Singing For The Soul Of It
Part medium of
music, part anthropologist of the heart, Lila Downs performs rare ritual magic
on One Blood Una Sangre. Combining her native Indian Mexican music with
influences as far reaching as acid rock, reggae and deep blues, Downs seemingly
pulls sounds from the sky to create her mysterious music.
to take very seriously what it means to be a singer and that doesnt mean
that I always feel inspired, she says while on tour in Mexico City. It
is a constant search, just like life.
Questioning yourself, why we are here and what our place is. The music has made
me a more peaceful person and through music we can come together through many
cultures. That is important in these times.
Sung mostly in Spanish, the songs of Una Sangre are startling in their
richness and assimilation of cultures. Downs covers musical bases like an ambassador
circumnavigating the globe in sound, and her flexible band meets every turn
with grace and agility. One song, Downs is crooning a mad hymn like some grizzled
voodoo priestess, the next she is swaying on the breeze of a balmy reggae groove.
Throughout, her music is earthy and lusty, as if summoned from the hills of
Mexico that she so dearly loves.
What I am referring to in my songs are the images that I grew up loving,
which are the mountains and the rivers, and having respect for Mother Nature
that we all come from. In that as women we have inherited this beauty and this
freedom but what I am asking in this album is about the creation of humanity
and about how we are dealing with problems and all the complicated issues of
the day. I look to nature to remind us about where we come from. The earth and
the ocean. If we commit excesses in the end we will pay for them according to
the laws of this universe.
Born of a US university professor and a Mixteca Indian mother who sang in Mexico
City when she was young, Downs initially turned her back on her heritage, only
to embrace it years later. With a double degree in anthropology and voice (and
after abandoning a questionable Grateful Dead fixation), she settled in her
mothers home town of Oaxaca, Mexico where she began to research her roots,
both musical and cultural. Music became her focus as she released several albums,
of which one song won Best Original Latin Jazz composition in a poll of Philadelphia
area music lovers. As well as jazz, Downs developed a unique folkloric singing
style which came to fruition on 2000s Tree of Life, its lyrics
taken largely from the ancient religious texts of the Mixteca and Zapotec people.
I think people can relate to the subjects of these songs, Downs
says. Even in times like these, I believe that there is something good
within us, kind of like the Buddhists believe that there is a little Buddha
inside us that is like a child and has no hate and no fear. When things are
getting serious, I believe we should look at the beauty in life and not so much
at the differences as they separate us but more try to love those differences.
The diversity of who we are is what makes this place so interesting.
One Blood Una Sangre