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RIP Lhasa: the Canadian-Mexican-American singer succumbs to breast cancer at age 37

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Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter Lhasa de Sela lost her 21-month battle with breast cancer on January 1, 2010. She was 37 years old.

Over the last ten years, Lhasa’s globally minded gypsy folk earned her critical praise, and her Billie Holiday-esque command over her smoky, uncompromising voice earned her a small but devoted group of admirers. Here’s a taste of her strange, sophisticated brew:

Lhasa de Sela was born in upstate New York to an American actress and Mexican professor. Throughout her childhood, her parents loaded Lhasa and her nine siblings into a converted school bus and took them on nomadic road trips around Mexico and the U.S., home-schooling and imbuing their children with a love for the arts.

Lhasa eventually settled in Montreal and released her debut album La Llorona, which won her the Juno Award for Best World Music Artist in 1998. Instead of capitalizing on the success of her first record, the idiosyncratic Lhasa moved to Europe to join her family in a roving theatrical circus—as you might have noticed, she wasn’t your typical singer-songwriter.

She returned to the studio a few years later to release 2003’s The Living Road, which was met with even more critical reverence than her debut. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until this year that she released her self-titled final album. Her reputation as a strangely alluring live performer kept growing with each album, so even though she didn’t release music at a breakneck pace, it seems possible Lhasa de Sela would have been a more recognizable name had her life not been claimed so soon. You can find out more about Lhasa at her official website.

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