La Llorona, after the famous Mexican fable.

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    La Llorona

    La Llorona, which means "the crying one," is a legendary Mexican character rooted in Aztec mythology which became a popular figure in Mexican culture, but also in the culture of the U.S. South (which was part of Mexico until not too long ago). La Llorona is a folktale about a wailing, hollering, or weeping ghost that haunts men. The ghost is said to be that of a native woman who is searching for her dead children, who she is said to have drowned herself. There are different versions of this tale. In one of them the woman is said to have drowned the children while in a rage after her lover, a Spanish hidalgo, abandoned her and their children when he returned to Spain. After killing her children, the woman then kills herself, but her ghost is punished to look for her children until the end of time.

    According to the version mentioned by Lhasa de Sela, La Llorona allures men with sad melodies, bewitches them, gets them to a river bank, and there she turns them to stone by giving them a kiss. According to Lhasa, it appears that she does this in order to avenge her children who were killed because of "the war of men." This legend finds its origins in the Aztec mythological character of Cihuacoalt, the woman of Quetzalcoalt (the snake which represents the unification of the earth and the sky). This woman is the wind which runs between these two elements, sighing and shouting with its melancholic voice. This legend was a great source of inspiration for the album.

    In Mexico, La Llorona is sometimes brought up to frighten children children so that they will behave and thus she is the Mexican equivalent of the bogeyman.

    (Translated and adapted from the French version in the Album's web site; additional parts and from G. Rosin's site and elsewhere).

    Reviews borrowed from

    "Lhasa De Sela has distinguished herself as a singer and storyteller with her debut album, La Llorona. The 25-year-old Montreal resident, who grew up traveling through Mexico while living on a school bus, sings of her tortured heart with the accompaniment of guitarist-producer-arranger Yves Desrosiers and a cabaret-style band. Already compared to those of Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday, De Sela's haunting voice is memorable on each of the 11 songs (only 3 are nonoriginal) that range in inspiration from Mexican ranchera to Eastern European klezmer." --Cristina Del Sesto

    "Half Mexican American, half Jewish American and all rainbow chile, singer Lhasa de Sela's Spanish-language, world music/alt-rock debut shimmers with honest emotionalism, with no trace of the posturing and whining that passes these days for deep, girlish thoughts. The girl's young, but she's equipped with imagination, confidence, and technique enough to take that husky, urgent alto anywhere she wants. And she goes there. Guitarist-producer-arranger Yves Desrosiers cloaks all this splendor in rapturous arrangements that include, among other elements, the sound of rain, flamenco-influenced guitar, and a slide bass of his own design. Even if you don't understand Spanish, you can't miss the point ... the feelings. Lhasa's just begun, but her stranger-than-fiction background and dazzling gifts already place her among music's top-rung storytellers." --Elena Oumano

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    Recommended albums

    CD cover La Llorona Lhasa UPC: 75678312021 Format: CD Release Date: Aug 18 1998 Label: Atlantic. (At Barnes&Noble: $12.99; At $.)

    [Buy it for the Language Resource Center!: Have it mailed to: LRC Chief, Department of Foreign Languages, Salem State University, 352 Lafayette St., Salem, MA 01970. Thanks!]

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    La celestina
    Lhasa de Sela/Yves Desrosiers

    «Quiere, aborrece, trata bien, maltrata,
    y es la mujer, al fin, como sangría
    que a veces da salud y a veces mata.
    -- Rimas humanas, CXCE: Lope de Vega

    Mi hija, quédate conmigo un rato.
    ¿Por qué andas arrastrando esa desdicha?
    Espérame un momento y te desato.
    Pero, ¡qué enredo te has puesto, muchachita!

    ¡Qué amargos son los hechos que adivinas!
    ¡Qué oscura es la ronda de tu recuerdo!
    Y en cuanto a tu corona de espinas...
    te queda bien, pero la pagarás muy caro...

    * Con tu mirada de fiera ofendida,
    con tu vendaja donde herida no hay,
    con tus gemidos de madre sufrida,
    espantarás a tu última esperanza.

    Haz de tu puño algo cariñoso,
    y haz de tu adiós un ¡ay, mi amor!
    Y de tu ceño una sonrisita,
    y de tu fuga un ¡ya voy! ¡ya voy llegando!

    Mi hija, ¡qué pena me da de verte
    dejando olvidado a tu cuerpo,
    muy lista, pobre boba, a dedicarte
    a la eterna disección de un pecadillo.

    Mujer, desnúdate y estate quieta
    A ti te busca la saeta
    Y es el hombre, al fin, como sangría
    que a veces da salud, a veces mata...
    Es el hombre, al fin, como sangría
    que a veces da salud, a veces mata.

    (Back to *)

    "She loves, hates, treats well, mistreats,
    and women are, in the end, like bloodletting,
    which sometimes heals and sometimes kills."

    --Human Rhymes, CXCI, Lope de Vega

    Little one, stay with me awhile.
    Why are you dragging that misfortune with you?
    Wait a minute and I'll untie you.
    What a tangle you've gotten yourself into, child!

    The facts you guess at are so bitter!
    The rounds of memory so dark!
    And as for your crown of thorns,
    it looks good on you, but you're going to have to pay dearly for it!

    With your look of offended beast,
    and your bandage where there is no wound,
    with your sighs of martyred mother,
    you will scare away your last hope.

    Make something kind out of your fist,
    make your 'good-bye' into an 'Oh, my love!'
    make a little smile out of your scowl,
    and out of your flight a 'Here I come.'

    How sad it makes me, little one, to see you
    neglect that body of yours,
    very smart, you poor fool, to devote your life
    to the eternal dissection of a small sin.

    Woman, undress and be still
    the arrow is looking for you
    and men are, in the end, like bloodletting,
    which sometimes heals and sometimes kills
    and a man is, in the end, like bloodletting,
    which sometimes heals and sometimes kills.

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    Lhasa de Sela/Yves Desrosiers

    Aunque mi vida esté de sombras llena
    No necesito amar, no necesito.
    Yo comprendo que amar es una pena
    Y que una pena de amor es infinita

    Y no necesito amar - Tengo vergüenza
    De volver a querer lo que he querido
    Toda repetición es una ofensa
    y toda supresión es un olvido

    Desdeñosa, semejante a los dioses
    Yo seguiré luchando por mi suerte
    Sin escuchar las espantadas voces
    De los envenendados por la muerte

    No necesito amar - absurdo fuera
    Repetiré el sermón de la montaña
    Por eso he de llevar hasta que muera
    Todo el odio inmortal que me acompaña

    Even if my life is full of shadows,
    I don't need to love, I don't need to.
    I understand that love is pain
    and that pain of love is infinite.

    And I don't need to love; I am ashamed
    to love again as much as I have loved before.
    All repetition is offensive,
    and all supresion is forgetting.

    Disdainful, like the gods,
    I'll keep fighting for my destiny,
    without listening to the frightened voices
    of those whom death has poisoned.

    No, I don't need to love; it would be absurd
    I will repeat the sermon on the mountain
    so as to carry until I die
    all the immortal hatred that I have inside.

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    Los peces

    (This is a very old Spanish Christmas song. It seems to have a strong Moorish and/or Jewish influence.)

    La vírgen se está peinando
    Entre cortina y cortina
    Los cabellos son de oro
    Y los peines de plata fina

    Pero mira como beben
    Los peces en el río
    Pero mira como beben
    Por ver a Dios nacido
    Beben y beben
    Y vuelven a beber
    Los peces en el agua
    Por ver a Dios nacer

    La virgen lleva una rosa
    En su divina pechera
    Que se la dio San José
    Antes que el niño naciera

    La vírgen va caminando
    Y va caminando solita
    Y no lleva pa companía
    Que el niño de su manita

    La vírgen lava pañales
    Y los tiende en el romero
    Los pajarillos cantando
    Y el romero floreciendo

    The Virgin is combing her hair
    between two curtains
    her hair is made of gold
    and the combs of fine silver

    But look how they drink,
    the fish in the river,
    look how they drink,
    from seeing the newborn God.
    They drink and drink
    and they drink again,
    the fish in the water,
    from seing God being born.

    The Virgin wears a rose
    in her holy bodice
    which Saint Joseph gave to her
    before the child was born

    The Virgin is walking
    and she's walking all alone
    and she has no company
    but the boy held by his little hand.

    The Virgin washes diapers
    and hangs them to dry on the rosemary bush
    The birds are singing
    and the rosemary is blooming.

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    El Pájaro
    Lhasa de Sela/Yves Desrosiers

    Mírenme a la vida vuelvo ya
    La la la
    Pajarillo, tú me despertaste
    Enseñame a vivir

    En un abismo yo te esperé
    Con el abismo yo me enamoré
    Pájaro me despertaste
    Pájaro no sé por qué

    Mírenme a la vida vuelvo ya
    La la la
    Pajarillo, tú me condenaste
    A un amor sin final

    En un abismo yo te esperé
    Con el abismo yo me enamoré
    Pájaro me despertaste
    Pájaro no sé porqué

    Look at me, I'm coming back to life,
    La, la, la,
    Little bird you woke me
    teach me to live.

    In an abyss I waited for you,
    with the abyss I fell in love with the (sic)
    Bird, you woke me,
    Bird, I don't know why.

    Look at me, I'm coming back to life,
    La, la, la,
    Little bird, you condemned me
    to a love without end.

    In an abyss I waited for you,
    with the abyss I fell in love with the
    Bird, you woke me,
    Bird, I don't know why.

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    Last updated: Dec 2, 1998