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Y La Bamba: Tiny Desk Concert

Luz Elena Mendoza has such a far-reaching creative spirit that it's almost impossible to confine her to a single musical identity. Which is why she's one of just a handful of artists who've been invited back to the Tiny Desk to offer a revised musical vision.

When she was here last with the band Y La Bamba, it was a vocal-heavy, folk outfit. The band's sound has always been about vocals and her music has become even more so over the years.

Now she's assembled a different crew with two electric guitars and keyboards that are layered underneath her passionate vocals. And for this turn behind the desk, having played together night after night results in a musical mind-meld that is heard in how the songs seamlessly morph from one to another.

Y La Bamba's albums are meticulously crafted sonic treats with her vocals layered like a choir made with a single voice. But in our offices, she called on vocalist Isabeau Waia'u Walker to replicate their distinct sound. "Paloma Negra" benefits from the voices of the entire band in a high-energy mediation on rhythm and voice.

There is a bruja energy and spirit to their performance, and not in the negative connotation that is the Spanish word for "witch." In Luz Elena Mendoza's hands a brujeriaspirit is all about conjuring the kind of magic that took place on this video.


  • "Paloma Negra"
  • "Rios Sueltos"
  • "Bruja de Brujas"
  • "Cuatro Crazy"

    Ryan Oxford: vocals, guitar; Luz Elena Mendoza: vocals, guitar; Julia Mendiolea: vocals, keys; Isabeau Waia'u Walker: vocals; Miguel Jimenez-Cruz: drums; Zachary Teran: vocals, bass


    Producers: Bob Boilen, Beck Harlan; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Beck Harlan, Kara Frame, CJ Riculan, Maia Stern; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Paul Georgoulis; Executive Producer: Lauren Onkey; VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann; Photo: Shuran Huang/NPR

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    Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.