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Music

Why We're So Excited About J Balvin's 'El Tiny' Concert

Colombian artist J Balvin poses at the Universal Music offices in Mexico City in March 2020.
Colombian artist J Balvin poses at the Universal Music offices in Mexico City in March 2020.

These next couple of weeks, NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts are getting a makeover for Hispanic Heritage Month. NPR Music has teamed up with NPR podcast Alt. Latino to present "El Tiny," a concert series that will feature all Latinx artists. Up first is Colombian reggaeton sensation J Balvin.

His El Tiny concert was released Thursday (and by the way, he performed it floating on a barge in the middle of the East River in New York City!).

Here's why we're extra excited for this one:

Let's start with the artist himself

You may be wondering: Is it J BAHL-vin or J bahl-VEEN? As a Spanish speaker growing up in the states — and likely embracing my Latinidad more and more later in life — I first adopted the English way of saying his name. But regardless of how you say his name, J Balvin wants you to also know his real name: José — it's the title of his latest album.

In his Amazon documentary, The Boy From Medellín, the singer says J Balvin is his alter ego and José is his truest self. Some of the songs in his latest album, like "7 de Mayo" and "La Familia," get to this more personal side of him and we hear themes of gratitude.

His music resonates globally

While these songs aren't the typical reggaeton hits like "Mi Gente" or "Ginza" that the mainstream audience might know him for, there are still plenty of other danceable beats. It's difficult to choose, but some of my top songs from this album are "Una Nota," "Qué Más Pues?" and "Que Locura."

J Balvin has stood by his word to keep true to his Colombian roots by only singing in Spanish. There are only two songs in the album that include English lyrics ("Otra Noche Sin Ti" ft. Khalid and "UN DIA" ft. Dua Lipa, Bad Bunny and Tainy.) Balvin acknowledges that people don't need to know what he's singing. "I think it's the beat and the melodies and the love that we put into the music; the good vibes" — Balvin says that's what attracts people to this music.

If you want to keep the energy going, you'll love this Spotify playlist made especially for fans of J Balvin.


This story originally published in the Morning Edition live blog.

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