Announcing The 2018 Tiny Desk Contest Winner : All Songs Considered After receiving nearly 5,000 entries this year, we have a winner! Meet the virtuosic talent who won over this year's panel of judges.
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Announcing The 2018 Tiny Desk Contest Winner

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Announcing The 2018 Tiny Desk Contest Winner

Announcing The 2018 Tiny Desk Contest Winner

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GEORGE CLINTON AND THE P-FUNK ALL-STARS: Yeah. Make some noise in here.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Yeah. Let's make some noise. Right? So that's George Clinton & The P-Funk All-Stars. A couple months ago, they stopped by our studios in Washington, D.C. They set up their instruments. They tore the roof off right in the middle of the workspace.

GEORGE CLINTON AND THE P-FUNK ALL-STARS: (Singing) We want the funk. Give up the funk. We need the funk.

GREENE: This performance was part of an NPR Music series called the Tiny Desk Concert. Some of the most exciting talent in music comes to play short, stripped down sets in front of the famous Tiny Desk. And now for the fourth year in a row, NPR Music is offering an undiscovered act a chance. They call it the Tiny Desk Contest, and this is how it works. Artists submit videos of themselves performing. A panel of judges votes, and the winner gets a chance to play the Desk and also get a tour with NPR. Here to announce the results of this year's contest are two of the judges. Bob Boilen is the owner of that important desk. He's also the host of All Songs Considered. And also with us is Gaby Moreno, who is a singer-songwriter and guitarist. Welcome to you both.

BOB BOILEN, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GABY MORENO: Thank you.

GREENE: So how were the entries this year?

BOILEN: I thought they were incredibly vibrant, from all over the country.

GREENE: Right.

BOILEN: All 50 states. You'd see a lot of diversity within bands. It was all over the map.

MORENO: Yeah. It was very hard for me to pick.

GREENE: Well, so who won?

MORENO: (Laughter).

GREENE: Bob? Drumroll, please.

(LAUGHTER)

BOILEN: The name of the Tiny Desk Contest winner for 2018 is Naia Izumi. He's a young, absolutely remarkable guitarist with a soft and warm vocal. Well, play it. Just play it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOFTSPOKEN WOMAN")

NAIA IZUMI: (Singing) Back up. You're crowding my space. Hands off. It's under control.

MORENO: What captivated me was just the way that he's playing that guitar. It's just so unique. He's just tapping on the fretboard, and it's just so natural. And it looks so easy, you know? And then on top of that, his beautiful, soulful voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOFTSPOKEN WOMAN")

IZUMI: (Singing) So move out of my way. There's too many chiefs in this tribe. There's only room for one of us.

GREENE: Bob, can you tell me a little bit about his story?

BOILEN: He grew up in Georgia. He had to hide his music from his family, his passion for guitar, for a long time. Eventually his mom embraced the fact that he liked playing music, but he knew his dad wouldn't approve of it. He then was playing guitar and singing as a woman. He identified as a woman for a good chunk of his time in playing music. And now, and in this Tiny Desk entry, he's identifying as he was at birth, a man.

(SOUNDBITE OF NAIA IZUMI SONG)

MORENO: The musicality, the originality. This guy's amazing. Like, he's just what you call the exact, you know, undiscovered artist that people need to hear, they need to listen to.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOFTSPOKEN WOMAN")

IZUMI: (Singing) There's so many changes.

GREENE: Gaby Moreno, singer-songwriter, guitarist, one of the judges. And Bob Boilen, who's the host of All Songs Considered. Thank you both. And if you want to get to know Naia Izumi, this year's winner, you can see video of him and the song that we've been listening to at the NPR Music website.

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