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26 April 2019

Mexican folk legend Lila Downs has covered Manu Chao’s classic song “Clandestino” in protest of current U.S. immigration policies, and she has transformed Chao’s composition into something that’s completely her own.

Downs’ rendition preserves the original lyrics of the song, which focus on people renouncing their identities to look for something else, living like outlaws because of a lack of documentation. However, ad-libs like “if we’re not going to take care of our children, who will?” take on new meaning in the era of family separation, given the traumatic aftermath of the Trump administration’s cruel practice, which has left hundreds of Central American youth in limbo.

Like some of the best Lila Downs tracks, “Clandestino” isn’t a lament, but rather a celebration, and one in which social consciousness elevates the musical form to protest.

(Marcos Hassan, Remezcla)

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