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Photo by Elena Pardo

Lila Downs Returns to Costa Mesa Having Creatively Rediscovered Herself

Throughout the years, Lila Downs has expunged raw emotions with rancheras and delivered cumbias in the face of death with her mesmerizing vocals all while tapping into a profound sense of Mexicanidad. This time around, the singer is getting more in touch with her womanhood in an empowering way as she readies the release her 10th studio album next month. Downs is revealing her new songs while touring through the United States, but the collection is still wrapped in a sense of mystique.

"I can venture to say that it is very feminine in its expression," Downs says of the new album. "It has to do with my personal trajectory in my life. It's always beautiful to rediscover yourself."

The Mexican-American singer goes inward for inspiration, feeling through emotions in coming to a new introspective sense of maturity. It's a musical conversation the singer is engaging with for the first time. "As a Latina, I haven't been able to talk about certain things because it's not appropriate [and] because we have a very conservative side in our community," she says. "It's interesting to explore that and to see a lot of women coming together now."

And the timing couldn't be any better for an expression of feminism with all the toxic masculinity permeating from the White House these days. In fact, that's where Downs left us last, skewering Donald Trump as a "blue-eyed devil man" on "Demagogue," her unheard plea before the election. "It's a song I really needed to do at that point, but I feel like the moment has passed," she says.

Of course, Downs is disappointed with the presidential election like a great many Mexicanos. She finds political inspiration anew against the President with "Envidia" (Envy) off her forthcoming album with lyrics that proclaim, "you are envious of me because I am all the things that you cannot be."

While "Enviada" is proving to be a cathartic experience for audiences during her current tour, Downs revels in creating a celebratory atmosphere. "It's exciting to perform some of the new material, especially because they're very dance orientated," she says. The arrangements also entice a romantic sentiment with the violin key to creating the musical mood.

Looking back at it all, Downs finds herself at an interesting vantage point in life 10 studio albums later. The singer is able to see how different generations interpret their realities while always looking for creative renewal herself. "I'd love to see how I can contribute to us becoming better people and by that I mean humanity and certainly to continue educating people about the enormous cultural universe of Latin America," Downs says.

"I don't get tired of looking for new ways to express that."

Lila Downs with Monsieur Periné at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa., (714) 556-2787; Sun. 7 p.m. $29


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