Anna Lila Downs Sánchez was born in Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, Mexico in 1968, and grew up there and in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She began singing ranchera music at an early age, and later sang at the fiestas of the towns in her mountain region, la Mixteca. She sang with the band Los Cadetes de Yodoyuxi and later with La Trova Serrana, a group of folk musicians from the Zapotec town of Guelatao, oaxaca. At that time she met her musical collaborator Paul Cohen and began to create her own musical compositions, which tap into native Mesoamerican music of the Mixtec, Zapotec, Maya and Nahuatl cultures.
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Ana Lila Downs Sánchez, best known as Lila Downs (born September 9, 1968) is a Mexican-American singer-songwriter. 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 indigenous languages such as Mixtec, Zapotec, Mayan, Nahuatl and P'urhépecha.
Her debut album, La Sandunga, was released in 1999. 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). 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 is a native Spanish speaker, and also speaks fluent English and Mixtec.