This 21-year-old Maltese-Australian got a guitar from her grandfather when she was three, she says, and has played it every day since. It’s astonishing to watch Sultana’s fluidity on her instrument, like a natural extension of her body. (She also plays bass, saxophone, trumpet, flute and more, but kept it “simple” at the Tiny Desk.) I thought I had a lot of energy — watching her bounce from guitar to drum machine to two separate microphones — and then hopping barefoot from looping pedal to effect pedal as she builds her songs was exhilarating and exhausting. There’s more here than an exercise in virtuosity, her music is filled with adventure and ambition. These songs are rapturous and resonant.
One look at (and listen to) the cross-dressing, Asian rock band SsingSsing and you would hardly think they’re singing music inspired by traditional Korean folk. But SsingSsing isn’t like any other band I’ve ever seen or heard.
The group sings a regional folk style called minyo and the gender bending look has to do with shamans not glamour. As singer Hee-moon Lee describes it, “In Korean traditional art, male shamans, called baksu, have the body of a male. But as mediums, they need more than a single sexual identity, because they’re channeling both male and female spirits. When I act a female character and sing, I have to overcome the fact of my being a male sorikkun (singer), and try my utmost to bring a more neutral, unisex feeling to the performance. It sounds silly, but I feel like going back to the sensibilities of my youth, when I liked Madonna, helps.”
The understated music, the small dramatic gestures and the costumes all combine for one of my most memorable Tiny Desk Concerts of all time.
“Nanbongga (Song of Beloveds)”
“Saseol Nanbongga (Narrative Song of Beloveds)”
Hee-moon Lee (vocal), Da-hye Choo (vocal), Seung-tae Shin (vocal), Young-gyu Jang (bass guitar), Tae-won Lee (electric guitar), and Chul-hee Lee (drums)
They transform traditional Polish songs into Kujawski swing, and they mix folk songs, whispers, and shouts with sounds of…a grater, a knife being sharpened or a bathtub being filled with water. An original trio, Sutari, is gaining popularity on the folk scene with their modern interpretations of old songs.
Sutari is based on the strength of three female talents, temperaments, and voices. Zofia Barańska, Katarzyna Kapela, and Barbara Songin are vocalists, instrumentalists, actresses, and performers who have been active on the Polish artistic scene for many years now in various fields: from music to theatre through dance and film. Kasia collaborates with the Wrocław Song of the Goat Theatre, Basia deals with physical theatre, choreography and produces her own original shows along with the artistic collective FURU, and Zosia collaborates with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute on musical projects. They met a few years ago at the “Gardzienice” Centre for Theatre Practices and that is how their musical collaboration began: on violins, drums, wine glasses, bottles, knifes, graters and even using water. As Zosia Barańska explains:
We feel good on stage together. Playing together and giving concerts gives us great joy. We experiment with sound a lot. It’s enough to change the tempo, slow down, or speed up in order to find jazz, swing or blues in old songs. The idea of using unusual instruments helps us tell the stories of our great grandmothers, it reminds us all of the musical tradition of singing together while peeling potatoes or working in the fields, because singing was a part of everyday life. That is why we incorporated the rhythmization of sounds produced by kitchenware.
The bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding conceived of Chamber Music Society as an intimate experience, a close musical exchange between a small group of friends. If it was intimacy she wanted, she got her wish: Performing three songs in the constraints of Bob Boilen’s workspace ensures that all of her supporting players were nice and cozy.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a hot and historic outfit from New Orleans, and its members brought us a tuba-wielding Santa and some original holiday cheer and praise — what they call a Cajun Christmas from the French Quarter.
We lit some lights and decorated my desk and shelves as best we could, but it’s this amazing band — complete with saxophone, trombone, trumpet, drums and a couple of tubas — that lit this place up. We’ve never had so much dancing from the NPR crew at a Tiny Desk Concert. So enjoy the show, and happy holidays to all from NPR Music. –BOB BOILEN
“I Think I Love You”
Sinkane opened its Tiny Desk Concert with a song that has been a bit of an anthem for me lately. “U’Huh” contains the Arabic phrase “kulu shi tamaam,” which translates to “everything’s great — it’s all going to be all right.”
Sinkane is the music of Ahmed Gallab — and such hopeful music it is. He grew up in London and has lived in Sudan and in Ohio and, these days, New York City. His band reflects his own love for music from around the world; you can hear a great New York jazz band in the rhythms of Sinkane, but you can also hear the influence of Bob Marley and the hypnotic repetition of Sudanese desert sounds.
ADHD is an Icelandic band formed in 2007 known for their instrumental music, influenced by jazz and rock.
The band was formed to perform at the Höfn í Hornafirði blues-festival in 2007 and as the collaboration was successful the band decided to keep on performing. Their first album, ADHD was recorded and published in 2009 and won the title Icelandic Jazz Album of the Year at the Icelandic Music Awards. The albums ADHD2, ADHD3 and ADHD4 all have received nominations for the Nordic music prize.
ADHD’s albums are recorded live, to reflect the live performances of the band.