Following her highly acclaimed appearance at the Montreal International Jazz Festival earlier this month, Mexican-American vocalist Lila Downs brings to SFJAZZ this week her particular blend of international sounds and styles – what the Los Angeles Times describes as “a stunning voice” and “a confident multicultural vision grounded in her Mixtec Indian roots”.
Regarded as one of the most celebrated singers of her generation, Lila Downs is a passionate global ambassador for the indigenous music of Mexico, yet also includes in her repertoire a wide range of musical genres – from blues, jazz and soul, to cumbia, rock, rap and even klezmer. This ability to combine a combination of styles, without losing her cultural roots, won her the 2016 Antonio Carlos Jobim Award as “an artist distinguished in the field of world music whose influence on the evolution of jazz and cultural crossover is widely recognized.”
Downs rose to the ranks of an international star when she performed, with Caetano Veloso, the Oscar-nominated song Burn it Blue from the Frida Kahlo biopic, at the 75th Academy Awards ceremony. She has recorded a total of nine studio albums, and won a GRAMMY and a Latin GRAMMY (her fourth) for her 2011 release Pecados y Milagros.
Her latest album, Balas y Chocolate, featured in the UK Sunday Times Best Album of the Year list in 2015, as well as in the 2015 US iTunes best world music releases. According to her website, “Lila’s compositions are often striking commentaries on social conditions ….”, and the lyrics of this album – inspired by the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos – are critical of the violence and corruption which currently blight the reputation of her homeland.
“Fluency in Spanish isn’t necessary to understand Lila Downs’ shape-shifting voice,” says The Associated Press, “it transcends language, carrying pure emotion. Downs moves from operatic stylings to rap and everything in between, with both artistic exploration and pop sensibility.”
Lila Downs appears in the Miner Auditorium on July 23 and 24. For more information, and for tickets, visit the SFJAZZ website.