Six hands, holding pencils as drumsticks, tap out a simple percussive beat on a Wurlitzer and two desks. Zooming out, the camera reveals the members of Diamante Eléctrico, accompanied by a colorful 10-piece backing ensemble in their home country’s capital, Bogotá.
Diamante Eléctrico‘s brand of Colombian indie rock can be described in three words: funky, inventive and necessary. The Latin Grammy-winning trio’s music emphasizes community and place — two things that are displayed front and center as the band takes the stage in the second “El Tiny” performance of Hispanic Heritage Month.
“NO MIEDO!!!” (no fear) and “VERDAD” (truth) adorn the worn-down desks as the collective powers through a politically-charged four-song set. Opening with 2018’s “Rotos,” they breathe champeta life into their songs through horns and instruments like the guacharaca, played by singer Juan Galeano’s brother Mario. They follow with “Suéltame Bogotá,” an upbeat plea to escape a suffocating home, and feature a spirited guest performance by Nicolai Fella of LosPetitFellas. “Amalia” leads into a genuine expression of thanks and solidarity, as Galeano gives gratitude to those protesting on “primeras línea y segunda línea,” shouting out the students and farmers challenging the government before finishing the set with “A Veces.”
It’s why Diamante Eléctrico has made themselves so crucial, not only in the Latin indie rock scene, but in music at large: the band’s tether to its home country is substantial, no matter how fraught it may seem. Through both its music and stage presence, Diamante Eléctrico curates a shared sense of Latin roots and family, expanding outward from its home of Colombia and resonating across Latinidad, from Puerto Rico to Panama.
SET LIST Diamante Electrico at Tiny Desk (Home) Concert
- “Suéltame, Bogotá”
- “A Veces”
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J Balvin plays songs from “Jose” at Tiny Desk (Home) Concert
A tattooed hand scrawls on a small school desk — “Jose by J Balvin” — followed by a signature smile. It’s an intimate beginning for the príncipe del reggaetón, J Balvin himself, as he begins his “El Tiny” performance on a sunny barge in the middle of the East River. Backed by the Brooklyn Bridge, Balvin breezes through some of the best cuts off of his new album JOSE (Balvin’s birth name). The first three — “Vestido,” “Que Locura” and “OTRO FILI” — are moody and gentle popetón, creating expectations of familiar intimacy before he blows the performance wide open with the Tainy-produced, tempo-shifting album opener, “F40.” And as the sun descends on the New York skyline, Balvin closes it out with a drop-laden extended mix of the jock-jam Skrillex collaboration, “In Da Getto.”
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To talk about modern Latin music is to talk about J Balvin. Over the course of the past 10 years, “the boy from Medellín” has risen from humble beginnings in Colombia to global superstardom, building an unprecedented fanbase at the intersection of pop, reggaetón, house and hip-hop, with over 18 billion views and 35 million record sales to prove it. He is the first Latino to headline Coachella and Lollapalooza, and there isn’t a more fitting artist to kick off our month of “El Tiny” performances — Balvin is the epitome of cross-cultural success.
When a drone flies out during the last drop of “In Da Getto,” and we finally see the true scope of the barge that Balvin has been performing on, it serves as a reminder that no matter how personal his songs may be, Balvin will always, always, be massive.
SET LIST J Balvin at Tiny Desk (Home) Concert
“In Da Getto”
Selected artist for the Hispanic Heritage Month on NPR