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Review and photos by Mary AndrewsLila Downs has performed on the stages in Tucson many times and she has never failed to leave Tucson fans screaming for more. This show was no exception. Her career has been dedicated to exploring Mexican and American identity maintaining an awareness of tradition while experimenting with modern musical hybrids.
Lila Downs is of Mexican-American heritage born in Oaxaca, Mexico. Her mother was a Mixtec cabaret singer and her father was a professor of art and cinematography in Minnesota. She started singing at an early age. As she advanced in age she became more interested in her Mexican roots and social causes. Her shows have become a conglomeration of traditional, indigenous, songs from Oaxaca and Mexico as well as music she has written. She has earned Grammys and Latin Grammys and has recorded ten albums in her career. Her multimedia shows incorporate a fusion of folk music, rock, cumbia, flamenco and jazz. She has a passion for telling the stories of ordinary people and advocating for social justice.
Ms. Downs was supported by her eight-piece band that was led by her husband, Paul Cohen. The band included horns and was heavy on percussion as a strong element of their sound. The musicians are a class act! The concert started with "Una Cruz De Madera," which translates to "A Cross Of Wood." The song is an unusual choice since it addresses how the writer wants his body to be handled after his death. Regardless the fans were mesmerized from the start. Lila's voice was magnificently rich and full of depth. She has a voice that is like, but surpasses, Linda Ronstadt's voice in Ronstadt's heyday.
She did not hesitate to introduce her song about chocolate as being from Central America and considered a sacred drink from 'our ancestors.' The song was "Balas y Chocolate" that translates to "Bullets and Chocolate." This was a crowd favorite. All but one song was sung in dialects of Spanish except one song, "Minimum Wage." Lila spoke to the crowd in English to introduce the songs.
The show is spent promoting her native country. Her dancing is her own and she proudly utilized textiles from Oaxaca in her dance. One of her beautiful shawls was made from feathers that she proudly waved as she danced.
The overriding message from Ms. Downs was that we must act as a collective population to overcome social injustice. She expressed her pleasure seeing such a mixture of people in the audience, Hispanic and Caucasian alike. Her talent is so enormous that there is little wonder that her appeal is universal.
Lila Downs loves her fans! Toward the end of the show she was on the edge of the stage greeting everyone who rushed to the stage, shaking hands, posing for selfies, and embracing those she could. It was her joy to reach out and embrace the love that was being given to her. She is, indeed, living her dream and giving hope to those who face adversity.
1. Una cruz de madera
2. Humito de copal
3. La burra
4. La promesa
5. Balas y chocolate
6. Dulce veneno
7. La farsante
9. Cuando me tocas tü
10. Minimum Wage
11. La patria madrina
12. Viene la muerte echando rasero
13. Cucurrucucú paloma (Tomás Méndez cover)
14. Son de difuntos
15. Zapata se queda
16. Paloma negra
17. La cumbia del mole
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