One of the pleasures of living in Mexico is being immersed in its music — and lately, I’ve had the pleasure of not only seeing Julieta Venegas in concert, but now also Lila Downs. Lila, who grew up in both Oaxaca and St. Paul, Minnesota (I can’t even imagine….), writes songs in both English and Spanish. Her musical tastes run the gamut from traditional ranchera music to alt-country-blues-rock. (She opened with a cover of “Black Magic Woman” and even played a Spanish translation of “I Envy the Wind” by Lucinda Williams).
Like Julieta, Lila is a virtuoso, playing many instruments throughout her show. But her strongest talent is her voice — she has a vocal range that puts Mariah Carey to shame. Last night she played in Mexico City’s ornate Teatro Metropolitana and we had the luck of sitting in the third row.
This was the first concert I went to where many women in the audience wore traditional Mexican clothing, likely inspired by Lila, who wears the most beautiful Oaxacan dresses I’ve ever seen. Even if you don’t understand much Spanish, I recommended seeing a Lila concert — you won’t be disappointed by her energy, fabulous bilingual songs and elaborate set (hanging trees with their roots exposed). At the very least, you’ll have your soul cleansed by the traditional Aztec healers offering “limpias” before the show out in the lobby.
And yes, if you’re thinking “she reminds me of Frida Kahlo,” you’re onto something: