NPR Music's Tiny Desk series will celebrate Black History Month by featuring four weeks of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and playlists by Black artists spanning different genres and generations each week. The lineup includes both emerging and established artists who will be performing a Tiny Desk concert for the first time. This celebration highlights the beautiful cornucopia of Black music and our special way of presenting it. We hope you enjoy.
Sampa the Great
"Initially raised in Botswana, Sampa moved to Australia as a young adult and established herself in Sydney's hip-hop scene. There, she released two mixtapes, 2015's The Great Mixtape and 2017's award-winning Birds and the BEE9, all the while generating buzz. She had been based in Melbourne for the last four years, but the next chapter of her musical journey will find her at home in Zambia."
"Meshell Ndegeocello's Tiny Desk (home) concert feels like a narrative film. Shot in vivid black and white, the concert includes songs from throughout her career framed by her thoughts on the importance and influence of James Baldwin: "He deserves flowers every day. Most of all because he was willing to discuss things that were painful, hard to look at, hard to see, hard to accept."
In "Damballa Wedo," Charles channels her Haitian roots and delivers a modern twist of a traditional vodou song by Toto Bissainthe. She sings that when we seek transformation, we may become someone who those around us no longer recognize, but that the change is necessary and part of the ancestors' divine plan. "C'est bon, c'est bon," she sings.
"Charles' arrangement of "Deep River" is inspired by her admiration for Sun Ra. The biography of the eccentric composer, arranger, musician, and early pioneer of Afrofuturism, Space Is The Place rests on a stand behind her. By really digging into his approach and arrangements and using his "spaceship setup as a performance guide," she breathes new life into this spiritual, injecting it with a potency that is simultaneously somber and otherworldly."
Bartees Strange (yes, because Black indie rock exists!)
"For his Tiny Desk, Bartees Strange keeps the bluesy rock and roll bravado of "Boomer" and the loping smooveness of "Mustang," stripping down the drum kit to include a sheet music stand as an extra cymbal. In between songs, he shouts out the musicians giving him joy lately: Yves Tumor and The National's Aaron Dessner, whom he calls "the indie rock Michael Jordan."
For ya annies - Kirk Franklin
"Kirk Franklin, set up with his band and choir in a corner of Uncle Jessie's Kitchen, makes a declaration. "I know you're at home right now, in your draws, listening to some Jesus music. It's ok. Jesus loves you in your draws!" The Arlington, Texas studio, named after a long time close friend, features a large photo of the iconic "I AM A MAN" protest signs from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike on the wall. The jubilant energy that Franklin and company emit, juxtaposed with a visual reminder of the strife that Black people have endured is illustrative of the importance of gospel music in the Black community."
OP's commentary: Also no matter what you believe, "Stomp" is a fucking bop, the energy, the positivity, PBS Lil' Kim, the flava, the George Clinton sample! And it's Black History Month - you gotta put in some gospel.
Have you a little living room concert this morning! Find more BHM Tiny Desk performances here!