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Muse Meditation

The LHASA show at the Rio on June 15 was one of the most delightful occasions ever staged in this town. Joined only by a guitarist and the most beautiful cellist ever, the multilingual pixie was nearly as enchanting as she was talented. The concert was actually a meditative experience. Some moments kept playing in my mind days after everyone wandered out of the Rio Theatre into the chill of the coming rainstorm. Lhasa's a purveyor of textured, moody and touching music, and her stories and introductions to songs were nearly as powerful as the tunes they preceded.

For "Para El Fin Del Mundo O El Ano Nuevo," Lhasa told the crowd that the song was born in a military fort in Marseilles on the eve of the new century. Sitting in the fort and looking out over the harbor, she noticed two things. The first was that most of the town was making ready for a grand celebration and the second was that the French Navy had parked most of its assets convincingly close to the city. "People were wondering if something was going to happen," Lhasa said, "but at the same time, if nothing happened, they wanted to make sure that there was still a party."

Lhasa clearly relishes her role as a singer, but is not so selfish as to keep all the choruses to herself. Most songs featured harmony from the band, and one was an attempted singalong.

Before presenting the tune, Lhasa told the crowd that all the la la's were theirs. She said, "I have determined not to feel guilty anymore for the things that I am ashamed of. If you have something that you are feeling guilty or ashamed of, put it into this song. Don't worry, we will help you. We are professional la la singers."

After being met with the typically tepid response of American concertgoers, she stepped to the mic at the end of the tune and remarked, "Most of you didn't sing along. Either that means that most of you have nothing to be ashamed of, or that you are very shy."

Her final song, "Soon His Space Will Be Too Small," was the most mind-blowing of the evening. Her slightly spooky and very melancholy poem was accompanied by looped cello effects and some deft chordal work. It was so well played that it pre-empted clapping at its conclusion. Only after a few agonizing seconds of silence did people realize that such beauty should be acknowledged. Shocking a crowd into silence is a rare event at concerts, but one in which Lhasa seems particularly adept. Here is her introduction as best as I can remember.

"My father is a great philosopher. He is always thinking about one of his great ideas. He turns them around and around in his mind constantly and when he is done with one of them then he is really done with it. He just got done with one after about eight or nine years. He has a new idea now. Do you want to hear it?

"My dad believes that when we are conceived, we are nothing but a little speck of light in the infinite blackness of the universe. The only thing that we are aware of is the silence. As we grow older we become aware of sounds and shocks. At first they are very far away and quiet, but as we grow, they become louder and closer. The space that we inhabit gets smaller and smaller and we get more and more uncomfortable. Then when the space becomes too small and it comes time for us to be born, we all think, at some point in the process, 'OK, this is it, I'm dying.'

"Then we are surprised to come into the light of this world. Suddenly everything is very big and we are so very small. As we go through our lives, the same process happens again. We grow bigger and the space that we inhabit grows smaller and smaller. The noise and the shocks of the world grow louder. Suddenly this space that seemed so large becomes too small and we get ready to move on. When that time comes, we all think, 'OK, this is it, I'm dying.' My father thinks that when that time comes, we are all in for a big surprise again."

Peter Koht

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From the June 22-29, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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