For Tiny Desk Playlists, we ask musicians, creators and folks we admire to choose the Tiny Desk concerts they've come to love. To celebrate Black Music Month, we've asked Tiny Desk production team member and Production Assistant Gabrielle Pierre to curate some of her favorite Tiny Desks from African American musicians.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter declared June Black Music Month (also celebrated as African American Music Appreciation Month), an opportunity to celebrate the undeniable influence of African Americans on American popular music. Black music shapes the landscape of the industry and is the source of so much ingenuity, and it's important to recognize the sources of inspiration for some of our favorite musicians. As I watch my favorite Tiny Desks by expressive Black artists, one theme has stood out to me: the way family brings strength and intergenerational music intelligence to these artists and inspires their innovation. Watching the performances in this playlist, I can't help feeling as if I've been invited into someone's home to catch a glimpse of the compelling force of art and ancestry that has been passed down through their family's generations.
And Tiny Desk is no stranger to keeping it in the family. Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear came to the Tiny Desk with the kind of steadfastness and depth that can only be found in a mother-and-son relationship. Saba, meanwhile, introduces his father with a special excitement and gleam, a look that is shared when a child has made their parents proud. At Tobi Nwigwe's Tiny Desk, his wife and daughter got the best seats in the house, showing his intention to pass on his values to the next generation. Spouses bring both enthusiasm and affectionate vibrancy to Avery*Sunshine and Leslie Odom Jr.'s Tiny Desk performances, as the artists are joined by their significant others. Siblings have made their fair share of appearances on Tiny Desk through the years, too, including sister duo Chloe x Halle and brother duo The Bots. And the musical collective Spillage Village gives new meaning to the saying "it takes a village," as we watch brothers Hollywood JB and Jurdan Bryant, backed by Hero the Band, made up of the four Barnett brothers. All the while, SiR proves sharing musical talent with loved ones is a form of therapeutic support and an anchor; his performance includes his mother and brother and is dedicated to his late godson.
Black musicians are pioneers and tastemakers in every facet of the industry, and music has been one of the strongest tools in the Black community. It provides a means to both strategize and reflect, while also being a source of comfort and pride. The role of music in the African American family is not only that of providing social fun, but of creating a poetically weaved family tree. So as I celebrate Black Music Month, I look not only to celebrate the music, but the power and resiliency of a people and art form that has transcended generations. —Gabrielle Pierre
Tiny Desks In This Playlist
• Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear
• Tobe Nwigwe
• Leslie Odom Jr.
• Chloe x Halle
• The Bots
• Spillage Village