Ana Lila Downs Sánchez, best known as Lila Downs (born September 9, 1968) is an American–Mexican singer-songwriter and actress. She performs her own compositions as well as tapping into Mexican traditional and popular music. She also incorporates indigenous Mexican influences and has recorded songs in many indigenous languages such as Mixtec, Zapotec, Mayan, Nahuatl and P'urhepecha (Tarascan). Born and raised in Oaxaca, she primarily studied at the Institute of Arts by Oaxaca and briefly attended University of Minnesota, before withdrawing to focus on her musical career. She soon began performing in the traditional music scene of Oaxaca City.
Her first album, Ofrenda, was released in 1994. In 1999, Downs came to prominence with her debut studio album, La Sandunga, which was a critical and commercial success. She achieved international success in 2001 with the album Border which emerged in the music scene of Mexico and Latin America in the early 2000s (decade). Lila's seventh album, Pecados y Milagros (2011), topped album charts in most major markets and generated chart-topping world music albums. Her eighth album is planned for release in 2014.
Downs began performing in school, demonstrating her vocal ability with traditional music, Latin and American influences, and with her own original twist on dancing. Downs, a native Spanish speaker, also speaks fluent Mixtec and English. Downs through her activism has gone through great lengths to preserve the Mixtec language as well as many other Indigenous Mexican languages.
Influenced by Chavela Vargas, Mercedes Sosa, Lucha Villa, and Amparo Ochoa, Lila Downs is recognized for her flamboyant, diverse and outré contributions to the music industry through her traditional and authentic fashion, the majority of which are based around Mexico's indigenous peoples' styles, cultures and heritages, which show through her performances and music videos. Her achievements include one Grammy Awards and two Latin Grammy Awards.
Besides her musical career, she involves herself with humanitarian causes and political activism, especially dealing with issues of Latin America's indigenous.