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About this Piece

Latin America has been defined largely by its history of colonization. It’s made up of countries that carry struggles of oppression, erasure, violence in various forms, and patterns that continue repeating themselves. At the same time, and not at all coincidentally, it’s birthed some of the world’s most powerful and universal resistance movements and some of the most powerful songs that have defined them. Lila Downs, Catalina García, Goyo, Ely Guerra, and Ana Tijoux are all crucial contributors to this songbook.

Canto en resistencia features performances from five legendary artists whose histories and perspectives are drastically different, yet all guided by a common thread that brings them to points of rebellion. They’re five women who’ve arrived at their songs via their own personal histories and stories of liberation that are deeply rooted in the complicated histories of their countries and connect seamlessly to stories of struggle around the world, entirely redefining a geography of resistance.

Lila Downs is considered one of the region’s most influential artists. She comes from a history of straddling worlds. Having grown up between Oaxaca and Minnesota, she has always experienced the US/Mexico border as a prominent character in her life; her 2001 album Border was dedicated to migrants who have died attempting to cross it. Her songs often touch on issues, from the life-affirming search for one’s roots to the struggles of indigenous working-class women to the power of the collective voice in the fight for freedom.

Colombian artist Catalina García of the Latin Grammy–winning band Monsieur Periné arrives at a message of liberation and belonging in a different way. Through her musical style alone—fusing jazz, swing, bolero, and beyond—she’s shattered stereotypes of what Colombia is “supposed” to sound like and has declared through her very musical existence that the Latin American identity is limitless.

Goyo, an Afro-Colombian singer and producer from the country’s Chocó region on the Pacific coast, paraded onto the scene with her Latin Grammy-winning hip-hop fusion group Chocquibtown. In the last two years, Goyo has stepped out on her own with her wildly infectious hip-hop-informed songs that seek to uplift Afro-Latinas in a world that constantly attempts to erase them. She’s kicked doors open that were previously locked for her, leaving them wide open for generations to come.

Ely Guerra is a force of nature, singer, songwriter, writer, and alchemist whose 30-year artistic career has been a tireless search for creative independence and reinvention. The Grammy winner has broken down barriers throughout that time, paving the way for many singers and composers of the following generations. She has never followed a formula, neither in form nor substance, always innovating and finding new challenges.

Ana Tijoux is also not afraid to sing directly about oppressive situations in an effort to uplift the oppressed. The French-Chilean rapper was recently named one of the top three Spanish-language rappers in the world by Billboard. Through a hip-hop lens, Tijoux is relentless about the language of liberation, creating some of the region’s most emblematic songs, writing about and alongside everything from student uprisings to indigenous resistance.

These five women, with their own experiences and histories, have all arrived at the conclusion that liberation is universal, urgent, borderless, and possible. Along with Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil, they come together to sing from the perspective of Latin American struggle that resonates with the world at large. —Phoebe Smolin