Not many people are willing to devote their life to music. No. It takes a very special person to make the sacrifices that are needed to master an instrument. Most people are unwilling to make the commitment that’s required. This wasn’t the case for Dom La Nena. From the moment the Brazilian born chanteuse first discovered the cello, it was literally love at first sight. Since then, the Brazilian born cellist and vocalist’s life has revolved around music. That was the first step in a musical journey that lead to the release Dom La Nena’s debut album Ela. It’s just been rereleased in Japan on 25th February 2015, on the Six Degrees Records. This is perfect timing, because very soon, Dom La Nena will release her sophomore album Soyo, However, that’s till to come. Before that, I tell you about Ela, I’ll tell you about Dom La Nena’s life and career.

Dom La Nena was born in 1989, inPorto Alegre, Southern Brazil. Aged five, curiosity got the better of Dom. She discovered something she’d seen every day of her young life, the family piano. Curiosity became a voyage of discover. Her discovery of the piano lead to the cello. Straight away, Dom La Nena realized that the cello was her way of expressing herself. So, she decided to devote her life to music and specifically, the cello. 

By the time Dom was eight, her family moved to France. Her father was studying for a doctorate. During this period, Dom musical education began. She received a classical training during the five years her family lived in France. Once her father’s doctorate was completed, the family returned to Brazil. In Dom’s case, this wasn’t for long.

Already, Dom was an admired of American cellist Christine Walevska, who in 1997, was living in Buenos Aries, Argentina. Dom wrote to Christine and not long after this, she moved to Buenos Aries. Her parents realized this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Never again, would Dom get the chance to be a student of a legendary musician. So, Dom’s parents allowed her to move to Argentina.

Aged just thirteen, Dom moved to Buenos Aries. Dom spent five years studying with Christine Walevska and some of the country’s most influential classical musicians.  It was during her time in Argentina that Dom adopted the name La Nena. This was affectionate name which means “the girl,” was bestowed on her by Christine and her grandparents, who Dom would visit in Uruguay. Little did they realize that it would stick. After five years, Dom, aged eighteen, had finished what was the another stage in her musical eduction. Next stop for her, was Paris, where her musical career would begin.

It was 2007 when Dom moved to Paris. Soon, she was working with some of the biggest names in French music. Dom accompanied Jeanne Moreau, Etienne Daho and Camille. Then in 2009, Dom worked with Anglo-French singer and actress Jane Birkin on her worldwide tour. It was during Jane Birkin’s tour that Dom decided she’d begin work on her debut album.

On her return from touring with Jane Birkin, Piers Faccini offered Dom the chance to use his home studio. The rural location was perfect. It was high in Cevennes Mountains in France. Isolated, and miles away from anywhere, it gave Dom the chance to concentrate purely on her music. Within a week, Dom had recorded all the cello, piano and vocal parts. Dom decided to send the songs to Piers. He’d not planned to work on the album. Then he heard the songs.

After one listen, Piers wanted to work with Dom. He threw himself into the project. They proved a potent partnership. Dom and Piers were like ying and yang. Soon, an understanding arose. Quickly, Piers knew what was needed to improve a song. They fed off each other, inspired each other. Eventually, thirteen songs were finished. These thirteen songs became Ela, Dom La Nena’s debut album, which I’ll tell you about.

Anjo Gabriel is the perfect track to open Ela. This is case from the opening bar to the closing notes. Atmospheric describes the introduction. When a creaky door gives way to an accordion you’re interest in piqued. They provides a wistful and understated backdrop to the pizzicato strings and piano. They accompany Dom’s fragile, ethereal vocal. Accompanied by a subtle sprinkling of percussion and harmonies, the song heads towards its beautiful, crescendo.

No Meu Pais has a minimalist, understated arrangement. Just piano and cello set the scene for Dom’s vocal. There’s a sadness in her vocal. She’s grownup without roots, traveling between Brazil, France, Argentina and Brazil, never putting roots down. She’s missed out on so much. It’s as if she’s realizing what she’s sacrificed for her first love, music. A poignant coming of age song, is it a case of no regrets?”

From the opening bars of O Vento, the tension builds. Quivering strings and meandering guitars accompany Dom’s vocal. It’s sung in Portuguese. There’s a sense of melancholia in her vocal. Tinged with sadness and regret, Dom’s vocal is a window into the soul of the weary adventurer. 

There’s a vibrancy to Dom’s vocal on Batuque. Multi-tracked backing vocals accompany her. Just like her vocal, they’re ethereal and crystalline. The drums are the polar opposite. They’e bold and dramatic, while the percussion is subtle. Later, when they join with Eastern percussion and Dom’s scatted vocal, they prove a mesmeric combination.

Dom’s cello provides a wistful, heartbreaking backdrop to Dessa Vez, which sees Piers Faccini join Dom. When her vocal enters, it veers between hurt-filled and hopeful. Longing and loneliness are omnipresent. She wonders and hopes, but dare not think that this time she might find love. She’s been hurt before is scared of being hurt again. Piers assures her this time it’s different, this time, it could be for real. 

Conto de Fadas, which translates as Fairytale, is one of the highlights of Ela. Just a piano, then cello accompany Dom’s vocal. It’s tender, emotive and soothing. Despite being sung in Portuguese, its inherent beauty will transcends any barrier,

Ela the title-track has a sense of suspense. That’s thanks to the cello. It provides a dramatic backdrop for Dom’s despondent vocal. Soon, it quicken, becoming breathy. It’s as if she’s overcome with sadness and sorrow at the situation she finds herself in.

Buenos Aries features another guest artist, Argentinian singer Thiago Pethit. The song is a celebration of the time Dom spent in Buenos Aries. There’s a classical influence to this piano lead song. Dom delivers a a tender, wistful and ethereal vocal. Then an accordion tugs at her heartstrings. It provides a reminder of her old life in Argentina. When it drops out, Thiago delivers an impassioned, pleading vocal. Later, as Thiago and Dom’s vocals are swept along by the accordion and harmonies, memories come flooding back. For Dom, they’re good and bad. Instead of a celebration, it proves to be a bittersweet journey.

Breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreaking describes Menina Dos Olhos Azuis. With just harmonies and later, a piano for company, Dom lays bare her feelings. What follows is an outpouring of emotion, with a cello solo proving the final straw.

Sambinha is a very different track. It’s a much more upbeat song, that’s like a call to dance. You can’t help but submit to this songs irresistible charms. An acoustic guitar and percussion join Dom’s lilting, sensual vocal. Cooing harmonies, handclaps and accordion combine to create a backdrop to Dom’s sultry vocal.

When I first heard Canção Boba it reminded me of another song. Having racked my brains and played the songs numerous times, I realized what it was, U2’s One Love. Although there’s similarities, it’s also very different. Just a pensive piano provides an understated backdrop for Dom’s vocal. Her vocal oozes emotion, sincerity and joy. Gradually, the arrangement builds and reveals its beauty and secrets. As bass and cello combine with harmonies, the song takes on an anthemic quality. Thankfully, Dom doesn’t resort to posturing, relying on the ethereal, crystalline beauty of her vocal to shine through.

Vocé sees Dom joined by Camille, a French singer who she’s previously worked with. Inspiration for this song came from a childhood game she played. Memories come flooding back. That was when she was carefree, and started her globetrotting life as a musician. As the song ends, Dom’s vocal has become melancholy, at what she lost and the sacrifices she made. Was it worth it?

Saudade closes Ela. That’s the perfect way to describe not just Dom’s vocal on this track, but much of the album. Melancholia or wistfulness is a way of describing it. It’s more than that. There’s a sense of longing, as if desperate to recapture something that’s long-gone. That’s apparent from her vocal, which is accompanied by the cello. It reflects the regret in Dom’s vocal. What caused the regret? Maybe it’s the childhood and youth Dom never got the chance to enjoy. After all, she was living away from home and devoting her life to music?

Thirteen songs and just thirty-six minutes long, Dom La Nena’s debut album Ela, is a beautiful, but melancholy album. It’s a poignant and powerful window into the world of Dom La Nena. The thirteen songs feature mostly understated, acoustic arrangements. This allows Dom’s vocal to take centre-stage. You’re spellbound by each of her vocals. She’s a natural storyteller, whose worldweary, wistful voice brings the lyrics to life. Despite being sung in Portuguese and Spanish, you can feel, share and empathize with her pain and anguish. Dom sounds a complex character, whose music is a reflection of her childhood.

First of all, Dom and her family moved from Brazil to Paris. Aged just eight, she left behind her friends and had to travel across the world. She had meet new friends and make a new life. Then there was the language barrier. This couldn’t have been easy. Then five years later, she moved from France back to Brazil. Then came the biggest decision of her life. Aged just thirteen, Dom left home and headed to Buenos Aries. Leaving behind friends and family, she followed her dream of becoming a professional musician. In doing this, she sacrificed so much, maybe too much? Some would say she sacrificed her childhood? Traveling to Argentina she spent five years there. From her songs, they weren’t always happy times. Bittersweet times they were. From Argentina, Dom headed back to France. Living a nomadic existence, she never puts roots down. That’s what makes No Meu Pais autobiographical. 

Indeed, many of the songs on Ela which was rereleased in Japan on 25th February 2015, on the Six Degrees Records, are autobiographical. Featuring articulate, intelligent lyrics, Ela is an emotional roller coaster journey that many people can relate to. After all, many people have made sacrifices that later, they wonder whether were worthwhile? In Dom’s case, it’s a journey full of highs and lows. Sadly, it seems the emotional lows outnumber the highs. That’s why one song epitomizes Dom La Nena’s music. That song is Saudade. It’s a Brazilian word that describes a deep-rooted sense of loss or longing. To me, that describes much of Dom’s music. That’s also why Dom’s music is so moving, poignant and powerful. 

As an outsider looking in, Ela was an opportunity for Dom La Nena to reflect on her unorthodox life so far. I wonder whether she thinks that the sacrifices she made were worthwhile? Listening to the songs on Ela, melancholia is almost a constant companion for Dom. So often, her voice sounds melancholy, wistful and distant. It’s as if the songs bring back memories, some she’d rather forget. Maybe, Ela will prove cathartic for Dom La Nena, and this outpouring of emotion and memories will help her to move on and enjoy the next chapters in what I’m sure will be a long and successful musical journey? 



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