Lila Downs performs at the Palais Montcalm in Quebec City on June 28, and the Montreal International Jazz Festival on June 30.
(Continued from Q&A with Lila Downs: Part 1 Carnality and the church)
Q: Can you tell me more about the dreams you had about Zapata and how they found their way onto the album?
A: In Mexico we do have a magical realism that is the day-to-day life. My grandmother used to believe in spirits, and believed in seeing dead people walking around the house, and these kinds of things. So when I’ve been in Oaxaca I would always wake up at three in the morning and my mother said to me, well it’s some kind of spirit that’s coming to you at that time. Why don’t you think about who it might be. My mother made this house — she constructed the house so there was no doubt about maybe it being someone who lived there before or something like this. And I guess I decided to go lyrically with the notion of this spirit that we have that is constantly in our subconscious [Zapata] but that we are fighting against on the one hand, because of the violence, and the notion that it’s ok to do all these heinous things and it’s part of the mentality of a revolutionary as well, but then there’s a contradiction to that. So all I was trying to do in the song was metaphorically have a romantic relationship with him in the song, because I think that’s what we have.
Q: You celebrate Corn, (or maiz), as a miracle of life. What is the message in this song (“Paloma del Comalito”) for people who may take for granted where there next meal is coming from?
A: My son’s name is Xilonen which means tender corn and in native American philosophy — as you know my mother is Mixtec, so I’m half Mixtec — and since I was very young growing up I was taught of the importance of corn in our lives and of how the actual corn itself is sacred. I remember when it would fall on the ground, and I would kick it around as a child — my grandmother would say, oh this is very serious — you can’t do that to corn because corn are our children and our mother — so it’s kind of like the cycle of life is represented by this sacred substance. You go to Mexico or any Latin American country and you see the women and men involved in grinding corn or creating food from corn are usually the harder working individuals you can find. They are like the migrant workers of any country. I say that they represent that because they are constantly close to the land and to the cycle of life and death and so I wanted to honour them and my son gave me a good excuse to do that.
Q: How is motherhood changing your career and your music?
A: For example this. I think this is an example of how you look at things. It‘s kind of like you’re placed in this next phase of life and suddenly you’re just there and it really is quite beautiful. I guess that my mother was such an independent liberal woman that she steered me away from the idea of motherhood all my life and now that I’m here I can’t believe what a blessing it is. … I think we all know as we get older that we’re suddenly getting closer to death. We know it in a subconscious way but I think being a mother places you where you understand that your place now is to nurture and it’s not even conscious. It’s just this beautiful gift that you’re given. And I never imagined that it would be so amazing.
Q: Are you taking your son on the road with you?
A: We do. [laughs] It’s kind of crazy. But we’re fortunate, we have a nana who comes from Oaxaca with us and we’re on the road together.
Q: How do you incorporate this new visual artistic component to your live show?
A: We have a video artist that is reproducing projections of the pieces for each song. So it’s nice because people get to see the art work projected in the back of us and also there were some video artists that did some intervention with them, so they animated them.
Q: Tell me about how the musical adaptations are going for Like Water for Chocolate [a musical adaptation of Laura Esquivel’s novel, Like Water for Chocolate]?
A: Yes, yes, we’ve been writing about food for the past 2 years now, so that also has influenced everything that we’re doing. It’s really very exciting to have the opportunity to work with all kinds of Mexican genres and also Latin American ones and learning about musicals which is a whole other universe.
Interview condensed and edited from the original.
Q&A with Lila Downs: Part 1 Carnality and the church
Taste the world: Mexican mole, with a side of Lila Downs
Like Water for Chocolate Musical to Have Pre-Broadway Debut at Arena Stage
on Mar 05, 2012