Lila Downs has one of the world’s most singular voices and innovative approaches to music. She is the daughter of a Mixtec Indian woman, Anastasia Sanchez, who ran away from her village at 15 to sing in Mexico City cantinas and a University of Minnesota professor Allen Downs, who saw her singing and fell in love.
Lila grew up both in Minnesota and Oaxaca, and her music and vocal artistry have many influences, including the folk and ranchera music of Mexico and South America and American folk, jazz, blues and hip-hop. Many of her lyrics focus on issues relating to social justice, and often tell the stories of the workers who migrate from rural Mexico to work in the U.S. She studied classical voice and cultural anthropology at the University of Minnesota. “The Mexican American singer has a stunning voice, a confident multicultural vision grounded in her Mixtec Indian roots,” said the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times noted, “Ms. Downs has multiple voices, from an airborne near-falsetto down to a forthright alto and a sultry, emotive contralto.”