NPR Music & Concerts

Music features, reviews and "first listens" from NPR.  For WUNC's music programs,  Back Porch Music.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Kickstarters

May 16, 2018

Join host Fiona Ritchie to hear vintage sounds from some of the trailblazers of Celtic music, artists who influenced a generation of musicians across the world.

Artists featured include Clannad, The Chieftains and Battlefield Band.

It was daylight but the music was dark and moody. And despite having the office lights turned on high, it was Khruangbin's trance-inducing tone that set the mood and carried me away.

Last week, Spotify announced it was implementing a new policy in which it would stop promoting "hate content" and artists who engage in "hateful conduct" within its very powerful playlists and through its equally powerful suggestion algorithm. In the week since, the move has been greeted with celebration, derision and skepticism.

The streaming platform Tidal, whose most public owner and champion is rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z, is facing heavy criticism and possible legal action from several Scandinavian artist organizations and other entities after a Norwegian business newspaper alleged last week that the company had faked hundreds of millions of plays on Beyoncé's Lemonade and Kanye West's The

I am so proud of our 2018 Tiny Desk Contest winner, Naia Izumi. The band he brought and the songs they played for this winning Tiny Desk Concert made us all even prouder.

The Mavericks were a surprise breakout country band of the 1990s, propelled by Latin rhythms and the powerful voice of lead singer Raul Malo. Raised in Miami by parents who fled Cuba in 1960 after the Cuban revolution, Malo has of late looked to build personal and cultural ties to the island. One of his vehicles is a young indie pop band from Havana: Sweet Lizzy Project.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Brittany

May 11, 2018

Hear intoxicating melodies from the father of the pan-Celtic sound, Alan Stivell, along with Kornog, and The Celtic Fiddle Festival. This week we feature the musicians who have helped shape the contemporary Breton sound.

A very pregnant Abigail Washburn points to Bela Fleck at the Tiny Desk and says "and just so you know, this is his fault." I won't spoil the video by telling you his response.

R&B singer Chris Brown, rapper Young Lo, and an unknown woman are being sued in a civil lawsuit by a woman who alleges that she was repeatedly raped at Brown's house in Los Angeles last year.

Gloria Allred — the prominent civil rights attorney who has also represented women who have accused President Trump, Bill Cosby and Roy Moore — filed the suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court yesterday on behalf of the anonymous woman, who is being called Jane Doe.

After a 14-year absence, Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited rocked until dawn at Glamis Arena, an open-air stadium packed with some 20,000 fans of three generations. Mapfumo — Mukanya to his fans, a reference to his totem, the baboon — moved his family out of the country in 2000, to escape turmoil and harassment under the regime of Robert Mugabe.

Australian singer-songwriter Gordi (a.k.a. Sophie Payten) has a dusky and evocative voice that usually gets enshrouded somehow: It often sounds like it's echoing down a stairwell, or else she's bathed it in vocal effects a la Imogen Heap or Gordi's occasional tourmate, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.

Wu Man is recognized as the world's greatest virtuoso on an instrument that is over 2000 years old: the Chinese pipa.

Even though the world will eventually come to an end, there's still beauty and hope in all of us and in song. That about sums up the wistful mystery that is the music of Darlingside. The quartet brought dystopian storytelling wrapped in choral harmony with this performance at the Tiny Desk. Their singing is layered on a bed of percussive and melodic tones, made with guitars both acoustic and electric, violin, cello, mandolin and a tiny synthesizer.

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Sounds

May 3, 2018

This week Fiona Ritchie handpicks new releases from the musical spring tide that has recently flooded the Thistle offices. Featured are exciting new sounds from "The Musical Nest," a hotbed of learning and creativity on the Islands of Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

GZA & The Soul Rebels: Tiny Desk Concert

May 2, 2018

GZA's performance at the Tiny Desk was a rare appearance for the legendary Wu-Tang Clan emcee, in part because he's notoriously introverted, and because he brought along The Soul Rebels, an eight-piece New Orleans brass ensemble. Once they stepped behind the desk they got right down to business, opening with the sparkling "Living In The World Today," from GZA's 1995 solo album Liquid Swords.

This past fall, when news of the Harvey Weinstein scandal was galvanizing the #MeToo movement, some of us who work in the performing arts had a peculiar experience: Colleagues started asking if they'd sexually harassed us. A few of these colleagues may have been attempting to head off allegations, but many of them genuinely didn't know if they'd crossed a line.

This is as spare as music can be – songs stripped to their essence and just gorgeous. Azniv Korkejian is Bedouine, a singer and acoustic guitarist who echoes sounds from the 1960's North American folk songwriters, but with vocal inflections that feel closer to Leonard Cohen than to Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez.

When I first heard ÌFÉ I was stopped in my tracks. Literally. I pulled the car over and just listened.

I recognized Afro-Cuban drumming and chanting, but it was coming at me with electronic furnishings that made their drums and vocals sound like a futuristic spiritual ceremony.

The Thistle & Shamrock: From Vinyl To MP3

Apr 25, 2018

Hear a handpicked classic collection of recordings with Fiona Ritchie this week. She presents a timeless hour of music spanning the decades, from vinyl masterpieces to pioneering MP3s with artists including Liz Carroll, Gordon Duncan and Alan Stivell.

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