(UPDATE: 5/31/13: Just saw my blog featured on Dom La Nena’s Facebook page where she says these shows are her very FIRST shows in the US, so you definitely don’t want to miss them!)
Thanks to KCRW, I just discovered Dom La Nena who was born in Brazil, lives in France and studied cello in Argentina. Her music is as intricate as her upbringing, spanning 3 countries, 3 languages and an early calling to the cello. Born Dominique Pinto in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Allegre, Dom started playing piano around age 5 but very soon fell in love with the cello and wanted to devote her life to it. She moved with her family to Paris, France when she was eight so her father could pursue his doctorate while she continued studying cello. Upon returning to Brazil 5 years later, Dom could not find a cello teacher and started writing letters to acclaimed American cellist Christine Walevska, known as “the goddess of the cello”. With Walevska’s encouragement and her parents’ support, Dom moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina at the age of 13 to study with Walevska until she returned to France at age 18. Her song “No Meu Pais” exquisitely captures her uprooted life without any one place to call home.
It was during her adolescent years in Argentina that she picked up the nickname, La Nena, which is a Spanish term of endearment there for “girl”. “My family and my friends and everyone called me La Nena because I was always the little one, because I went there very young to study cello…I was always with people older than me,” explains Dom in an interview with NPR. “”I [made] a very big sacrifice because I went to Argentina…without my family,” Dom says. “So, it’s a very, very intense relationship with my cello because I have sacrificed many things for him but I don’t have regrets.” Her song, Buenos Aires, sung in Spanish is a tribute to her adopted country.
It’s this same sense of innocence and devotion you can hear in her delicate voice in her debut album Ela, released this past January. Even though Dom sings primarily in her mother tongue of Brazilian Portuguese, her music defies easy categorization and transcends borders. Her musical collaborator, singer-songwriter Piers Faccini put it best in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “One of the things I like about Dom is that she knows various cultures, but isn’t defined only by the countries. She’s her own melting pot.”
Dom La Nena’s music captures what The New York Times describes as “the Brazilian quality of wistful longing called saudade” and I agree. I find her melancholic, nostalgic music very beguiling and I can’t wait to see her perform in her Los Angeles debut. She’s playing at the free Make Music Pasadena festival on Saturday, June 1 and at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood on Sunday, June 2. I would choose to see her at the Hotel Cafe, where her quiet vocals and haunting cello are best suited for a small, intimate venue rather than loud, boisterous outdoor crowds. Want a preview? Check out her in-studio performance at KCRW in January here.