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La Sandunga
Lila Downs
La Sandunga
Genres: World Music, Pop, Rock, Latin Music
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #1

World musician Lila Downs experienced a career renaissance thanks to her contributions to the 2002 Frida movie and soundtrack . After two well-received solo albums, the Narada label has reissued Downs' dramatic debut album...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Lila Downs
Title: La Sandunga
Members Wishing: 3
Total Copies: 0
Label: Narada
Original Release Date: 1/1/1997
Re-Release Date: 9/30/2003
Album Type: Extra tracks, Original recording reissued
Genres: World Music, Pop, Rock, Latin Music
Styles: Mexico, Latin Pop, Regional Mexican, Mexican Cumbia, Tropical, Cumbia
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 724359364223

World musician Lila Downs experienced a career renaissance thanks to her contributions to the 2002 Frida movie and soundtrack . After two well-received solo albums, the Narada label has reissued Downs' dramatic debut album, La Sandunga. The singer released the album independently in 1997, and it still sparkles with the immediacy and passion of a woman completely connected to and excited by her craft. Every song on La Sandunga, including the album's three bonus tracks, flows effortlessly into the next. It's as if the album was recorded without pause during one very creative recording session. Downs' Mixtec-Indian and American background is an obvious influence on her work. The album is peppered with lush strings and blaring horns. It's all anchored by Downs' wildly diverse vocal stylings, which even manage to spice up the oft-recorded album closer, "Besame Mucho." --Joey Guerra

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CD Reviews

Mixture of indigenous songs, jazz, and varied genres
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 11/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The second of two Lila Downs CDs I bought just before I went into the auditorium to see her live is a quieter affair, but with as much subgenres from the Mexican and Mixtec music culture that really opened my eyes. Here are the highlights.The title track is a mournful ode to one's dead mother, with piano and acoustic guitar. According the notes, "La Sandunga" is played in ritual ceremonies, but as a genre, it became a sort of Mexican waltz, a merger of indigenous and European influences.The quick-paced mariachi-like "Pobre Changuita," with quickly sung vocals, is the forerunner of Mexican country music. Lila does her comical helium-like voice in this one.The slow and swaying "Naila" is similar to Cuban habanera music. The bongos and guitar add to the Latin rhythm.In the same tempo, with a touch of slow jazz and bossa nova, are "Tengo Miedo De Quererte" and "Un Poco Mas," both triumphant showcases for her upper register. Both sport the Cuban bolero style, using African rhythms. Paul Cohen, her husband, who was was one of the musicians at the concert, has a notable sax solo here.The corrido "Ofrenda" is dedicated to Mixtec immigrants who try to get work in the US and die there, something tackled more on La Linea.Wow, here's the haunting "La Llorona" once again. It's also on her La Linea album, but also on the Frida soundtrack, where it's done by other artists. This was done in the concert, and it was one of the better numbers done. Like the title track, there's a slow waltz influence, with the Spanish guitar giving it the indigenous influence. The legends differ, but they have in common a screaming woman at night. Lila's voice reaches an operatic height at one point."Yunu Yucu Ninu" is an a capella song in Mixtec, and praises the trees and mountain of Yucuninu for providing sustenance for humans and animals, and how The CECAM marching band is used in "Cancion Mixteca", which thematically covers the Mixtec mythical character of the Sun Archer and the constant migration of the Mixtec people.Things really get hot in the festive "Pinotepa", which also uses the same marching band in the chilena style, brought to Mexico by African slaves who came with Pizzaro, one of the most villainous conquistadors.What differentiates this from the original 1995 release is the three bonus tracks, originally part of the Trazos song collection. These songs incorporate some jazz piano elements, with a bossa nova backbeat. "Besame Mucho" is a nice relaxing number for one.The explanation of the songs are a big help, written by Lila herself in both Spanish and English, and some of them tell when certain Latin genres of music were created. The important thing is that all the songs were composed by people living in Oaxaca, where the Mixtecs live.A mostly mellower collection of songs, most of it sung in Lila's melodic higher register, and incorporating Mexican, Zapotec, and Mixteca cultural elements, many that I'd never even heard of...until now, and light jazz. Is she great, or what?"
The sultry, sassy sound of Downs at her best in this debut C
Jana L. Perskie | New York, NY USA | 08/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I first heard Lila Downs' distinctive sultry, sassy voice in the film "Frida." The movie's entire soundtrack is extraordinary, and I still listen to the CD frequently. Fortunately Ms. Downs has come out with four albums since then. I bought them all because I love the passion and soul she puts into her music. "La Sandunga," her debut album released in 1997, is one of my favorites, with its highly original arrangements. She weaves the indigenous music of her native lands - Mexico and the United States - into a multicultural fabric. Her variegated sound is a real fusion of Mexican folk songs, rich American blues and jazz, along with some pop, mixed in with Afro-Cuban and Brazilian rhythms. Lyrics are in Spanish, English and Mexico's Mayan, Zapotec, Nahuatl, and Mixtec Indian dialects. I have never heard the classics "La Llorona" and "La Malaguena" sung quite like this before. Absolutely fantastic!!

"La Sandunga" is an unusually eclectic mix, based on Ms. Downs' international artistic vision! Her formal vocal training (opera) gives her a tremendously varied range. Her songs come from the villages whose culture she studied after leaving opera studies and her repertoire includes boleros, ballads and rancheros, as well as original compositions backed by a multi-ethnic, very talented band. A Brazilian guitarist, a Cuban bassist, a Chilean drummer, a Mexican harpist, and a pianist/saxophonist/musical director from New Jersey create a creative, crisp, jazzy, at times bluesy Latin sound.

The title song, "La Sandunga," is a traditional Zapotec folk song. It is usually played at local festivities and at weddings. "La Zandunga" is a type of cancion performed as a Mexican waltz. It is a result of the music of the conquistadores,' who arrived from the Spanish provinces of Navarra and Leon, combined with that of indigenous cultures.

Other highlights include: "Pobre Changuita," which epitomizes Mexican country music and is one of my favorite cuts; "Ofrenda" is a corrido inspired by Mixtec immigrants who come to the US to find work and die here; "Yunu Yucu Ninu" is an extraordinary Mixtec poem written by Juan de Dios Ortiz, a Mixtec poet from San Miguel el Grande. It is truly beautiful. There is a Spanish and English translation in the linear notes; "Pinotepa," another favorite, is known as a chilena, a musical style brought from Chile by African slaves; The last three songs, bonus tracks, "Perfume de Gardenias," "La Maleguena," "Besame Mucho," are "part of a musical collaboration with choreographer Cecilia Lugo and the contemporary dance company Contempodanza. They were originally part of a collection called 'Trazos,' released in limited edition in 1999." I already mentioned "La Llorona" above.

Lila Downs is a Mexican-American vocalist, with a Scottish-American father, and a Mixteca mother. She grew up in both the Mexican state of Oaxaca and in Minnesota, USA, bi-lingual and bi-cultural. Lila received formal voice training in Mexico and in the States, and performs her own compositions, as well as tapping into the rich music from Mexico's indigenous peoples. Ms. Downs stated during an interview: "I have this special relationship with my voice. Though I've never considered myself to be a spiritual's a spiritual feeling I have, which began when I studied anthropology. I began to have something approaching awe for this thing that came out of my body, which had to do with something bigger than me. Awe for this gift."

La Sandunga" is a wonderful CD! Lila Downs is a unique artist - simply superb! Highly recommended.
This one had to grow on me but... WOW!
K. Parsons | Idyllwild, CA USA | 03/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Oaxaca. Tehuantepec. Teotichtlan del Valle. Huatulco. Ocotlan. Do the names sound exotic... or even strange? If so, you are probably like the vast majority of us "Americanos" who know little of Mexico beyond Mexico City and the border towns. The places I mentioned are all in Oaxaca, the home state of Lila Downs. "La Sandunga" will bring these names to life and bring the place as close as it can get without one acually going there. This is an amazing collection of songs, and it showcases not only Downs' dramatic voice and her wonderful band, but the passion and smoldering intensity of Oaxacan music. There is nothing "casual" about this CD... it demands your attention and will reward it with soulful pleasures that probably should be illegal!

Musically, "La Sandunga" is enormously pleasing to me - full of dynamism, sometimes soft and languid, sometimes blazing with fury and the searing heat of love - for person, place and culture. I am not a music critic, so I'll leave the technical reviewing to those better qualified, but I know a thing or two about passion --- and this music delivers.