Lila Downs Concert Is Mini-Guelaguetza Extravaganza

How could each Lila Downs Concert be better then those that came before? The Best Ever is what I heard people say who have gone to many in the past. I don’t know, but Lila Downs knows how to dazzle a crowd.

Grammy Award Winner Lila Downs

The Guelaguetza Stadium on the Cerro Fortin in Oaxaca city was full on Friday night, July 27. We got there early to be sure to beat the crowds and that gave us a chance to settle into our seats and audience oggle.

Our diverse group from Israel, South Africa, Italy, Mexico and USA

Love this tapete — handwoven sarape

I was lucky enough to be invited to join a group of friends at the last moment. They had an extra ticket and offered it to me. Thank you, Patrice and Neal! Seems that to snag a primo seat means standing in line all night and someone they know did that for them. I was happy to pay the premium.

Lila loves wearing indigenous dress (traje) from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec!

Beribboned and twirling figures with  hand-woven hats

I had some serious doubts about whether my shout out for tickets would yield results. I was not successful finding online tickets via Ticketmaster. Nothing materialized and I gave up … until a few days before!

Whirling dervish cowboy dancer devils

We were in the third row, far left of center, behind the mixing station staff. Not great for photos, but a fabulous spot for listening and watching Lila’s husband Paul Cohen on his badass sax.  Even Lila made her way over on occasion. I did my best to get photos, but the strobes and movement of dancers made the conditions very challenging.

Little girl Flor de Piña dancers

In the row behind me, he sang every word along with her

I think what was fantastic about this concert is that Lila brought us her incredible traditional play list, the oldies but goodies. Everyone around us sang along. AND, the performance was built around the dancing and costuming of the annual Guelaguetza event held on the last two Mondays in July at the same venue.

Tlacolula de Matamoros Delegation

Benito Juarez, iconic Zapotec president of the Republic: respect human rights

With Lila’s singing mastery, great musicians and representative delegations invited from Tlacolula de Matamoros from the Valles Centrales de Oaxaca, Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec from the Sierra Mixe, Juchitan women from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, girls from the Papaloapan region of Oaxaca near Veracruz giving us the Pineapple Dance, and groups that are masked, twirling and whirling, the show couldn’t have been better.

La Bandera, the Mexican Flag, iconic and powerful revolutionary image

Lila Downs and Paul Cohen have a strong commitment to social justice issues in Oaxaca and Mexico. Her songs tell the struggle of poverty, lack of education and health care, discrimination, disenfranchisement, pain and tears, hopes and dreams. Together, they have been a powerful voice for human rights.

Lila sings La Llorona and the audience goes crazy

Artist woodcut projected as stage backdrop to band

The dynamic visual backdrop to the stage were photos and video of migrant farm workers, artist woodcuts of peasant life, the work of artisans and craftspeople, marching soldiers with bayonet rifles, heroic President of Independence Benito Juarez, a Zapotec from Oaxaca.

Sax and trumpet with lots of marimba band back up

Saxaphonist Paul Cohen takes a break to enjoy the Flor de Piña dancers

The fun was mixed with the message that we cannot be complacent about politics and world events. Half the seats in the audience were available to adoring fans for free.

The Grand Finale included everyone on stage

Guns at the border — NO

 

 

6 responses to “Lila Downs Concert Is Mini-Guelaguetza Extravaganza

  1. Hi Norma,

    Thanks for this beautiful article and photos. I only wish Oaxaca would plan such a festival in winter. I love the whole idea of the Guelaguetza and wonder why the snow birds never get to see this fabulous festival. The weather in winter is extremely pleasant and there almost no chance it will get rained out.

    Last winter I had the great fortune of going to a very small, intimate gathering where Paul Cohen was performing and as a surprise to the audience, his wife, Lila Downs, joined him for a few songs. What an amazing treat. They are very talented performers and very special human beings.

    • Thanks, Beverly. Guelaguetza as a government -sponsored performance event attracts a lot of tourists to Oaxaca in the summer months. It’s great for bringing visitors here. The big question is Who benefits? Especially since the dancers are professionals and aren’t from the pueblos. Lots to think about.

  2. Lila Downs has been to Fresno several times, each always a delightful performance!

    In the early 1970’s we saw stilt dancers in a small village in the southern arm of the Valley of Oaxaca! Betty Brown, Virginia Miller and I published a couple of articles about them.

    • Hi, Dudley. How lucky that you can see Lila in Fresno! The original village of the stilt dancers is Zaachila, at the far end of the Oaxaca Valley near Ocotlan. That’s probably where you saw them in the 70’s. What a great memory to have. Thanks for writing.

  3. This is wonderful! We saw her on YouTube but didn’t realize what we were seeing. What an amazing evening you had. We’ll be on the lookout for her once we move. Thank you for this lovely post.

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