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Lila Downs


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Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, Mexico (1993 – present)

Anna Lila Downs Sánchez was born in Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, Mexico in 1968, and grew up there and in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She began singing music at an early age, and later sang at the fiestas of the towns in her mountain region, la Mixteca. She sang with the band Los Cadetes de Yodoyuxi and later with La Trova Serrana, a group of folk musicians from the Zapotec town of Guelatao, . At that time she met her musical collaborator Paul Cohen and began to create her own musical compositions, which tap into native Mesoamerican music of the Mixtec, Zapotec, Maya and Nahuatl cultures. Cohen went on to become both Downs’s husband and her artistic director.

Downs is the daughter of Mixtec cabaret singer Anita Sánchez and Allen Downs, a Scottish/English-American professor of art and cinematographer from Minnesota. She grew up partly in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, partly in California as a teen, and Minnesota as an adult where she studied voice and social anthropology at the University of Minnesota. She also studied in a school of fine arts (Bellas Artes) in Oaxaca when she later returned to Mexico where she learned to weave.

In following the years, Downs and her band have toured widely in Mexico, South America, the US and Europe.


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