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Tuesday June 21, 2016

From The Guardian
By John Lewis

Lila Downs review ‘” Mexican-American singer wows the crowd with a uniquely entertaining show

The show starts with Lila Downs ‘” resplendent in a flowery yellow dress and a pair of crazily high white heels ‘” opening a bottle of tequila. She pours a drop on the floor (‘as is traditional among native American communities in Oaxaca, Mexico, as a show of thanks to Mother Earth’), swigs from it and then passes it around the audience to loud cheers. It’s a triumphant start to a show that never puts a foot wrong.

Downs’s latest album, Balas y Chocolate (Bullets and Chocolate), covers some harrowing aspects of life in contemporary Mexico ‘” drug cartels, the disappearances of students, the murder of investigative journalists ‘” but, in concert, she never forgets her duties as an entertainer.

She impersonates a cooing dove and dances like an iguana, then dons a huge sombrero in tribute to Emiliano Zapata
Over the course of two hours, the Mexican-American singer (and songwriter, actor and activist) is hilarious and heartbreaking, raucous and ridiculous. She impersonates a cooing dove. She dances like an iguana. She dons a huge sombrero to pay tribute to Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. She covers herself in a shawl to sing songs of death and mourning. A huge screen behind her displays accompanying footage ‘” song lyrics, Day of the Dead-themed animations and atmospheric films of Central America.

Downs trained as an opera singer and has a remarkable voice. Technically she’d be called a contralto, but her chest voice is as low as many male baritones. She can hold notes for a ludicrous length of time, and can throw in vocal effects ‘” growls, rolled Rs, eerie falsettos ‘” that make her androgynous, almost superhuman three-octave range sound conversational.

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