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La Llorona | '03 til Infinity

Photographed by Gennia Cui for the Ford Theatres.

Photographed by Gennia Cui for the Ford Theatres.

I vividly recall my first concert at the Ford Theatres in 2003. I don't remember how I ended up there but the theatre has a way of leaving a watermark on one's memory. First, a band called Quetzal opened the show. Fast forward to present day, the now Grammy-award winning Quetzal is still making vital music that weaves together cumbia, rock, regional Mexican folk-music, Cuban charanga and Brazilian pandeira, charged with the band's collectivist political passion. But that night, I just know that for the first time, I felt like I was looking at a reflection of myself on that stage under the summer sky.  Musicians that looked my age and came in all shades of brown skin. I listened to them play and I gazed into the canyon at the trees and something within me opened up.

Quetzal in 1997, photo by Brian Cross

Quetzal in 1997, photo by Brian Cross

There was an intermission. I listened to small talk and hung out with friends. Then the theatre went quiet and Lila Downs took the stage. It felt as if Frida Kahlo herself had reincarnated and began to sing. I felt quiet tears well up in my eyes and I was riveted for the duration of the show. I will never forget that night at Ford Theatres and the way it made me feel. 

Lila Downs courtesy of Getty Images.

Lila Downs courtesy of Getty Images.

Returning to the Ford in 2016, this time as a producer, I had the opportunity to see Lila Downs sing again with Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company. Entertaining and inspiring, Lila Downs is as much a storyteller as a singer. Her music and vocal artistry have many influences and is as varied as the ancient cultures that serve as her inspiration. Lila’s songs are often striking commentaries on social conditions, reflecting migration and the search for roots as a core human need. Many of these same themes inform my own work today.

This summer, I have another opportunity to produce a show at the Ford. I can only hope to create a watermark moment for someone else, to be changed, opened and set on course.