She is ours — Oaxaca’s goddess of song and lyrics. Lila Downs went on stage to perform at the 13th Latin Grammy Awards on November 15, again recognized for what she has contributed to the music world. The Examiner article says it all. Accolades, too, to Paul Cohen, Lila’s husband, producer and collaborator.
Here are two photos I’ve taken of Lila in recent years. Enjoy.
Above: At her Day of the Dead concert in 2011 at the Guelaguetza Auditorium in Oaxaca.
Below: At Las Cuevitas chapel, January 2 in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. The poncho was woven by Erasto “Tito” Mendoza in the Saltillo style.
“Era importante para mí hacer un tributo a algunas mujeres de mi país que muelen maíz y lo llevan al canto y lo celebran como un milagro que a mí me ha inspirado mucho para poder seguir caminando y cantando.” ~ Lila Downs
“It was important for me to honor the women of my country that grind corn in song and celebrate it as a miracle that inspired me a lot to keep walking and singing.”~ Lila Downs
Video footage filmed in the Tlacolula valley of Oaxaca and the village of Teotitlan del Valle. Disfruta bien! This is where I get to live. Thank you Lila Downs and Paul Cohen for all you do.
The hot band Toto la Momposina (click on this link to hear their great music) from Colombia, South America, opened for Lila Downs last night at the Auditorio Guelaguetza in Oaxaca. Lead singer Sonia Bazanta Vides, who has been dazzling audiences with her voice for over 50 years, announced this was her last concert (if I understood correctly).
Front row seats meant a ringside treat to the dancing, hip swaying, and throb of the bass from the speakers. The beat was definitely cumbia, salsa, tango and with Afro-Caribbean drum accompaniments. Totally a hand-clapping, toe tapping experience. Exuberant and joyful.
Sonia’s voice was only equal to the energetic dancing by the performer in the bright floral blue, yellow and red dress. Both offered visual insight into the music and dance traditions of Colombia. Plus, the band included African and indigenous instruments — flutes, drums, and rattles — that added spice to the performance along with the electric guitars.
Nominated for a Latin Grammy, Sonia Bazanta Vides has performed for over 50 years throughout the world, representing the rich and complex music of Colombia and especially the islands where she was raised. She studied music, voice and composition at the Universidad de Colombia and at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1983, she accompanied Gabriel Garcia Marquez to accept the Nobel Prize in Literature.
As soon as I heard that Lila Downs was performing in Oaxaca, I ordered two (muy facile), never imagining that I would end up in front row on the rail right next to the stage. Que milagro! Though my bags were checked at the gate, I managed to smuggle in my camera. All the signs said no cameras allowed. Fortunately, la prensa (the press) were seated right next to us with mega lenses in hand and I was able to easily blend in. Que milagro! Lila is an incredible performer and vocalist. She is also socially responsible and committed to her Oaxaca and Mixteca origins. It was a wonderful concert. The entire Guelaguetza stadium was packed and the energy was electric.
Color strobe lights changed the atmosphere from yellow and red to blue and green and all hues in between. A “smoke” machine created stage mystery. Lila added shawls, a hat, and a Tito Mendoza woven tapestry poncho to her repertoire as she interpreted each song.
She really knows how to connect with Oaxaca and her people. I took over 450 photos and wore down my battery. A photo extravanganza for sure.
The audience was enthralled. There are many foreigners in the city now to enjoy Dias de los Muertos. The stands were sprinkled with extranjeros. And the band played on!
Even with my long lens the environment was challenging. Her white dress. Constantly changing colors and movement. Being a novice shooter. I didn’t have my tripod and camera shake without it is predictable. Even though I balanced the camera on the rail to provide stability, you can see that many of my shots are imperfect. I was just grateful to be this close and personal.
Lucky us! Lila Downs is performing at the Auditorio Guelaguetza on Saturday, November 5. The concert starts at 7 p.m. and you can purchase tickets at Ahorra Farmacia in Oaxaca or online at Ticketmaster. I bought two tickets on-line and can’t wait. Lila Downs is one of my favorite singer-songwriters and her Oaxaca roots make her very special. From time to time, as friends point out, she will do a free concert on the Zocalo but I haven’t heard any inkling of this and didn’t want to miss the chance to hear and see her perform.
I have this one favorite photo I captured of Lila Downs a couple of years ago when she appeared at the Las Cuevitas celebration in Teotitlan del Valle. I treasure it. She is wearing a hand-woven sarape created by Erasto “Tito” Mendoza.
Lila Downs at Las Cuevitas, Teotitlan del Valle
What I love about her music are both the lyrics and the vocals. She sings in Spanish, English and Zapotec, reflecting the complexity of her origins. Her songs are lilting as well as socially and politically relevant. She sings about what touches the hearts of Mexicans with a universality that speaks to all of us.
If you live in Oaxaca or you are here for Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) don’t miss this opportunity to experience this live concert with Lila Downs.
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