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Mexican Folk-Fusion Artist Lila Downs On The Soundscape Of Home

Lila Downs.
Marcela Taboada
Lila Downs.

Folk-fusion artist Lila Downs knows a thing or two about loving where you’re from.

She’s devoted her decades-long music career to celebrating her Mexican roots — from the beauty of Oaxaca to lifting up indigenous populations to creating protest soundscapes.

Her latest album, Al Chile, examines heritage and home with a culinary twist.

From Rolling Stone:

[T]he Grammy-winning artist is no stranger to raising hell and consciousness through the power of song. Since releasing her 2001 fusion-folk opus, Border/La Linea, Downs has aimed to shatter xenophobia through wicked wordplay, while building solidarity with migrants everywhere. With Al Chile, she continues to dignify the lives of marginalized communities, and honor their traditions via street-style cumbia and the rural, vibrant sounds of Mexican pueblos. Just like Mexico’s strange and complicated connection with the piquante chili pepper, the themes in the album explore those burning sensations that cause “happiness, suffering, pain, and tears,” she says. “They remind us of the thin line between love and pain.”

One track off Al Chile is a cover of Manu Chao’s “Clandestino” — a now-iconic homage to the stories of migrants and asylum-seekers in Europe.

Downs offers her own take on the song, calling out immigration policies and facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This time around,” Downs told Rolling Stone, “I mention the immigrant children in the detention centers and sing from the feminine perspective, about the thousands of women and children who migrate today. Ten thousand years ago, the first humans came over the Bering Strait. Human immigration has been the universal human story.”

We talk with the Grammy-winning artist about the soundscape of home.


Lila Downs, Grammy Award-winning Mexican American singer and songwriter; @liladowns

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