Very few artists get to return to the Tiny Desk, and fewer still return twice in the same year. But after contributing background vocals behind the desk for Dreamville artist Bas in early 2019, we invited Mereba back for a solo set that puts her eclectic, major-label debut The Jungle Is The Only Way Out into sharp focus.

“I’m so excited to be here with you guys,” she said one song into a set that features the multi-instrumentalist alternating between keys and guitar. “Wow. Dreams coming true.”

The stripped-down soundscape Mereba achieves live with her four-piece band is equally dreamlike here, drawing from influences as wide-ranging as the many places she’s called home (Alabama, Philly, North Carolina, Atlanta, Ethiopia). As she pulls from genres as seemingly disparate as folk, rap and spoken word, her set reflects the years she spent perfecting her craft on live stages in Atlanta cafes and clubs, where she attracted the attention of the indie creative collective Spillage Village (EarthGang, J.I.D, 6lack) before joining them in 2014.

But it’s under the main spotlight that Mereba shines best, with her gift for lyrical storytelling putting her centerstage where the devil himself couldn’t cast doubt on her dreams.

SET LIST

  • “Black Truck”
  • “Stay Tru”
  • “Dodging The Devil”
  • “Kinfolk”

MUSICIANS

Mereba: vocals, guitar; Sam Hoffman: guitar, bass; Chris James: bass; Aisha Gaillard: drums; Olivia Walker: vocals

CREDITS

Producers: Rodney Carmichael, Bobby Carter, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern, Tsering Bista, Jack Corbett; Executive Producer: Lauren Onkey; VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann; Photo: Mhari Shaw/NPR

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