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Linda Diaz's 5 Favorite Tiny Desk Concerts

For Tiny Desk Playlists, we ask musicians, creators and folks we admire to choose the Tiny Desk concerts they've come to 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 likes a challenge. She rose to the top of over 6,000 artists who entered the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest to win the grand prize: her own Tiny Desk concert. Due to the circumstances of the pandemic, the R&B artist was invited to perform a Tiny Desk (home) concert — and she rose to the occasion. Diaz performed a windy rooftop show in front of the striking backdrop of the New York City skyline, and she incorporated some personal touches — including her own tiny desk — to make herself at home. Selecting just five Tiny Desk concerts for this playlist wasn't easy either, but she crafted a stellar collection that includes one concert where Diaz's own vocals shine through. —Elle Mannion

Brittany Howard — I love Brittany Howard, and she and her eight-piece Tiny Desk band blew my mind. Simply put, she ate and left not one crumb. Brittany is as talented a storyteller as she is a musician, so I love that we got to experience the extra level of intimacy that comes with her stage presence and banter in this performance. Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention the red and black fits!

Yo-Yo Ma — My family has been Yo-Yo Ma fans for as long as I can remember, so it was really cool to get a glimpse of his personality, which is wholly inviting and unpretentious. Yo-Yo Ma's Tiny Desk concert felt like a master class in being a musician and in being a human. Listening to him speak about the life lessons he's learned and the music he's lived with, I felt empowered to learn and create. I wish I could have been there!

Laura Mvula — Laura Mvula is one of my newest musical inspirations, especially for my latest EP, Magic -- but this Tiny Desk is from 2013! One of my favorite things about her music is her harmonies, so I was surprised to see her playing with a three-part band of strings and herself on keys. She mentioned that with the smaller band, she chose a more intimate set, and judging from 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 emotional experience. Laura's writing is timeless and her voice is even better live.

Jordan Rakei — It is still wild to me that I was able to be a part of this performance, because it is one of my favorite Tiny Desk concerts ever. Jordan's band is crazy talented, and the flow of the set is immaculate. This experience actually introduced me to Jordan's music, so it was really something special to learn his music through rehearsing and performing it with him. Beyond his unique vibrato and profound songwriting, Jordan is a great band leader. This experience taught me the importance of a good rhythm section (sheesh) and the value in being able to direct your own band. Listening back at home, Jordan's artistic vision shines through, and it is easy to recognize the mutual respect that these musicians have for one another and for the music. Such a great honor to be a part of this one.

Chika — I'm a sucker for creative background vocals and these did not come to play. The ad libs! The vocal range! I wasn't surprised when Chika noted that the singers are the OG vocalists from her EP, because the blend and the seemingly effortless confidence that they emanated behind a rapper as strong as Chika is so impressive. Chika is an undeniable talent and she smashed this performance with the tightest, flyest band behind her. Big props to the MD on this one.

Tiny Desks In This Playlist

Brittany Howard
Yo-Yo Ma
Laura Mvula
Jordan Rakei

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Linda Diaz

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