Music

NPR Music contributor Stefanie Fernández shares the latest Latin music releases. Catch all these songs and more in the most recent episode of Alt.Latino.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

When cases of the coronavirus spiked in March, doctors and nurses across the country found themselves overwhelmed with work. The shutdown also took away an important creative outlet for a special breed of medical professional: classical musicians. That's why John Masko, a symphony conductor in Boston, founded the National Virtual Medical Orchestra, giving those in the medical field a chance to perform and connect with each other.

"I kept hearing from musician after musician from our ensemble [about] how much they wish they were playing," Masko says.

The series Upright opens with a man hauling an upright piano in a trailer across the bare Australian landscape. He's frazzled and alone at the wheel, guzzling beer and gobbling pills. He gets a text message: "Mate. Time is running out. Don't duck this up."

Ah, spell-check.

Then he drives into a ditch, hears his piano bleat, and the shouts of an angry, profane 16-year-old he's just run into. Upright is the story of two strangers, Lucky and Meg, who take off across the expanse of Australia, scheming, swearing, pilfering, and becoming vital to each other.

Kathleen Edwards had devoted fans and a successful career, with hits on the Billboard Top 40 charts and songwriting awards. But after her last album in 2012, she walked away from the music business. In fact, she opened a cafe in the suburbs of Ottawa, Canada, called Quitters Coffee.

This week, NPR Music launched The South Got Something To Say: A Celebration Of Southern Rap. The project is centered around a canon of 130 greatest releases by Southern rappers; it was assembled by a team, led by critic Briana Younger, of Southern critics, scholars and writers representing the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Virginia.

There are two kinds of reactions to Beyoncé's new Black Is King video: lavish praise – and deep criticism. The praise comes from her many fans and from many reviewers. The criticism often comes from Africans.

We are both from Africa. Esther Ngumbi was born and grew up in Kenya. Ifeanyi Nsofor was born and grew up in Nigeria. We can understand the critiques – and have some of our own. But in the end, we think the positives outweigh the problems.

"What you n***** know about the Dirty South?" When Cool Breeze and Goodie Mob posed that question in 1995, they weren't really looking for an answer from anybody in particular because obviously, they already knew it — not a gotdamn thing. The question came up just three months after André 3000 declared "the South's got something to say" as audience members booed after OutKast won the Best New Group trophy at the Source Awards.

Hip-hop has been an integral component in Tiny Desk's success for quite a while now. Rappers from across the globe have played the Desk and helped to enrich our ever-evolving legacy. With hip-hop in particular, geography plays such a large part in 'how' artists express themselves, and none quite so much as Southern emcees. To celebrate the launch of NPR Music's Southern Rap canon this week, we're picking five performances from Southern hip-hop artists.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. Time now for an espresso shot of musical endorphins.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: When the pandemic forced summer music festivals to cancel, banjo players felt particularly unstrung.

Alan Menken composed the song "Prince Ali," memorably sung by Robin Williams in Disney's 1992 animated feature Aladdin, while sitting at the lyricist's hospital bed. His friend, Howard Ashman, was dying.

"His life was pitifully cut short, unfortunately, as were many at that time," says Menken. "But Howard's [death], for me, is the most personally difficult and his spirit remains very, very present still; there's something about Howard that is not just a statistic in the battle against AIDS. But as an artist, he's extremely vital — even now."

Phil Elverum has built and battled entire universes. From 1996-2003, his band, The Microphones, was mostly just him alone in a studio, as friends from Olympia sang and banged on instruments as needed. With a bull-headed bravado that comes from a dreamer's naïveté, chests swelled to the size of the moon, the dead flew off as vultures and the dawn promised something new every morning.

Helen Jones Woods, who played trombone with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a history-making all-female big band that toured widely during World War II, died of COVID-19 on July 25 in Sarasota, Fla. She was 96.

Her daughter Cathy Hughes, founder and chairperson of the broadcast media company Urban One, confirmed the details of her death to NPR.

Helen Jones Woods, who played trombone with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a history-making all-female big band that toured widely during World War II, died of COVID-19 on July 25 in Sarasota, Fla. She was 96.

Her daughter Cathy Hughes, founder and chairperson of the broadcast media company Urban One, confirmed the details of her death to NPR.

YouTube

Back in April, during the early days of COVID-19, Bon Iver dropped a seemingly free-standing single called "

This essay is part of The South Got Something To Say: A Celebration Of Southern Rap, NPR Music's canon of the best songs, albums and mixtapes by Southern rappers. The project — created by a team of Southern critics, scholars and writers and led by Briana Younger — is an enthusiastic celebration that recenters the South as a creative center in hip-hop and acknowledges the region's wide-ranging contributions to the genre.

Things are very different in 2020, and maybe David Longstreth had a hunch when he started work on the new project from the Dirty Projectors, a band with a lineup that has consistently rotated around him over the last 20 years. They jettisoned the traditional album format for a series of five EPs.

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For the Morning Edition Song Project, the show has been reaching out to musicians in recent weeks for their take on the era of COVID-19, asking them to put their thoughts to music in a

How The Go-Go's Perfected Pop-Punk

Aug 5, 2020

The Go-Go's debut album, Beauty and the Beat, is universally regarded as an '80s pop and new wave classic. It's rightfully celebrated as the first album by an all-woman band who played its own instruments and wrote its own songs to top the Billboard 200 albums chart. But it was revolutionary in more than one way: It's also a harbinger of what rock would become, and a bridge between punk, the movement whose rebelliousness had quashed the excesses of classic rock, and the genre-fusing music of the 1980s.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

One of America's most beloved musicians, Neil Young, has filed a civil lawsuit against President Trump's reelection campaign. Young's mission: to get Trump supporters to stop rocking out to "Rockin' in the Free World" and "Devil's Sidewalk" at his campaign events and rallies.

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."

In 2013, Ondara got a green card. He packed up his things in Nairobi, Kenya, where he grew up and moved to Minnesota, because that's where his hero, Bob Dylan, was born. In the years since, Ondara — formerly J.S.

"To live without reflection for so long might make you wonder if you even truly exist."

There is a lot that can be communicated through longing. That internal sense of a missing piece and yearning for completion can be all-consuming. It can change the course of your life. For most, that might be a wanting for love, or the coveting of success. But in Beyoncé Knowles' Black Is King — directed by the star herself and released Friday on the streaming service Disney+ — that longing is for the certainty of identity.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

YouTube

This year's Tiny Desk Contest was unlike any other.

New York's Metropolitan Opera, armed with technology, today's top singers and a captive, home-bound audience is, in spite of them, struggling to make opera relevant. The company's new streaming series, Met Stars Live in Concert, while a valiant endeavor, can't seem to shake off opera's fusty, aristocratic trappings.

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    1989-1994&nbsp &nbsp|&nbsp &nbsp1995-1999&nbsp &nbsp|&nbsp &nbsp2000-2004&nbsp &nbsp|&nbsp &nbsp

It's a famous scene by now: André 3000 in a purple dashiki, Big Boi in an Atlanta Braves jersey, the pair ascending the steps of the stage at the 1995 Source Awards to accept the trophy for New Artist of the Year amid a flurry of boos from a less-than-pleased audience. In retrospect, it's hard to imagine OutKast catching jeers in any room of self-proclaimed hip-hop lovers. Yet here they were, just over a year removed from their debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, still underdogs, still unwelcome, still outcasts.

NPR Music's canon of Southern rap, created by a team of Southern critics, scholars and writers, is an enthusiastic celebration that recenters the South as a creative center in hip-hop and acknowledges the region's wide-ranging contributions to the genre. It includes 130 albums, songs and mixtapes that together represent a cultural history of Southern rap, told on its own terms.

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