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Feb. 11, 2019 | Bob Boilen — There’s a magical aura that surrounds Lau Noah as she sits behind my desk and embraces her guitar with one foot propped unnaturally high on a stool. As melodies pour from the strings, she sings these words in Spanish: “On the verge of the soul, there is a red petal, attached to the skins of mortals.” A few lines later in the song she continues, “a fragile petal that drinks the water of the most cruel stories: children who have never heard a fairytale, lovers who love, dressed in regret.” This is the sort of poetic tale that captured my heart amongst the thousands of entries I watched during the Tiny Desk Contest in 2018. Her song she submitted for the contest is called “La Realidad.”
Lau Noah’s journey as a songwriter and guitarist occurred by happenstance. She was born in Reus, Spain barely a few hours drive from Barcelona. She speaks and now sings in Catalan, Spanish, English and sometimes Hebrew. She’d played piano growing up (never guitar) and left Spain for New York City five years ago while in her late teens.
On a visit to Montreal in 2016, Lau hoped to go to a Patrick Watson concert with friends. But the performance sold out and she was left alone in an apartment while her friends went to the show. Then a snowstorm ensued. The apartment had two guitars and, with nothing else to do, she picked one up and began to play. She wrote her first song, “Pequitas,” which means “Little Freckles.” Now, not too many years later, her creativity on both classical guitar, her narrative poetry and the singing of that poetry make the musician Lau Noah a unique spirit.
Before she played her final song, “Red Bird,” at the Tiny Desk, she quoted Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, from his novel Don Quixote: “When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies,” Lau said, reading from her notes. “Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams is madness. And maddest of all: to see life as it is and not as it should be.”
Lau Noah herself writes the kinds of story-songs that provoke that sort of thought, so we’ve included translations for you to fully enjoy her vision.
“El Jardinero (The Gardener)”
“La Realidad (The Reality)”
“L’Adéu (The Goodbye)”
“La Belleza (The Beauty)”
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kimani Oletu; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Photo: Amr Alfiky/NPR