Today, we’ll explore some of the standout performances at NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert featuring Afrobeats artistes.
NPR Tiny Desk, an intimate concert series, features diverse artistes performing in a cozy office setting. Since its inception in 2008, it has become a cultural phenomenon, offering a platform for musicians to showcase their talents in an acoustic, stripped-down format. Tiny Desk concerts range from established legends to emerging talents, spanning genres like indie rock, hip-hop, and Afrobeats. With millions of online views, it has cultivated a loyal fan base and serves as a testament to the power of music to connect people through raw, unfiltered performances in an unassuming workspace.
They have hosted numerous African talents in the past years, and here are 10 of our favorites in no particular order.
1. Adekunle Gold
Self-proclaimed as the “Greatest Showman”, Adekunle Gold undeniably showcased his talents on the NPR Tiny Desk series. His performance took place during Black Music Month a year ago, coinciding with the release of his album “Catch Me If You Can”. During the set, he skillfully rendered singles from both “Catch Me If You Can” and his previous work, “Afro Pop Vol. 1”, delivering a captivating performance brimming with energy, exceptional vocals, and ample charisma.
3. Burna Boy
Burna Boy, widely recognized as one of Africa’s premier stage performers, showcased his talent on NPR Tiny Desk. Fresh from his “African Giant” album, he performed tracks from the album and revisited “Ye”. Burna Boy impressed with his rich, velvety vocals and the outstanding support of the Outsiders band, ultimately making it the most-watched Afrobeats performance on the platform.
In her Tiny Desk performance, Tems delivered a nearly flawless show. Accompanied by delicate instrumentals, her exceptionally smooth and enchanting voice breathed life into her songs, arguably surpassing the studio recordings themselves. This performance followed the recent release of her EP, “If Orange Was A Place,” and she adeptly integrated tracks from this new release with some of her earlier works.
4. Fireboy DML
Fireboy DML had a crisp set on the Tiny Desk performance. He perfectly rendered his sound, which is a smooth blend of R&B, Pop, Afrobeats, and Alté, with his tracks ranging from his debut album “Laughter, Tears, and Goosebumps” to his sophomore “Apollo.” A truly beautiful set.
5. Omah Lay
In celebration of Black History Month this year, NPR had Omah Lay on the set for his performance. He performed an array of his smash singles from various projects. However, his performance generated mixed reactions from fans, with some expressing disappointment in his vocal delivery. Many had hoped for a live rendition surpassing the studio recordings and were let down in that regard. Nevertheless, Omah Lay’s set still provided an entertaining and engaging viewing experience.
Davido’s set was also for Black History Month but back in 2021. He performed his timeless classics and delivered a truly captivating performance. What stood out was his unique approach to certain songs in the set, where he transformed high-tempo tracks into a more serene and groovy rendition, a move that resonated exceptionally well with the audience. Overall, it was a remarkably solid performance from the Afrobeats legend.
During this year’s NPR Tiny Desk Black Music Month celebration, Amaarae took the spotlight and delivered a remarkably well-rounded performance. She mainly drew her setlist from her recently released album, “Fountain Baby,” and her show was flawlessly smooth. With a poised presence that captivated viewers, Amaarae effortlessly navigated her performance.
Obongjayar’s music exudes a captivating and distinct aura, and he masterfully displayed it during his NPR Tiny Desk performance, emphasizing his unique vocals, trademark sound, and impactful lyrics. The performance reached its pinnacle when he performed the poignant single “I Wish It Was Me” a heartfelt dedication to his brother. It was a truly captivating performance.
9. Tiwa Savage
Tiwa Savage showcased her unmatched voice and captivating elegance in her NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Her angelic voice and natural beauty graced a heartwarming performance, accompanied by the Alternate Sound Band, as she flawlessly presented a selection of her extensive catalog of beautiful songs.
10. Naira Marley
Naira Marley’s set was a peculiar one; he performed his hit singles dropped over the years and even brought out his Marlian Music signee Zinoleesky to perform “O’dun,” their collaborative single. Despite providing an entertaining and engaging viewing experience, many viewers criticized Naira Marley’s set for being subpar, citing a lack of energy and coordination during the performances.