Today we’re thrilled to announce that the winner of the Tiny Desk Concert Contest is Fantastic Negrito.
With a video shot in a freight elevator in Oakland behind a desk made of a steel slab and a work bench, this soulful character won our hearts. Xavier Dphrepaulezz is a singer from Oakland with a passion that felt undeniable. Though I watched thousands of videos, the moment I heard his voice and saw such conviction to his song I thought, “Wow, I think this guy could win.” I wasn’t alone: The other judges — Robin Hilton, Valerie June, Reggie Watts, John Congleton and Thao Nguyen — also found Fantastic Negrito and his band compelling.
In the past few days, we’ve learned more about this musician’s life and story. It wasn’t part of why we picked him, but it is amazing. You’ll hear more in an interview with him on All Things Considered tonight, but here’s a bit of that story, from the official Tiny Desk Concert Contest announcement:
Fantastic Negrito calls himself a musician reborn. As a young man, the Oakland singer taught himself to play just about every instrument he could get his hands on. But after making a record that failed to take off, he felt his confidence and artistry suffer; disenchanted with music, he simply quit. The years that followed brought major life changes: a near-deadly car accident and the resulting coma, intense rehabilitation, marriage and the birth of his son. Now, renewed creative energy has spawned the musical project that is Fantastic Negrito. He chose the name, he says, as “a celebration of blackness. The ‘Fantastic’ is self-explanatory; the ‘Negrito’ is a way to open blackness up to everyone, making it playful and international.” Judges Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, John Congleton, Valerie June, Reggie Watts and Thao Nguyen agreed that this soulful, unbridled performance, captured at a makeshift desk in an Oakland freight elevator, stood out from the crowd.
You can watch Fantastic Negrito’s submission video here right now, and we’ll have more from him soon. On a date in late February, this band will join us at NPR and perform a Tiny Desk Concert. We’ll put that concert online around March 9. They’ll then have the pleasure of playing as part of CouchTrippin’ to Austin, a show put on by Lagunitas Brewing Co., which sponsored the contest.
Deciding on a winner wasn’t easy. People put their hearts and souls, along with a desk of their choosing, into the nearly 7,000 submissions. Some did it to win, some did it for fun. What I loved most is that regardless of motivation, people got together to do something they may not have ever done, to create something unique and something they’ll be able to share with friends and family forever. I think of all the desks dragged into nature, onto hilltops, into and around oceans, through offices and kitchens, classrooms and science labs. Friends gathered and made something memorable, and that’s my favorite part of this, our very first Tiny Desk Concert Contest.
Thank you all for participating — my eyes were red not from watching all those videos but from tears of joy.
Congratulations to Fantastic Negrito, from Bob Boilen and all of us here around the Tiny Desk!