Anouar Brahem was born in 20 th October 1957 in Halfaouine in the Medina of Tunis. Encouraged by his father, an engraver and printer, but also a music lover, Brahem began his studies of the oud, the lute of Arab world, at the age of 10 at the Tunis National Conservatory of Music, where his principal teacher was the oud master Ali Sriti. An exeptional student, by the age of 15 Brahem was playing regularly with local orchestras. At 18 he decided to devote himself entirely to music. For four consecutive years Ali Sriti received him at home every day and continued to transmit to him the modes, subtleties and secrets of Arab classical music through the traditional master / disciple relationship.
Little by little Brahem began to broaden his field of listening to include other musical expressions, from around the Mediterranean and from Iran and India… then jazz began to command his attention. “I enjoyed the change of environment,” he says” and discovered the close links that exist between all these musics”.
Brahem increasingly distanced himself from an environment largely dominated by entertainment music. He wanted more than to perform at weddings or to join one of the many existing ensembles which he considered anachronistic and where the oud was usually no more than an accompanying instrument for singers. A deepfelt conviction led him to give first place to this preferred instrument of Arab music and to offer the Tunisian public instrumental and oud solo concerts. He began writing his own compositions and gave a series of solo concerts in various cultural venues. He also issued a self-produced cassette, on which he was accompanied by percussionist Lassaad Hosni.
A loyal public of connoisseurs gradually rallied around him and the Tunisian press gave enthusiastic support. Reviewing one of Brahem’s first performances, critic Hatem Touil wrote: “this talented young player has succeed not only in overwhelming the audience but also in giving non -vocal music in Tunisia its claim to nobolity while at the same time restoring the fortunes of the lute. Indeed, has a lutist produced such pure sounds or concretised with such power and conviction, the universality of musical experience” Read more
Lila Downs just released the album PECADOS Y MILAGROS (Sins and Miracles) on iTunes and will be available soon in physical format. The title and concept are inspired by the themes of traditional votive paintings of Mexico, as well as her infant son. The new songs are born of the reasons to find items and symbols that give us strength.
Lila Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico, is the daughter of Mixtec singer Anita Sánchez and Allen Downs, a Scottish-American art professor and filmmaker. She grew up in Oaxaca, California, and Minnesota, where she graduated from the University of Minnesota in voice and anthropology. Downs is usually accompanied on her musical journey by her longtime band, La Misteriosa, multi-cultural multi-instrumentalists who include Paul Cohen, her collaborator, producer and husband.
Her musical vision is anthropological in nature and as varied as the ancient and earthy cultures that continue to nurture and inspire her. Embracing and highlighting indigenous origins, whether in the U.S. or Mexico, has always been an important aspect of her music, as well as the topics of political and social justice, immigration, and transformation, all rooted in the human condition. She strives to make a meaningful connection with her diverse audiences through her music and performances. “I’m so lucky,” remarks Downs. “People who follow our music are from all walks of life, and they want to scratch the surface to know the whys and hows. Every day we get to connect in so many ways.”
For over a decade, Lila Downs has traversed the planet, bringing her dramatic and highly unique reinvention of traditional Mexican music and original compositions fused with blues, jazz, soul, African root, and even klezmer music, all supporting her soaring voice. Some would classify Lila as a Mexican artist, but there is no real way to categorize her music except to say that it is a unique and exciting fusion of international sounds. A musical journey with Lila Downs is always a fascinating one, simultaneously edgy and powerful, yet sumptuous and graceful.
Sometimes the sound feels like a heat fueled road trip from Oaxaca to New Orleans. But then Downs is not afraid to shake things up with a cumbia rock, beat-poet style rap, or even the chirps of an iguana, taking the music to its own enigmatic world. The path can also unexpectedly lead to ancient worlds, when Lila taps into the native Mesoamerican music and language of the Mixtec, Zapotec, Maya and Nahuatl cultures. Few artists can successfully navigate the terrain of such seemingly disparate music. But Lila Downs y La Misteriosa go to the core of it, make it their own, and bring the audience along for an emotional and memorable ride.
Lila Downs has long been recognized by the music industry, receiving a Latin Grammy for the 2004 release “Una Sangre” and a Grammy nomination for 2008’s “Shake Away,” which was also named one of the top ten albums by WOMEX, the leading world music organization. In addition to headlining venues all over the world, she has appeared at major festival and events including Carnegie Hall, the Sacred Music Festival – appearing with such luminaries as the Dalai Lama; WOMAD; Live Earth; and the Latino Inaugural Ball for President Barack Obama.
Hollywood also took notice when Lila played a role in the Salma Hayek film “Frida” and then performed the Oscar-nominated soundtrack song “Burn It Blue” on the Academy Awards telecast, becoming the first Mexican to perform on the awards ceremony. Her music has been included in several other feature films such as “Tortilla Soup,” “Real Women Have Curves,” “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” and Carlos Saura’s “Fados.”
She is also working on the musical theater presentation of Like Water for Chocolate, the award winning novel and film by Mexican author Laura Esquivel.
Pecados y Milagros (2011)
Lila Downs y La Misteriosa en Paris – Live A FIP (2010)
The Very Best of El Alma de Lila Downs (2009)
Shake Away (2008)
La Cantina (2006)
One Blood (Una Sangre) (2004)
Border (La Linea) (2001)
Tree of Life (Yutu tata) (2000)
La Sandunga (1999)
Azuláo: En Vivo con Lida Downs (1996)
Translation to English
It’s three in the morning,
It is said that a Saint is grieving
In a low voice I hear him saying:
“Walk slowly, ay mama,
My sleepiness says to me:“don’t go”
My legs say to me: “just a little bit”
And suddenly I realize, caramba!*
That I move on little by little, ay mama,
That I move on little by little.
Could it be you Zapata**
The one I listen here,
With your perpetual light
The one I saw in your eyes?
In my mind it can be heard
Telling me this
In my mind it can be heard
Telling me this
By the shade of the ceiba tree
A shotgun is heard
And a black cock fell down
By “Milagros” street
If you say you love me,
Putting everything at stake
And you leave with me
We will take off***
Ay,ay,ay, when I dream about you
The moonlight is outlined
Through my path
Ay, ay,ay, when I dream about you
There’s neither fear nor doubt
About my destiny.
*Ay mama and caramba are very common expressions in Mexico. Respectively, one is used to express fear (literally: mommy) the other one to express surprise.
**Emiliano Zapata was one of the heroes of the Mexican revolution for his ideals of land reform and fair treatment for Mexico’s poor farmers. Some of his most famous quotes are: “Land and Freedom” and “The land belongs to those who work on it”
***Literally to unsettle or to lift the dust: to run away, to escape.
Tranlation by Miguel Angel Bonilla R