Linda Diaz’s 5 Favorite Little Gigs: NPR



For Tiny Desk Playlists, we’re asking musicians, creators, and people we admire to choose the Tiny Desk concerts they love. For this edition during Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked musician and 2020 Tiny Desk contest winner Linda Diaz to pick her favorites.

Linda Diaz loves a challenge. She rose to the top of more than 6,000 artists who entered the 2020 Tiny Desk competition to win the grand prize: her own Tiny Desk concert. Due to the circumstances of the pandemic, the R&B artist was invited to give a Tiny Desk concert (at home) – and she seized the opportunity. Diaz performed a windy show on the roof in front of the striking backdrop of the New York skyline, and she’s incorporated a few personal touches – including her own small office – to make her feel right at home. Selecting just five Tiny Desk gigs for this playlist wasn’t easy either, but it created a stellar collection that includes a gig where Diaz’s own voice shines. —She Mannion

• Brittany Howard – I love Brittany Howard, and she and her eight-piece band Tiny Desk blew me away. Simply put, she ate and left no crumbs. Brittany is as talented a storyteller as she is a musician, so I love that we got to experience the added level of intimacy that comes with her stage presence and her jokes in this performance. Plus, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the red and black cuts!

• Yo-Yo Ma – My family has been a fan of Yo-Yo Ma for as long as I can remember, so it was really cool to get a glimpse of her personality, which is totally inviting and unpretentious. Yo-Yo Ma’s Tiny Desk concert felt like a masterclass as a musician and as a human. Listening to him talk about the life lessons he learned and the music he lived with, I felt able to learn and create. I would have loved to be there!

• Laura Mvula – Laura Mvula is one of my new musical inspirations, especially for my last EP, Magic – but this Tiny Desk dates from 2013! One of my favorite things about her music is her harmonies, so I was surprised to see her play with a three-part string group and herself on keyboards. She mentioned that with the smaller group, she chose a more intimate setting, and judging by the comments on YouTube, I’m not the only person who was moved by her vulnerability. This performance of “Father, Father” in particular was such a raw and moving experience. Laura’s writing is timeless and her voice is even better live.

• Jordan Rakei – It’s always crazy for me that I got to be a part of this performance, because it’s one of my favorite Tiny Desk gigs. Jordan’s band are wildly talented, and the overall flow is impeccable. This experience introduced me to Jordan’s music, so it was really something special to learn his music by rehearsing and playing it with him. Beyond his unique vibrato and deep writing, Jordan is a great band leader. This experience taught me the importance of a good rhythm section (sheesh) and the value of being able to lead your own group. Listening at home, Jordan’s artistic vision shines through and it’s easy to recognize the mutual respect these musicians have for each other and for the music. Such a great honor to be a part of it.

• Chika – I am a fan of creative choirs and these did not come to play. Commercials ! The vocal range! I wasn’t surprised when Chika noted that the singers were the OG singers of her EP, as the mix and seemingly effortless confidence they radiated behind a rapper as strong as Chika is so impressive. Chika is an undeniable talent and she broke that performance with the tightest and most prominent group behind her. Fat accessories to the MD on this one.

Small offices in this playlist

• Brittany Howard
• Yo-Yo Ma
• Laura Mvula
• Jordan Rakei
• Chika


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