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Claudia Acuña: Tiny Desk Concert

Claudia Acuña's art comes from a deep and spiritual place. From her native Chile, she has channeled her passion for jazz vocals into a career that most recently included a superb album of duets with other jazz A-listers.

She starts her turn behind the Desk with an almost ceremonial incantation of purpose with her song "Yo," which translates to "I Am." Serenaded by the heartbeat-like rhythm of a South American bombo léguero and the delicate strings of a charango, it's a fitting introduction to her three-song set. Her bilingual performance slips into English with "That's What They Say," which displays her skills at interpretation, the foundation of the best jazz singing. The band's subtle shift to an uptempo samba at the end also features a genre-bending piano solo by Pablo Vergara.

One thing the best jazz vocalists do is create a space in which their voice takes on a deep musical quality, like a horn or other melodic instruments. That's on full display in Acuña's next tune, "Hey," a song dedicated to the power of women. Surrounded by bandmates like bassist Carlos Henderson and drummer Yayo Serka, Acuña has assembled the perfect cast of conspirators to help her leave a lasting impression of her art on the jazz world.


  • "Yo"
  • "That's What They Say"
  • "Hey" 

  • Claudia Acuña: vocals
  • Pablo Vergara: keyboard
  • Carlos Henderson: bass
  • Yayo Serka: drums

  • Producer: Felix Contreras 
  • Director/Editor: Kara Frame 
  • Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Creative Director: Bob Boilen 
  • Videographers: Kara Frame, Maia Stern, Sofia Seidel
  • Audio Assistant: Hannah Gluvna 
  • Production Assistant: Jill Britton
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Joshua Bryant, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Ashley Pointer, Pilar Galván
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Corrected: April 18, 2023 at 12:00 AM EDT
    A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the instrument the charango as a cuatro.
    Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.