'El Tiny' x Latinx Heritage Month 2022 A Tiny Desk Takeover
Special Series

'El Tiny' x Latinx Heritage Month 2022

A Tiny Desk Takeover

This year we celebrate our second "El Tiny" takeover of Tiny Desk concerts to honor the wide range of sounds and experiences that make up Latinx heritage. Last year was filled with amazing performances, from artists including J Balvin and Camila Cabello, filmed from various parts of the Spanish-speaking world because we were still locked down and not producing any concerts from within Alt.Latino's world headquarters at NPR.

But this year we're welcoming a handful of artists back to the actual Tiny Desk, with even more sending in amazing performances from their home bases. This year we're kicking things off with a Tiny Desk concert from Omar Apollo, who was also the first guest back to the newly relaunched Alt.Latino podcast. From the Afro-Peruvian sounds of Susana Baca to the Girl Ultra's Mexican R&B, we are again thrilled to present as wide a swath of Latino/a/x musical expression as we can for this Latinx Heritage Month. We're sure you are going to hear something you like.

YouTube

From Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, Tiny Desk is celebrating Latinx Heritage Month with an El Tiny takeover, featuring Jessie Reyez, Susana Baca and more musicians from all corners of Latinidad.

Last year, Farruko's song "Pepas" felt almost omnipresent. The bacchanalian party anthem for getting trashed at the club seemed to blast out from every passing car and bodega I walked by. But since releasing the song, Carlos Reyes aka Farruko, has undergone a spiritual transformation, even renouncing the song's message and taking the time to focus on his family and his developing relationship with God.

His Tiny Desk reflects this new perspective. At NPR HQ, Farruko adapted his quintessential flow to a much more intimate setting, one that highlights the striking pivot from the party-filled lifestyle described in so much of his earlier catalog. Instead of musings on drugs, perreo and excess, he opens his set with "En La Mía (Remix)" — an introspection on the healing power of music and faith — before moving onto a (revised) rendition of "Pepas," that concentrates on the limitations of fame and staying true to yourself.

He emphasizes the importance of counting your blessings in "No Entienden," reflecting on past mistakes in "My Lova" and the new track "Viaje" and spreading positivity in "Gracias (Remix)." It's an ideal send-off for this year's Latinx Heritage Month — blessings por nuestras herencias and hope for the future.

SET LIST

  • "En La Mía (Remix)"
  • "Pepas"
  • "No Entienden"
  • "My Lova"
  • "Viaje"
  • "Gracias (Remix)"

MUSICIANS

  • Carlos Reyes aka Farruko: vocals
  • Armando Sanchez: guitar
  • Keriel Quiroz: keys
  • Juan Diaz: drums, percussion
  • Franie Laracuente: vocals
  • Aaron Gonzalez: vocals

TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producers: Anamaria Sayre, Bobby Carter
  • Director: Kara Frame
  • Editors: Maia Stern, Joshua Bryant
  • Audio Engineer: Andie Huether
  • Audio Mix: Josh Rogosin
  • Creative Director: Bob Boilen
  • Videographers: Kara Frame, Joshua Bryant, Michael Zamora
  • Production Assistant: Jill Britton
  • Audio Assistant: Hannah Copeland
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Ashley Pointer, Fi O'Reilly
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
YouTube

From Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, Tiny Desk is celebrating Latinx Heritage Month with an El Tiny takeover, featuring Jessie Reyez, Susana Baca and more musicians from all corners of Latinidad.

Tokischa came to NPR with a set of arrangements which, a conversation after the performance, she called "a little more Tiny," reworking her dembow tracks in a melange of other Caribbean and Latin American genres. True to her identity as an artist whose performance is aimed squarely at disarming respectability politics, she doesn't sanitize the originals. Instead, her performance subverts expectations by foregrounding her celebration of female sexual autonomy, queerness and desire against a backdrop of popular folk genres. The juxtaposition succeeds uncannily, the kind of artistic strength that lands on the ears of people in power like a threat.

The dembow avant-gardist has incensed conservative pundits in the Dominican Republic and abroad. Her unfiltered expression has sparked moral panic and, elsewhere, drawn justifiable criticism. She opens with "Perra" — a collaboration she originally recorded with J Balvin and the video for which was criticized for racist imagery against Black women and was eventually deleted from YouTube. It's a surprising choice for an opener, even more so as a demure bossa nova. Tokischa lilts the song's chorus and playfully points to the audience.

Her distinctive voice and flow pair deftly with the switch-ups across Caribbean genres, from a bachata version of "Hola" to reggae on "Somos Iguales" and a mambo "Delincuente," the latter complete with a call-and-response that features an NPR audience for the first time probably ever responding "bellaca" ("horny").

"ESTILAZO" is completely transformed, the crisp house original slowed to a languid son backed by a tumbao piano riff in the neighborhood of "Chan Chan." The lyrics — among them "Lesbianismo entre mujeres, larga vida homosexual," ("Lesbianism between women, long homosexual life") and "Música con letras sucias, una suciedad divina" ("Music with dirty lyrics, a divine filthiness") — build like a manifesto, recasting what oppressors have deemed perverse as divine instead.

Each song is a surprise, and most of all the closer, "Kilos De Amor," a currently unreleased corrido. The genre experiments aren't just an El Tiny detour, but a signifier of an artist who both deeply knows where she comes from and who isn't afraid to see how far she can go.

SET LIST

  • "Perra"
  • "Hola"
  • "Somos Iguales"
  • "Delincuente"
  • "ESTILAZO"
  • "Kilos De Amor"

MUSICIANS

  • Tokischa: vocals
  • Abdiel Serrano: guitar 
  • Galdy Santiago: percussion
  • Jesús Laboy: percussion
  • Orlando Brinn: keyboard
  • José Lopez: bass 

TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producers: Anamaria Sayre, Felix Contreras
  • Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin
  • Director/Editor: Maia Stern
  • Creative Director: Bob Boilen
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Videographers: Maia Stern, Joshua Bryant, Michael Zamora, Alanté Serene
  • Audio Assistant: Neil Tevault
  • Production Assistant: Jill Britton
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Kara Frame, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Ashley Pointer, Fi O'Reilly
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
Photo: Bob Boilen/NPR; Video: NPR YouTube

From Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, Tiny Desk is celebrating Latinx Heritage Month with an El Tiny takeover, featuring Jessie Reyez, Susana Baca and more musicians from all corners of Latinidad.

The magic of Carla Morrison's music is in the intimacy of her lyrics and her voice. I've seen the Mexican singer-songwriter woo small audiences and large crowds with an elegance that's only grown since her first releases.That power to mesmerize is on full display during her time behind the desk with four songs that draw on the things that have earned Morrison stans all over Latin America.

After the opening piano strains of "Contigo," we're treated to a display of how Morrison's lyrics can sometimes move the singer herself as she confesses to shedding a few tears during the chorus.

There is an underlying sense of purpose and release in this music as she explains why she took a break from her music career and how that influences the passion behind her latest album, El Renacimiento.

In fact, even as she introduces "Encontrarme" as an ode to self discovery and recovery, Morrison displays where the emotion in her lyrics come from as she tears up explaining the origin of the song.

"I'm so emotional," she says through tears, "because it's been a long time since I've been touring and I took a really long time to come back to myself and to be able to sing again. Just to be here means a lot to me because I do watch NPR Tiny Desk at home!"

As if it couldn't get any more emotional, Morrison introduces "Te Regalo" by introducing the object of her melodic affections, her husband and co-producer, Alejandro Jiménez.

I'm not saying you should have a box of tissues nearby while you watch Carla Morrison's performance, but it came in handy for me.

SET LIST

  • "Contigo"
  • "Encontrarme"
  • "Te Regalo"
  • "Disfruto"

MUSICIANS

  • Carla Morrison: vocals
  • Alejandro Jiménez: guitar
  • Daniel Fraire: keys
  • Samuel Felix: drums
  • Edgar Hernandez: bass
  • Damaris Fraire: vocals
  • Sarai Pajon: vocals

TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Felix Contreras
  • Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin
  • Director/Editor: Kara Frame 
  • Creative Director: Bob Boilen
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Videographers: Kara Frame, Joshua Bryant, Maia Stern
  • Audio Assistant: Hannah Copeland
  • Animation: Alanté Serene
  • Production Assistant: Jill Britton
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Ashley Pointer, Anamaria Sayre, Fi O'Reilly
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann

"I think that modernity is good for us." Susana Baca tells NPR. Javier Falcon hide caption

toggle caption
Javier Falcon

"I think that modernity is good for us." Susana Baca tells NPR.

Javier Falcon

To celebrate Alt.Latino's "El Tiny" takeover of NPR's Tiny Desk series, we asked a few of the artists contributing performances to answer our "El Tiny" questionnaire. These answers have been edited for length and clarity and translated into English.

Artist Name: Susana Baca

Country of Origin: Peru

Genre: Afro-Peruvian music

Any musician, living or dead, who would you invite over for a cafecito? The extraordinary pianist Oscar Peterson. He played with such intensity yet lived through immensely terrible moments of discrimination and segregation. ... There's a saying here in Latin America, "caminar tranquilo y por la sombra," (Walk quietly and in the shadows) so that they almost don't see you. That's very hard. [I would ask him] what he felt when he played the piano in that way.

One album that always reminds you of home: Once, David Byrne made me listen to his album, The Forest, and it really transported me to the Peruvian jungle. There, where the trees are gigantic, and you almost don't see the light. You see a little bit, a few rays of light through [the branches]. And so that solitude, and at the same time the company of nature — it made me think of this when I heard David Byrne's The Forest.

If I weren't a musician, I'd be a(n) ____. A cook. I would have loved to have a place where people would come to talk, and I would prepare something for them. And well, I can't be in the kitchen all the time, but to have helpers who also love to cook. It would be like making music. We are all involved in the music, and when it's over, [we'd] breathe [a sigh of relief] because it went well for us and we all listened to one another and we were happy. And it's the same in the kitchen, [when we] prepare something delicious to eat and share it with people.

I would have them try a dish that is native to Peru and strongly influenced by Black people of Peru: carapulcra, which is a kind of diced potato that is crystallized. As a child ... [my mother] would buy it the day before, toast it a little bit, and put it to soak. The next day it was a wonderful stew, and she added a secret [ingredient] that I can't tell you.

Dream place to tour: My ideal place to tour is Latin America. I've just come from a tour of South America — various cities in Argentina, Uruguay and [Chile]. I was in Santiago, [Chile] and the room was filled with young people. There were about 10 people who were my age. And I thought it was beautiful that these young people were [at this concert], and how these young people care for the root of Latin America.

What are you listening to right now? Since I've just toured the south, I'm listening to a Chilean singer, Elizabeth Morris. I'm listening to Ana Prada, and I'm listening to Malena Muyala. She is a young woman, gorgeous, and the director of the biggest theater in Latin America — the Teatro Solís in Montevideo, [Uruguay]. I am also listening to Micaela Vita and lots of women.

Is there a part of your creative process — a piece of gear, a tool, a technique — that you've adopted recently? How has it impacted your art? I'm a little behind because now everyone is on Spotify, but I'm still part of the YouTube generation. So I say "ah, I want to listen to Malena," so I grab my phone and put her name in [YouTube], and there it is. I can listen to her. I love that modernity. Also, since I have recorded a lot and I've sung many things, sometimes ... I don't remember [the words to a song], so I go on YouTube, I look for myself and there I am. That's incredible. You don't need to go look for the [record]. I think that modernity is good for us.

NPR YouTube

From Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, Tiny Desk is celebrating Latinx Heritage Month with an El Tiny takeover, featuring Jessie Reyez, Girl Ultra and more musicians from all corners of Latinidad.

At the Babel library and bookstore in Lima, Peru, Susana Baca is surrounded by books, wine and percussion. In addition to their instruments, her band members play the desk they sit around itself, an organic setting that blurs the boundaries between music and context. "Estamos aqui, todos unidos por la música en este bello pupitre," she laughs: "We're here, all united by music at this beautiful desk." The percussive fugue of "Molino Molero" ends sharply before, by contrast, the unwound and languorous "Dämmerung" stretches beneath her clarion voice.

In addition to being a musician, Baca has worked as an ethnomusicologist, a schoolteacher and Peru's former Minister of Culture; she's a curator of folklore and culture of the highest order. Throughout her El Tiny performance, the camera shifts to an overhead shot of the desk, featuring her 2021 album Palabras Urgentes beside several books and a note that says "Eres lo que lees" (You are what you read). Her performance, like all of her music, is intimate because it's situated, musically and thematically, in a specific time and place.

Across her many careers, Baca's work is always in service of preserving and honoring African and Indigenous art forms. Her rendition of "Sorongo," written by Puerto Rican composer Tite Curet Alonso, is an electric and pulsing homage, transmuting the salsa of the original to a meditation driven by the drums, cajón and cheko, grounding the narrative of African enslavement across Latin America in Afro-Peruvian percussion. The same goes for her closer, a salsafied version of Chabuca Granda's "Canterurías," which she introduces as "Afro-Peruvian bonus track en Babel!"

In this library, you are what you read. Joyfully running her hands along the spines of books behind her, Baca reminds us not just of the essential texts, but how to examine them with intention, precision and rapture.

SET LIST

  • "Molino Molero"
  • "Dämmerung"
  • "Sorongo"
  • "Canterurías"

MUSICIANS

  • Susana Baca: vocals
  • Óscar Huaranga: bass
  • Jonathan Mendoza: acoustic guitar, vocals
  • Alex Quijandría: percussion, vocals
  • Manuel Mejía: percussion, vocals
  • Luis Miguel Diaz: percussion
  • Renzo Vignati: electric guitar
  • Juan Carlos Aliaga Del Bosque: piano, violin
  • Jorge Campos: vocalist

CREDITS

  • Producer: Ricardo Pereira
  • Director: Giancarlo Aponte
  • Cameras: Gustavo de la Torre Casal, William Marquina, Jair Guillén, Fernando Galván
  • Art and Styling: Amaro Casanova
  • Camera Grip & Dolly: Omar Salazar
  • Editing and Color: Giancarlo Aponte
  • Audio Recording Engineer: Fico Hoyle
  • Mixing and Mastering: Óscar Huaranga
  • Filmed at Babel library and bookstore

TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Anamaria Sayre
  • Video Editor: Joshua Bryant
  • Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
  • Tiny Production Team: Bob Boilen, Bobby Carter, Kara Frame, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Maia Stern, Ashley Pointer, Felix Contreras, Fi O'Reilly
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
Photo: Estefania Mitre/NPR; Video: NPR YouTube

From Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, Tiny Desk is celebrating Latinx Heritage Month with an "El Tiny" takeover, featuring Jessie Reyez, Susana Baca and more musicians from all corners of Latinidad.

Beer cans and hair brushes may not be typical percussive tools, but typical is as irrelevant as tradition is amorphous when you're an immigrant-raised, Colombian-Canadian kid whose music is as much about navigating life on your terms as it is about holding your head up in the rip current of love.

Jessie Reyez's legendary layers — vocal dynamism, cross-genre playfulness, unapologetic realness — were on full display at her El Tiny concert. Complete with strings, horns and musical direction from Tiny Desk alum Matthew Burnett (whose credits also include Daniel Caesar's Tiny Desk), Reyez deftly danced between tracks with the assuredness of a true reina harnessing her vulnerability on stage.

Reyez opens the performance with "MOOD," the starting track of her newly released second album, Yessie. Here, she uses her room-altering belting prowess to rearrange the chorus, relegating the recorded melody to the background vocals and positioning her sample of the timeless track "Los Caminos de la Vida" at center stage. Transitioning to a mash-up of "MUTUAL FRIEND" and "FIGURES," she delivers a heart-shifting, string-driven performance of the two. Then, she seamlessly navigates a musician and formation change-up as she glides through the playful "ONLY ONE" and heartfelt mash-up of "FOREVER" and "IMPORTED." Circling back to the second half of "MOOD," she easily slides into a more upbeat, cumbia-infused rendition of the soulful track. Picking up her makeshift güiro — a PBR can — she melds joy in dance and pain in song with the kind of effortless and expert execution of a woman who intimately knows in-betweenness and, better yet, understands how to bask in the beauty of its nuance.

SET LIST

  • "MOOD" (Pt. 1) 
  • "MUTUAL FRIEND" / "FIGURES"
  • "ONLY ONE"
  • "FOREVER" / "IMPORTED"
  • "MOOD" (Pt. 2)

MUSICIANS

  • Jessie Reyez: vocal
  • Heather Crawford: guitar
  • Santino DeVilla: drums
  • Mark James: keyboards
  • Simon Siala: bass
  • Olivia Ivory Jean Walker: vocals
  • Danielle Deimler: vocals
  • Refilwe Tshepiso Morake: vocals
  • Sherri Zhang: violin
  • Ashley Parham: violin
  • Jerome Gordon: viola
  • Joelle Arnhold: viola
  • Johnny Walker: cello
  • Omar Martinez-Sandoval: bass
  • Andrew Velez: trumpet
  • Dylan Vessel: trumpet

TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Anamaria Sayre
  • Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin 
  • Director: Kara Frame
  • Editor: Joshua Bryant 
  • Series Creator: Bob Boilen 
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter 
  • Videographers: Kara Frame, Michael Zamora, Joshua Bryant, Maia Stern, Alanté Serene
  • Audio Assistant: Neil Tevault
  • Production Assistant: Jill Britton
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Ashley Pointer
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
YouTube

From Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, Tiny Desk is celebrating Latinx Heritage Month with an "El Tiny" takeover, featuring Jessie Reyez, Susana Baca and more musicians from all corners of Latinidad.


With his roots in La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires and arms outstretched to the rest of the world, Trueno is rewriting the playbook for Latin American hip-hop. Wearing a cap for the soccer team Boca Juniors and moving among the spaces of his childhood, the 20-year-old, premier Argentinian freestyler shows us exactly where he's from in his Tiny Desk (home) concert, an intimate performance that plays like a meditation on the music and the Argentina that has shaped him.

Trueno's almost autobiographical set begins with "DANCE CRIP," the first single from his recent album, BIEN O MAL, and an ode to The Sugarhill Gang's 1979 hit "Rapper's Delight." Trueno's affinity for old school hip-hop is something the rapper returns to throughout his set, while also invoking percussion-forward beats and tango motifs. Trueno follows up with the album's title track, before launching into an improvised freestyle. Underneath a mural that reads "La Boca resiste y propone" ("La Boca resists and proposes"), Trueno demonstrates his lyrical dexterity and emotional range, "Esto no lo puede hacer cualquiera, el vocero del ghetto conquistando la esfera," he raps, touting his neighborhood's resilience and his own.

Argentina as a place of celebration and lament is the thematic center of Trueno's performance. The show takes place at a conventillo, one of many Argentinian boarding houses and microcosms of multicultural communities. Trueno concludes his set with "TIERRA ZANTA," perhaps the most politically charged song in his album, which on record features the famous folk artist Victor Heredia. Here, Trueno calls out all the Andean nations by name, hinting at a larger global movement behind the song's boundaries.

SET LIST

  • "DANCE CRIP"
  • "BIEN O MAL"
  • Freestyle
  • "ARGENTINA"
  • "TIERRA ZANTA"

MUSICIANS

  • Trueno: vocals
  • Pedro Pasquale: guitar
  • Julian Gallo: bass
  • Augusto Durañona: keys
  • Nikko Taranto: drums
  • Carlos Salas: percussion
  • Caterina Finocchi: vocals
  • Anabella Marin: vocals
  • El Feli: vocals
  • Abel Manzotti: tuba
  • CREDITS
  • Executive Producers: SUR CAPITAL RECORDS (por Tierra Agencia)
  • Executive Producers: Jota Ayerza, Emiliano Delorenzi
  • Music Director & Arrangements: Pedro Pasquale, Panchito Cia, Axel Introini
  • Directors: Facu Von Coptel & El Dorado
  • Sound Engineer: Jonathan Vainberg
  • Mix & Master: Mariano Bilinkins
  • Sound Production Manager & Monitor Engineer: Santiago Compiano
  • Assistant Sound Mix: Ignacio Klappenbach
  • Line Producer: Tomás Medero
  • Cinematographer: Enzo Codaro
  • Location Manager: Diego Ledesma
  • Production Design: Nicolas Tavella
  • First AD: Lucas Galambos
  • Recording Assistants: Luciano Di Lorenzo, Franco Olivetto
  • Playback Engineer: Juan Ravassi
  • RF Engineer: Pablo Andres Gejman
  • Key PA: Nicolas Vicchio
  • PA: Gonzalo Abajas
  • Helper Location Manager: Pablo Chalup
  • 2nd AD: Nicolás Dominikow
  • Gaffer: Federico Martini
  • Electrics: Matias Carneiro, Zequeira, Esteban Pereira
  • Key Grip: Nicolas Petroli
  • Grips: Hernan Terry Duro, Kike Velez, Ezequiel Mansilla
  • Cameramen: Ismael Eduardo Guagliardi, German Guagliardi, Diego Hernan Carini, Sabena Cristian Alberto, Ricardo Daniel Guadalupe, Julia Florencia Siarri, Ignacio Acevedo
  • DIT: German Covi
  • Assistant DIT: Paula Montenegro
  • Assistant Costume Designer: Yael Boltia Baltar
  • Helper Costume Designer: Tomas Lucio Martinez
  • Set Decorator: Milena Colombo
  • Post Production Coordinator & Editor: Juan Raimondi
  • Colorist: Alejandra Lescano
  • Extras: Pedro Peligro, Guido Andrés Penayo, Cristian Derrico, Tomas Inti Kuselman, Kmi 420, López Diego Sebastian, Campos Nahuel, Mateo Teiki

TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Anamaria Sayre
  • Video Editor: Maia Stern
  • Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
  • Tiny Production Team: Bob Boilen, Bobby Carter, Kara Frame, Joshua Bryant, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Ashley Pointer
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann

"I feel like an instrument becomes like another limb in your body," Girl Ultra's Mariana de Miguel tells NPR Music about learning to play the guitar. Eugenio Schulz hide caption

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Eugenio Schulz

"I feel like an instrument becomes like another limb in your body," Girl Ultra's Mariana de Miguel tells NPR Music about learning to play the guitar.

Eugenio Schulz

To celebrate Alt.Latino's "El Tiny" takeover of NPR's Tiny Desk series, we asked a few of the artists contributing performances to answer our "El Tiny" questionnaire. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Artist Name: Girl Ultra

Country(s) of Origin: Mexico

Genre(s): R&B/Soul

Any musician, living or dead, who would you invite over for a cafecito? I would love to mix and match some personalities. And if I do Mexican personalities, I would have a cafecito with Ely Guerra. I feel like she's like such a complete and complex artist. I would love to chat with her. And maybe [someone from Época de Oro], from old movies. Maybe María Félix or somebody complex like that.

One album that always reminds you of home: An album that always reminds me of home might be like any kind of radio pop from the 2000s. Sin Bandera reminds me of my mom playing the radio. Or [The Mission: Music From The Motion Picture] by Ennio Morricone. My dad always plays [that] and it always reminds me of him cooking in the morning.

If I weren't a musician, I'd be a(n) ____. I will be cooking. 100%. I would love to have a [bakery]. Like a small [bakery] in the woods. That would be my retirement plan or my plan B.

Dream place to tour: I would love to go to Asia. Maybe touring Japan. South Korea. Any place where there's languages that I don't speak. That's very intriguing to me, to get to know cultures and all these differences.

What are you listening to right now? I'm listening a lot to Ethel Cain, and in español all I'm listening to is this friend of mine who's called Sonic Emerson. It's a very underground, shoegaze thing.

Is there a part of your creative process — a piece of gear, a tool, a technique — that you've adopted recently? How has it impacted your art? I don't consider myself a guitar player, but recently I've been getting to know the instrument and making it part of my music and my artistic persona and the show. I started composing, just me and the guitar, from scratch. I feel like an instrument becomes like another limb in your body. I just like feeling that, toward guitar, and I'm understanding what it means to me and for composition.

Photo: Estefania Mitre/NPR; Video: NPR YouTube

From Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, Tiny Desk is celebrating Latinx Heritage Month with an "El Tiny" takeover, featuring Jessie Reyez, Susana Baca and more musicians from all corners of Latinidad.

Girl Ultra's music is never one thing for long. After coming up in Mexico City's alt R&B scene, Mariana de Miguel built on that premise with experiments in house, bolero, pop and punk, fused with her own distinct glint. Her El Tiny performance is an effortless flash of all she is capable of and of the commanding performance she's finessed over her career. Even the onomatopoeic chorus of house track "BOMBAY" translates seamlessly to the desk.

Slowed and acoustic as it is, the El Tiny version of "Punk" captures the frenetic rush of the original, itself an alt transfiguration of Gwen Stefani's "Bubble Pop Electric" that interpolates its pop chorus and tailors it to the allure of going out in the south side of Mariana de Miguel's hometown of Mexico City. "Dime tú que voy a hacer con este feeling," ("You tell me what I'm going to do with this feeling") she asks, ostensibly of the person she's singing about. But it's also a question that speaks to the mutability of her performance: effusive and commanding, but never lacking a controlled restraint as it evolves. As she sings in "DameLove," "feelings always come and go."

She begins her El Tiny performance of that song by playing a few moments of the recorded version. Cuco's voice and hers float in from the drum machine, warped, as she flutters her fingers in front of her face, cultivating mystery against the familiarity of the setting for a solo rendition of the song that feels even more intimate.

She describes the final song of her set, "Ella Tú y Yo" from 2019's Nuevos Aires, as "about finding a third one in a relationship – which is pretty common these days." Here, she reworks the R&B ballad into a simmering indie rock churn, its titular phrase whispered with a soft wince.

Just one album and an EP into her career, Girl Ultra has already commanded change — as necessary and sometimes difficult as it can be — as a driver of expression. Here, it's thrilling.

SET LIST

  • "BOMBAY"
  • "Punk"
  • "DameLove"
  • "Ella Tú y Yo"

MUSICIANS

  • Girl Ultra: vocals, guitar
  • Sami Mendoza: drums
  • Andrea Martínez: bass
  • Santiago Mijares: keys

TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Anamaria Sayre
  • Audio Engineer: Natasha Branch 
  • Audio Mix: Josh Rogosin
  • Director: Kara Frame 
  • Creative Director: Bob Boilen
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Editor: Michael Zamora
  • Videographers: Kara Frame, Joshua Bryant, Michael Zamora
  • Audio Assistant: Hannah Copeland
  • Production Assistant: Jill Britton
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Ashley Pointer, Maia Stern
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann

"For me art is the blood of everyday life," Carin León tells NPR Music. Courtesy of Tamarindo Rekordsz hide caption

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Courtesy of Tamarindo Rekordsz

"For me art is the blood of everyday life," Carin León tells NPR Music.

Courtesy of Tamarindo Rekordsz

To celebrate Alt.Latino's "El Tiny" takeover of NPR's Tiny Desk series, we asked a few of the artists contributing performances to answer our "El Tiny" questionnaire. These answers have been edited for length and clarity and translated into English.

Artist Name: Carin León

Country of Origin: Mexico

Genre: Regional Mexican

Any musician, living or dead, who would you invite over for a cafecito? José Alfredo Jiménez, because of the way that he wrote. It's so simple but so real. I think he has some of the most natural and heartfelt compositions that I've heard in my life. [They are songs that] connect with any audience, that anyone can understand, but they have so much significance, so much content inside of them.

One album that always reminds you of home — whatever that means to you. Tríptico (Vol. 3) from señor Silvio Rodríguez. It brings me a warm feeling of home. We were a family of few shoes and the truth is that at this moment, thank God, life smiles on us differently and we realize that happiness isn't [having money]. Oftentimes, we were even happier [then], when we didn't have two nickels to rub together.

If I weren't a musician, I'd be a(n) ____. Music took us by the hand in a very natural, very casual way and it never let us go, so I can't imagine doing something that isn't music. I think that it would have to be something related to art as well, or with video game development. It's one of the harder hobbies I have. Or, I don't know, a filmmaker or a photographer or something that would have to do with art, because for me art is the blood of everyday life.

Dream place to tour: I love playing in my country in Mexico, and I also really enjoy playing in the United States. But there is a music that I've really fallen in love with: I really like the popular music of Spain. I really appreciate its folkloric sounds and I love flamenco. Spain also has a very exacting audience. The truth is that we want to, somehow, start winking at the Spanish public, and I think that it would be a very big dream to be able to realize a small tour throughout Spain.

What are you listening to right now? I am one of those people who [gets] up and the first thing I do is take a shower and always with music. I put on a playlist with señor Silvio Rodríguez, Billy Joel, music from José Alfredo Jiménez, from Pedro Infante, from don [Joan] Sebastián, from Pepe Aguilar. Right now I'm very into an album that's called ANTI-ICON, by an artist that's named GHOSTEMANE, which I highly recommend.

Is there a part of your creative process — a piece of gear, a tool, a technique — that you've adopted recently? How has it impacted your art? I think more than any technique, the sincerity that I've now been allowed to show in my music and in my sound [has permitted me] to experiment with sounds that weren't possible before in my genre, or that people were very closed off to. [They] believed ... that regional music often isn't for everyone and was for a niche popular audience. The fact that we can defend Mexico's folkloric music, but people also allow us to experiment, that they allow us to make our music bigger and enrich it and that the public, critics and media outlets like Tiny Desk, give us the opportunity to share with you our hearts and souls ... I think sincerity has changed everything in my music.

NPR Music YouTube

Having played the music myself, I have always lovingly referred to Mexican Regional music as "cowboy hats and accordions." But this is not your grandparents' Mexican Regional. Younger musicians today are rejecting the restrictions of that industry-imposed title and adding contemporary sounds like hip-hop and trap while still maintaining the emotional spirit and rough edges of the genre.

Then there's Carin León — a game changer if there was one. His Tiny Desk (home) concert is a deep dive into this moment in time as the genre actually changes. He starts with a traditional bolero "El Amor De Tu Vida" but the second song, "Alguien Mejor," is an example of how he and his amazing group are changing things. It starts with a traditional bajo sexto guitar as he raps and sings the lyrics, but when the mournful strains of a pedal steel guitar popular with trad country music enters the arrangement, the cross cultural reality of life along the border where this music comes from springs to life with the passion of both genres and cultures.

It's an exciting moment from a four song performance that beautifully represents how a culture changes and develops as outside influences become part of its aesthetic. The music's rustic roots are on display in the barroom set, complete with strategically placed bleached-out cattle skulls. You still see accordions and cowboy hats in this video but you hear so much more — you can actually hear a society in transition.

SET LIST

  • "El Amor De Tu Vida" 
  • "Alguien Mejor"
  • "No Es Por Acá"
  • "La Primera Cita"

MUSICIANS

  • Carin León: vocals
  • Orlando Aispuro: guitars, bajo sexto, keys
  • Abraham Noe Reyes: guitars
  • Luis Carlos Perez: drums, percussion
  • Martin Caro: percussion, octapad
  • Antonio Z. Rivera: bass, tuba
  • Leonardo Barahona: tololoche
  • Luis Araujo: accordion
  • Cheché Ávila: trumpet
  • Abel Anguiano: trombone
  • Alan Ortega: pedal steel, dobro, lapsteel

CREDITS

  • Video: Orlando Aispuro, Kran Rosas, Kevin Rosas, Yerick Johnsson
  • Audio: Alberto Medina, Baruc Llamas, Salatiel Granillo
  • Diego Valenzuela: photographer
  • Emilio Moreira: gaffer
  • Angel Moreno: gaffer
  • Diego Hernandez: gaffer
  • Jesus Eden Camacho: engineer
  • Jesus Valdez: stage manager
  • Israel Aispuro: stage tech, guitar tech, recording assistant
  • Manuel Valverde: guitar tech
  • Ramon Herrera: rhythm tech
  • Uzziel Hernandez: video tech
  • Ivan Villa: lightning tech

TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Anamaria Sayre, Felix Contreras 
  • Video Editor: Kara Frame
  • Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
  • Tiny Production Team: Bob Boilen, Bobby Carter, Joshua Bryant, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Maia Stern, Ashley Pointer
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
Bob Boilen/NPR YouTube

From Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, Tiny Desk is celebrating Latinx Heritage Month with an "El Tiny" takeover, featuring Jessie Reyez, Susana Baca and more musicians from all corners of Latinidad.

What a way to get our second annual El Tiny series going! Omar Apollo kicks off Latinx Heritage Month with a full-band rendition of "En El Olvido," backed by Las Mariachis Lindas, as he channels a childhood spent listening to Juan Gabriel into his performance of the Mexican corrido.

In the eternal wisdom of Alt.Latino co-host Anamaria Sayre, it's not a Mexican party until someone starts crying, and Apollo embraces esta melancolía as the band slips into the easy R&B number "Evergreen." "We're about to get more sad," he says to the crowd with a grin.

Despite the heartbreak and unrequited love songs, there's a sense of ease in this Tiny Desk concert — an easy camaraderie among the group as the members sing through "Evergreen" and "Petrified" before finishing with the (slightly) more upbeat "Endlessly." El corazón puede estar adolorido, but in community, the pain never seems hopeless.

As Apollo's Tiny Desk comes to an end, he offers the audience a homework assignment for self-improvement, for putting the negative behind you and making yourself available to participate in building community: "I want y'all to think about something," he says. "I want you to go home, I want you to meditate and I want you to just burn the bridge." He laughs. "I'm playing!" But as his and the band's joyful energy attests, in the world of Omar Apollo, there's only room for building each other up.

SET LIST

  • "En El Olvido"
  • "Evergreen"
  • "Petrified"
  • "Endlessly"

MUSICIANS

  • Omar Apollo: vocals
  • Jonah Feingold: guitar
  • Jackson Shanks: drums
  • Manny Barajas: bass
  • Harrison Hawkins: keys, music director
  • Astyn Turrentine: vocals
  • Phylicia Hill: vocals
  • Brian Antonio Gazo Martinez: vocals
  • Fabian Anthony Chavez: saxophone
  • Marcus Clayton Paul: trumpet
  • Silvia Estrada: guitarrón
  • Mayra Martínez: guitarrón

TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Anamaria Sayre
  • Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin 
  • Director: Kara Frame
  • Creative Director: Bob Boilen 
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter 
  • Editor: Joshua Bryant
  • Animator: Alanté Serene
  • Videographers: Kara Frame, Joshua Bryant, Pierre Kattar
  • Audio Assistant: Hannah Copeland
  • Production Assistants: Jill Britton, Alanté Serene, Joby Tanseco
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Ashley Pointer, Maia Stern
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann