As the frontman for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Alec Ounsworth wrote brash, poppy songs. But the singer and songwriter clearly had more music to make. In the fall of 2009, he released a solo record called Mo' Beauty, an album he wrote and recorded in New Orleans with a number of local musicians. Here, Ounsworth performs songs from Mo' Beauty, accompanied only by two guitars.
With a trove of instruments, languages and good humor, Abaji demonstrates his passion for music that reflects his numerous family roots, including Armenia, Turkey, Greece and France. Watch him perform a short concert at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen.
Castaneda is the sort of musician who isn't afraid to challenge the established order. He's carving out a place for himself in Latin jazz on an instrument you don't often hear in his style of music: the Colombian harp. Castaneda recently parked himself behind Bob Boilen's desk and crafted a transporting mix of tradition and improvisation.
It's hard to know what will happen when the string quartet Brooklyn Rider starts playing. Yes, these four guys love to play Debussy and Brahms, but they're just as likely to team up with a singer-songwriter or a Kurdish kamancheh player. Or write their own music. So we weren't sure what they'd do when they stopped by the NPR Music offices to play a Tiny Desk Concert. What we got was a bracing sample of their visceral fire.
The adventurous ensemble has been widely praised for its risk-taking attitude. Gathered around Bob Boilen's desk, a stripped-down incarnation of the group plays music by Ravel, then unpacks several Egyptian instruments for an original composition.
After playing a pair of songs from Reservoir, the band closed with a cover of Low's 1999 song "Just Like Christmas." Fanfarlo's members had practiced it all the way from Baltimore to D.C., not exactly a trek across continents, but the result was, well, perfect.
Sometimes, an idea is so perverse and bizarre that it needs to be carried out and followed to its logical end. So once we hatched the idea to bring long-haired, wild-eyed, keyboard-pounding, sublimely over-the-top party-rocker Andrew W.K. to perform an intimate concert at Bob Boilen's desk, there was no abandoning it. It simply had to happen.
The success of Malaysian-born singer-songwriter Zee Avi is an increasingly familiar but noteworthy story: Avi was discovered after she posted a few songs on YouTube. Within two months, she was signed to release her self-titled debut. Here in this intimate Tiny Desk Concert, Avi sings three hushed lullabies, including what has become one of her signature songs: a cover of Morrissey's "First of the Gang."