Noah Caldwell

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

There are two sides to the Cuban artist Erik Iglesias Rodríguez, who performs as Cimafunk. "Cima" is an homage to the cimarrón, a word that refers to Cubans of African descent who escaped enslavement. And "funk," he says, "because you got all the African roots that came to the United States and transformed gospel [and] the blues to get funk."

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

To color grade a photo is to alter its hues — to make them brighter, bolder, more or less detailed — in order to create a particular effect. That's what English singer-songwriter Tirzah does with reflections on her life in her sophomore album, Colourgrade.

A lot has happened for Tirzah since her last album, Devotion, in 2018: She quit her job as a textile print designer, had a second child and wrote a whole new album. But going back into the studio? She tells NPR's Ailsa Chang that was old hat:

At the heart of Esperanza Spalding's new album, Songwrights Apothecary Lab (S.A.L.), is a question: "What do you need a song for?" In pursuit of answers, Spalding, a Grammy-winning jazz singer and bassist, assembled a team of more than just other musicians; she created a laboratory of sorts, gathering neuroscientists, psychologists, ethnomusicologists and more. "We are like shipwrights," Spalding says in an interview with NPR's Ailsa Chang. "We build things.

Judges for this year's Tiny Desk Contest waded and watched and debated through thousands of entries, but today we finally have a winner: Her family knows her as Mecca Russell – we'll come to know her as Neffy.

Today "has been absolutely wild," she tells All Thing Considered's Mary Louise Kelly in a conversation this afternoon, following the announcement of the news early this morning. "My mom is bursting at the seams," she says, adding that her parents are "really happy, and that makes me happy."

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When the artist Yolanda Quarterly, now better known as Yola, was just a bump in her mother's belly, she was already bopping to music. Yola's mother was a registered nurse, who used to DJ at a hospital's mental health unit. Disco and soul, sounds Yola would hear before entering the world, would go on to influence her later in life.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

On April 30 of last year, armed militiamen entered the Michigan State Capitol Building looking for Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Yelling) Open the door.

It's been remarkable to watch singer-songwriter Joy Oladukun's professional success, despite the pandemic: Her music keeps showing up on popular scripted shows like Grey's Anatomy and This Is Us, leading to live performances on late night shows with Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert — all without really leaving her base of Nashville, Tenn.

On the last edition of Play It Forward, All Things Considered's chain of musical gratitude, funk legend George Clinton spoke about opera singer and funk keyboardist Constance Hauman. In particular, he praised Hauman's many musical talents, which extend across genres.

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Let's go back to March 19, 2020. I know you'd probably rather not do that, but stay with me here. The pandemic had just begun, and Adam Weiner of the band Low Cut Connie was feeling just like the rest of us.

On the last episode of Play It Forward, our series in which artists tell us about their own music and the musicians who inspire them, All Things Considered spoke with Angel Bat Dawid, the improvisational musician from Chicago. She told us about her connection to the pioneer of funk: George Clinton.

The first time sociologist Mary de Young heard about QAnon, she thought: "Here we go again."

De Young spent her career studying moral panics — specifically, what became known as the "Satanic Panic" of the 1980s, when false accusations of the abuse of children in satanic rituals spread across the United States.

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Depending on the album, St. Vincent might inhabit a persona. Near-Future cult leader, dominatrix at the mental institution - that's how she's described some of them. On her new album, she's going for a time and place.

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

On the last edition of Play It Forward, All Things Considered's chain of musical gratitude, Devonté Hynes – the English singer-songwriter, producer, director and genre-spanning creative force behind Blood Orange – spoke about experimental jazz artist Angel Bat Dawid's atmospheric track "London."

How do traditional arts organizations respond to turbulent times?

With a new year comes a new season of "Play It Forward," All Things Considered's chain of artistic inspiration, where we ask musicians to tell us about their work and the people who inspire them, after which we ask the person mentioned for their own, and so it continues. This series often takes leaps from one genre to another, which makes Devonté Hynes a tricky and exciting place to jump back in.

It was poetry that first captured Arlo Parks, not music. As a teenager in West London, the artist read Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," which she remembers emanating a sense of yearning and longing, while also challenging ideas of form and rhyme. Parks says the poem gave off an air of humanity, but was equally strange and intense.

Langhorne Slim is a singer-songwriter by trade — but for more than a year, he could barely write. Slim recalls only writing about a song and a half, and even then it was nothing presentable to others. He had quit drinking years before, but found himself addicted to prescription pills. "I had been numbing myself ... to the source of my own creativity," Slim says. "Really, to the source of love, you know?" So, Slim went into rehabilitation.

Weezer's lead singer and songwriter, Rivers Cuomo, works on so much music simultaneously that, during NPR's interview about the band's latest album, he briefly had to check his notes to remind himself what songs are even on it. The story of OK Human dates back to 2017, when the band decided to begin working on album that would back up its rock instrumentation with an orchestra. As it was wrapping up production, Cuomo got a fateful phone call.

He came from Saturn, on a mission to spread peace through the power of music — or so Sun Ra claimed. "I'm really not a man, you see. I'm an angel," the legendary bandleader said in an interview in the late 1980s. "If you're an angel, you're a step above man."

How can a moment of protest and isolation inspire creative rebirth? That's the question renowned pianist Lara Downes is exploring as the host of a new video series for NPR Music, simply titled Amplify With Lara Downes.

Dr. Joel Zivot stared at the autopsy reports. The language was dry and clinical, in stark contrast to the weight of what they contained — detailed, graphic accounts of the bodies of inmates executed by lethal injection in Georgia.

We have a winner! For the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest from NPR Music, our all-star team of judges reviewed more than 6,000 entries from across the U.S. and chose Linda Diaz, who submitted the song "Green Tea Ice Cream."

Pages