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Mexican-American Singer Lila Downs

CD cover of 'Una Sangre (One Blood)'
CD cover of 'Una Sangre (One Blood)'

If you caught the award-winning 2002 film Frida, starring Selma Hayek as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, then you've heard -- and seen -- Lila Downs. She recorded "Burn It Blue" with Brazil's Caetano Veloso for the Grammy-nominated soundtrack and also appeared as a tango singer in the movie.

The Mexican-American singer's sound evokes the pulsing, vibrant rhythms of her home country's rich folk-music legacy. But in addition to modern instrumentation and arrangements, Downs has brought a new social awareness to her repertoire of original and native Mesoamerican songs.

Downs talks to NPR's Michele Norris about her music and performs a few songs from her latest CD, Una Sangre (One Blood). Many of the album's songs carry contemporary messages that promote respect for human rights and dignity, particularly for Latin American women.

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