30.6.05

Promesas y la Lila

I promise an update is coming soon. I may have some exciting news but I'm holding off until I get the final word, or part of the final word. In any case, here's something I've been working on.

A Medley of Cultures: Transculturalism in the music of Lila Downs
Globalization and transculturalism have become every day words in the vocabularies of people all over the world. It is said that inventions like the internet and agreements like North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have helped push along the concept of globalization, a global economy, and lead to transcultural societies, culture that crosses many borders. Japan has factories in border towns like Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. The Mixteca community in New York City who travel to Mexico at least once a year for a religious festival are just a few examples of the medley that has become the world. The point that transculturalism has existed since the birth trade of trade is important, but it is not until now, that it is receiving attention not only from scholars but from popular culture as well.
An example of this is in Lila Downs’ 2001 album Border/La linea, in which she performs a song titled “Medley: Pastures of Plenty/This Land is Your Land/Land. ” This song is transcultural because it is a mixture of two Woody Guthrie songs interlaced with lyrics to Downs’ “Land.” Looking at the life of Woody Guthrie, we find that he was affected by “some of the most significant historic movements and events of the Twentieth-Century—the Great Depression, the Great Dust Storm, World War II, the social and the political upheavals resulting from Unionism, the Communist Party and the Cold War .” Looking at Downs’ history, we find that she has a Scottish-American father and a Mixtec-Indian mother. Her parents met when her father was in Oaxaca filming a documentary . Being the daughter of parents of different nationalities allowed Downs to live in both Mexico and the United States.
An interesting factor in “Medley” is the lyrics. In “Pastures of Plenty,” Guthrie talks about the migration that took place during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. “This Land is Your Land” satirical because the land is not “for you and me.” Both of these songs end with a reclaiming of the land:
Well, it’s always we ramble, that river and I,
All along your green valley I’ll work till I die,
My land I’ll defend with my life, if it be.
‘Cause my pastures of plenty must always be free. (Pastures of Plenty)

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back,
This land was made for you and me. (This Land is Your Land)

Interlaced with this claim for land and freedom is Downs’ “Land” which gives a voice to the indigenous groups subjugated to the genocide by the European settlers during colonization. Even though the indigenous groups are not around, according to Downs, they will continue to exist “Dust is to dust hail thee memory/even if they grin me, dust I will be—.” Downs is a Scottish-American/Mixtec-Indian woman singing in English, Spanish and Nahuatl and performing songs written by a mid-nineteenth century social activist exemplifying the transcultural world we are living in today.

10 comments:

cindylu said...

On our way to a bar on Saturday, I sang for my friend. He said I sounded like Lila Downs.

Gustavo said...

I really like Lila's interpretation of La Bamba..

mariposatomica said...

Lila Downs is such an amazing singer/performer. Thanks for the blog post. I'm going to dig up the CD and jam to her miraculous voice.

poetaxingon said...

Lila downs is one of my favorite Xicana artist, together with Quetzal. Amor y la politica. thanks.

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