Lila Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico, is the daughter of Mixtec singer Anita Sanchez and Allen Downs, a Scottish-American art professor and filmmaker. She grew up in Oaxaca, California, and Minnesota, where she graduated from the University of Minnesota in voice and anthropology. Downs performs her own compositions as well as tapping into Mexican traditional and popular music. She also incorporates indigenous mexican influences and has recorded songs in indigenous languages such as mixtec, zapotec, maya, nahuatl and purepecha. She is usually accompanied on her musical journey by her longtime band, La Misteriosa, and multi-cultural multi-instrumentalists including Paul Cohen, her collaborator, producer and husband.
Her musical vision is anthropological in nature and as varied as the ancient and earthy cultures that continue to nurture and inspire her. Embracing and highlighting indigenous origins, whether in the U.S. or Mexico, has always been an important aspect of her music, as well as the topics of political and social justice, immigration, and transformation, all rooted in the human condition. She strives to make a meaningful connection with her diverse audiences through her music and performances. “I’m so lucky,” remarks Downs. “People who follow our music are from all walks of life, and they want to scratch the surface to know the whys and hows. Every day we get to connect in so many ways.”