The power of Mexican folk songs, traditions and culture is conveyed in Natalia Lafourcade’s new album Un Canto Por Mexico. Lafourcade has described the album as representing a visit to a Mexican market – the people, the sights, sounds, everything you find in such a place is in her music. To walk with her in song is to join in with a joyful celebration of life.
Her last project, the Musas albums, shifted Lafourcade’s focus towards folk music, taking her artistic ambitions in a revelatory direction. From there she was nominated for the Oscar for her contribution to the Coco soundtrack and she performed at the Grammys. Her star in Mexico is huge and she is now rightfully known beyond the narrow confines of ‘world music’. What Lafourcade is doing is transforming traditional folk music for a modern Mexican audience, and showing that to sing for your county is to sing from your own soul.
The album begins with the sound of birdsong and traditional son jarocho band Los Cojolites lead us into a dance, before Natalia sings. She aimed for a ‘very pure, very traditional, very faithful’ rendering of classic traditional songs. Throughout the album her voice is effortless and graceful – she is one of the best contemporary singers in any language.
She also reimagines old songs from her own back catalogue in more traditional ways like Hasta la Raiz. The song has become her anthem and a musical statement in itself – always remember your roots and carry them inside you. Una Vida is one new song recorded for the album, a stunning ode to living in the moment and seizing life’s opportunities to love.
Watching the video for Mi Religion is quite an emotional experience with its communal experience of music and dancing, which seems so alien to us now. Songs like these connects us to each other in the physical moment, but also across the world, across language barriers and through time.
To sing music like this, at such a time in world history, is powerful. Pride in your nation and its history is a radical political statement in itself, reminiscent of how Frida Kahlo wore traditional Mexican dress to make her identity central to her art. The album’s release will raise funds for the San Jarocho Cultural Center in Veracruz, which was heavily damaged by the 2017 earthquakes in Southern Mexico.
Un Canto Por Mexico is a song for a country who wants to heal, to move forward and to honour where they have come from. Natalia Lafourcade is an artist whose work is a beautiful example of the power of music to unite us with our past, present and future.