Lila Downs (real name Ana Lila Downs Sánchez) was born in the Mexican state Oaxaca on 19 September 1968. The girl was interested in music since childhood. Her mother, Anna Sanchez, was a cabaret singer. Her dad was a professor and a part-time cinematographer. It’s not surprising that with such parents, little Lila started singing when she was just 5 years old. By the time she turned eight, Downs was performing with mariachi musicians. When Lila was 14, her family moved to Los Angeles, where they lived for 2 years. After her father’s sudden death, Lila moved back to Mexico with her mom.
After finishing high school, Downs enrolled in the University of Minnesota, where she was mostly partying instead of studying. After a while, she decided not to study anthropology anymore, dropped out of school, and moved back to Mexico. At home, she learned to weave and started selling jewelry on the streets.
Then Downs decided to study music. Lila was performing in local bars and clubs, where she met her music partner Paul Cohen. Together they created a unique music style, which was a mix of jazz, Indian, Mexican, and African music.
In 1994, Lila recorded her debut LP Ofrenda and then released Trazos in 1998. Neither of the albums was successful. However, the LP La Sandunga, which she recorded in 1999 with Aries Music, became a hit. The album included such songs as "Tengo Miedo de Quererte", which she recorded together with Cohen. The single "Sabor a Mi" became very popular in Mexico.