NPR Music·470 videos

He seemed so casual — sitting on a bar stool behind the Tiny Desk, acoustic guitar in hand — but when you hear that husky voice, you’ll know why he’s a legend. Oliver Mtukudzi, or “Tuku” as his fans lovingly call him, plays spirited music, born from the soul of Zimbabwe. He’s been recording since the late 1970s, with about as many albums as his age: 60.

But Mtukudzi’s new record reveals a heavier heart than before: Sarawoga is his first recording since the loss of his son Sam. He and Sam — also a guitar player, as well as a saxophonist — had a special relationship touring together. But in March 2010, Sam Mtukudzi was killed in a car crash at the age of 21. Oliver Mtukudzi recently told NPR’s Tell Me More that “the only way to console myself is to carry on doing what we loved doing most. Sitting down [to] cry and mourn — I think it would have killed me.”

So here is the legend himself, with much to share in the odd intimacy of an office desk. A special moment. –BOB BOILEN

Set List
“Todii”
“Huroi”
“Haidyoreke”

NPR Music·469 videos

Can’t take another moment of Vivaldi’s ubiquitous Four Seasons? Neither could Max Richter, a London-based composer who deftly blurs the lines between the classical and electronic worlds. Long ago he loved it the piece but like some of us, he grew tired of the overplayed warhorse, which can be found in no fewer than 250 recordings on sites like ArchivMusic.

So instead of writing off the piece forever, Richter rewrote it. He discarded about three quarters of Vivaldi’s original, substituted his own music and tucked in some light electronics for a total Four Seasons makeover. It sounds a little hipper — lighter on its feet in places, darker and more cinematic in others. Still, Richter’s remodeled version retains the basic shape, and much of the spirit, of the master’s original four violin concertos — each about ten minutes and in three movements, sequenced fast-slow-fast.

Richter recorded his rejiggered Seasons with violin soloist Daniel Hope and together they brought the project to (Le) Poisson Rouge, the Greenwich Village music space, where we had our cameras set up and ready to roll.

NPR Music·469 videos

Omara “Bombino” Moctar is a Tuareg guitarist, born in Niger. The familiarity in his music stems from the blues, a common thread between American music and Africa for obvious reasons. Bombino grew up on the music of Jimi Hendrix, whose sound keeps getting sent back and forth from America to Africa and back again. The American blues-rock duo The Black Keys must have heard this upon listening to Bombino; guitarist Dan Auerbach went on to produce Nomad, Bombino’s new album. But there’s also an innocence to Bombino, and a sense of simple, honest discovery that shows up in his smile as he plays. You may find yourself screaming his name, too, after watching this performance. –BOB BOILEN

NPR Music·469 videos

Chuck Daellenbach and his fresh-faced players, each with red-striped sneakers and matching outfits, strolled into the NPR Music offices, took their places behind Bob Boilen’s desk and started blowing as if they’d played this peculiar gig a hundred times.

Set List:

J.S. Bach: Little Fugue In G minor
Luther Henderson: Tuba Tiger Rag
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Flight Of The Bumblebee