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Mexican-born singer Lila Downs. Sony Music / AFP/Getty Images

Singer Lila Downs on death and chocolate

. . . and a new album called Bullets & Chocolate that riffs on both

Is hard to put the music of Lila Downs into a single category. The Mexican-born singer could fit solidly in the world of folk — frequently singing classic tunes such as Paloma Negra (Black Dove), an old ballad that dwells on the pain of lost love. But she records original compositions, too: songs about life and death, injustice and joy, infused with a global array of sounds that can hopscotch from South America to Spain to Mexico to Eastern Europe over the course of a single album. She will feature guitars and accordions — along with synthesizers and hip-hop beats.


Downs, the daughter of an American father and a Mixtec mother (an indigenous ethnicity from the state of Oaxaca), is a bit of a fusion herself. She was born in Mexico and raised in both Oaxaca and Minnesota . . . .

In March, the singer released her latest album, Balas y Chocolate (Bullets and Chocolate) — a bittersweet endeavor that came on the heels of a terminal diagnosis for her husband, Paul Cohen, a fellow musician who regularly collaborates with Downs on stage and in the recording studio.