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Chaka Khan: Tiny Desk Concert

This Black Music Month, Tiny Desk is giving the ladies their flowers. We’re releasing nine Tiny Desk concerts from Black women artists, from veterans who’ve paved the way for what we hear today in Black music, to those who are carving out their own paths.

When the “Queen of Funk,” Chaka Khan, began to sing her hit “Sweet Thing” at the Tiny Desk, she seemed surprised at how the audience enthusiastically joined in. It’s just one example of how ingrained her work is in the fabric of music history. Since she emerged in the 1970s with the funk band Rufus, Khan has crafted a legacy that includes 22 albums, 10 Grammys, forays into jazz and theater and collaborations with Prince, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell and Quincy Jones. Her 50 years in the music industry recently culminated in a long overdue 2023 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The moment guitarist Rob Bacon opened the set on the talk box, with bassist Melvin Davis and drummer Jay Williams laying down the beat, it was clear we were about to get a lesson in some naaaasty funk with “Tell Me Something Good.” If the way our in-office audience was jamming to “What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me” and “Ain’t Nobody” is any indication, be prepared to watch this show in a location where you can comfortably groove. “Sweet Thing” showcased vocalist Tiffany Smith killing the most iconic (and most vocally difficult) moment in the song, something that has humbled many a singer.

And what better way to close out this Tiny Desk during a month celebrating the contributions of Black women in music than with the anthem that has empowered woman-identified audiences for decades: the Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson-penned “I’m Every Woman.” Throughout the set, I’m reminded that Khan’s unfathomably big and powerful voice is a glue that holds intergenerational music together.

SET LIST

  • “Tell Me Something Good”
  • “What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me”
  • “Stay”
  • “Sweet Thing”
  • “Through the Fire”
  • “Ain’t Nobody”
  • “I’m Every Woman”


MUSICIANS

  • Chaka Khan: lead vocals 
  • Melvin Davis: bass, musical direction
  • Jesse Milliner: keys
  • Rob Bacon: guitar
  • Euro Zambrano: percussion
  • Jay Williams: drums
  • Audrey Wheeler-Downing: vocals 
  • Tiffany Smith: vocals 
  • Trina Broussard: vocals


TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producers: Bobby Carter, Mitra I. Arthur
  • Director/Editor: Joshua Bryant
  • Audio Technical Director: Neil Tevault 
  • Videographers: Joshua Bryant, Maia Stern, Kara Frame, Alanté Serene
  • Audio Engineer: Hannah Gluvna
  • Production Assistant: Ashley Pointer
  • Photographer: Zayrha Rodriguez
  • Animation: Jackie Lay
  • Florist: Kelanda Edwards
  • Tiny Desk Copy Editor: Hazel Cills 
  • Executive Producer: Suraya Mohamed
  • Series Creators: Bob Boilen, Stephen Thompson
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins

Copyright 2024 NPR

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