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ulab music

Lila Downs' feminist take on banda music: "Soy libre y soy mujer para beberte"

In this episode of the U-LAB Podcast, the Mexican-American artist walks us through her new album, the sensual 'Salón, lágrimas y deseo.'
30 May 2017 – 11:55 AM EDT
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In Lila Downs' gorgeous, vintage-feel album Salón, lágrimas y deseo, she passionately sings traditional boleros, danzonetes and even banda music but with contemporary messages and feminist fervor. It's nothing new for the artist, whose career spanning 20 years has been known by her socially-conscious ideals on and off stage, her defense of indigineous cultures, especially those from Mexico, and her identity as a Mexican-American woman ni de aquí ni de allá.

In Salón, lágrimas y deseo, however, Downs demonstrates masterful vocal dexterity through songs spanning genres, original compositions and covers of classics by Alvaro Carrillo and José Alfredo Jiménez. She has never sounded so free, fierce or vulnerable: From her ode to Benito Juárez in 'Son de Juárez', ("A lot of Americans don't have any idea of who Benito Juarez was so it's a good idea to remind them", she says during our new episode of the U-LAB Podcast) to first single 'Peligrosa', ("Society sometimes calls us dangerous when we think, when we have opinions, when we get older, when we're too young to have opinions..." she states.)

The album is also about love, and she even cries performing one of the tracks, 'Inmortal': "It's a poem dedicated to the city [of Oaxaca, where she lives], and how in love I am with the city as a woman. And there are a few other songs that are very woman-centric, from our vision, our point of view: sensitive, sensual, and warm, very passionate," Downs says.

And where else will you hear a banda song, sang by a woman, that declares "Soy libre y soy mujer para beberte"? Fierce. It's the original track, 'Tus Pencas', a sensual metaphor about pulque. "I started listening to banda and I heard the language that they use, that is 'I'm taking off your bra and your pantyhose' so I went with that but from my perspective," she says.

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