I discovered Lila Downs in 2004, thanks to Songlines. One of the first issues that I read featured Beginner’s Guide to Lila Downs. Back then, her discography was rather short. Three (of five available) albums were listed as “best”, the new one (Una Sangre) was to be reviewed in the following issue, and La Sandunga, by some reason, was referred to as “best avoided”. And so this snippet of information stayed with me. Now, after avoiding it all these years, I finally bought it, more for completeness’ sake rather than anything else. But what a discovery!
Recorded almost 20 years ago, La Sandunga, far from being just a taste of things to come, is a beautiful piece of work in its own right. Lila’s music is always a fusion, but this one is probably the least “fused” of all her albums. No cumbia, blues or klezmer here. My favourite songs are the two boleros by Álvaro Carrillo, Un poco más and Sabor a mí. The versions of La Llorona and Yunu Yucu Ninu are rather different from you can hear on her later albums. The bonus tracks on this CD are also worth listening to; even Bésame mucho — which you’d think must be, of all Mexican songs, best avoided indeed — sounds fresh. Please give it a listen. You won’t be disappointed.