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Awards for World Music 2007 - Americas
Lila Downs

Lila Downs
Sporting long, jet-black plaits, brightly coloured huipils (sleeveless Native American tunics) and rebozo shawls, Lila Downs cuts a stylish figure on any stage. She's an intense, theatrical performer who seems to inhabit the characters of her songs, not just through empathetic body language but also with her extraordinary ability as a mimic and a startling vocal range.

Born in 1968 to a North American father and a Mixtec Indian mother, she grew up shuttling between Mexico and the U.S. and thus grappled with issues of identity. Lila actually started singing rancheras (an immensely popular, melodramatic and diverse Mexican genre) when she was five and later studied voice and anthropology. You can also still hear echoes of her early operatic ambitions in her voice.

In the early 1990s, when asked to translate documents relating to the deaths of people who had attempted to cross the U.S./Mexico border, she became inspired to tell their stories by writing songs. She also began to work with local groups in Oaxaca and met her musical partner and husband Paul Cohen, who now plays bass in her wonderful pan-American band.

Since the turn of the century, a series of remarkably consistent albums mixing rock, reggae and even rap influences with a wide variety of indigenous Mexican styles and languages have brought her increasing critical acclaim. In fact, this is her third nomination for these awards. She began her recording career with La Sundunga (1997), but it wasn’t until Tree Of Life (1999) that she really hit her stride, singing several songs entirely in Náhuatl, Zapotec and Mixtec. With Border/La Linea (2001), she returned to the subject of the Mexican/American border, and she was nominated for an Oscar for her cameo appearance in the movie Frida (2003). Her 2004 album Una Sangre/One Blood earned her a Latin Grammy, as well as extending her linguistic and stylistic range. With La Cantina (2006),she’s made a faithful return to her ranchera roots. Legendary Tejano accordionist Flaco Jimenez makes several luminous contributions, and Lila tackles original and traditional cumbias, waltzes, corridos and more with all the chutzpah fans have come to expect of her.

Jon Lusk.

Lila Downs' website
Album Review on bbc.co.uk/music
Read other people's comments then Tell us what you think:

vert nice song in women of latin america Orphange song

Serkan Narin
We are listening to you every day, every night.We want to thank you for songs

Nice husky voice!

Ron White
Lovely music, but frankly, a light-weight voice, not in the same league as Ghad Shbeir, for example. I think that Russell Maddick's comments are on the ball.

claudia Phoenix, Arizona
Mr. Russell Maddicks I had to write you to let you know that I love what you wrote! You mentioned so many of Mexico's incredibly talented artists, thank you for bringing up their names! But without a doubt, my favorite part is what you wrote about Paquita la del Barrio! I just love her and her song Rata de Dos Patas! What a wonderful song! Those lyrics will undoubtedly make even the most serious person laugh! My sister, niece and I sat home tonight listening to it over and over just laughing and singing along! RATA DE DOS PATAS!!!! VIVA PAQUITA and I also LOVE LILA DOWNS! What a voice!

John, Dublin
sensuous, powerful, beautiful..truly great music enrichened further by especiially wonderful Flacco Jimenez on the accordian

Victor / Mexico
Lila es la Emoción y el Arte convertidos en ser humano. Una gran artista que refleja el talento y la efervesencia cultural de este país.

Lilia Dinuba Ca

I've followed Lila since hearing hear on the Frida Soundtrack. She delievered an amazing performance there and has been nothing but consistant as an artist since & befor.

Lila Downs is wonderful, talented, full of life and makes me proud to be a Mexican. I just simply love her music and her performances. I love sharing her music with other people. She makes us all proud! Panchita

Russell Maddicks
Lila Downs' CD is not without merit but nobody seems to have mentioned the fact that this is principally an album of cover versions of Mexican ranchera classics. Now there's nothing wrong with doing cover versions of timeless Mexican hits but why not educate the British public about the real stars who recorded these tracks in the first place, or more recently, like the incomparable Lola Beltran, Amalia Mendoza, Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Pedro Infante, the flamboyant Juan Gabriel or the Costa Rican emigre to Mexico Chavela Vargas. Lila Downs, who has spent most of her career outside Mexico, dresses up like the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, but Vargas actually had an affair with Kahlo, and her sad life of poverty, drink and unhappy affairs is echoed in every note of her songs. The trouble with these "World Music" awards is that many of the artists nominated are merely interpreting musical traditions or updating them as chill-out tunes for trendy bars in Hoxton. Why not direct interested listeners to the real stars of this genre in Mexico, such as the incomparable Paquita La Del Barrio, a feminist icon, whose male bashing rancheras have a relevance and resonance to Mexican audiences that Lila Downs has yet to earn. They can easily be enjoyed by anyone who likes the salty taste of tears in their tequila. Paquita La Del Barrio's song "Rata de Dos Patas" (Two Legged Rat) is one of those great "canciones del despecho" (heartbreak songs), when drowning in tequila is the only option. Thanks to youtube, peer to peer music sharing and the increasing globalization of music there is no excuse for basing your "World Music" lists for latin America exclusively on the selection of CDs available at HMV.


Leila MD
It is time for Lila to win this award. Her creativity and rich music has been a delight for many for many years

Lesley Forrest Winchester
Fantastic voice, range and feeling...would like to hear more

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