World Cafe 30th Anniversary: 30 Under 30
Updated December 1, 2021 at 12:11 PM ET
World Cafe has been on the air for 30 years this year. To celebrate, every week for the next 30 weeks, you can join us while we look back into the archives. But let's be clear: World Cafe has no plans to slow down... so we also want to look forward to the future of music – with our 30 Under 30 list. We've chosen 30 artists who are 30 years old or younger, who we believe are poised to be the next generation of World Cafe stars. Each week, we'll reveal one of the artists on that list.
Based in Philadelphia, Shamir first made waves in 2014 with a pop song called "On The Regular," resulting in his being pointed to as a potential new pop star. And then, as quickly as that success had arrived, Shamir swerved.
Ever since, over seven records, Shamir has been experimenting and exploring, working to construct a sound entirely his own. His most recent album, appropriately self-titled, feels almost like a creative rebirth – and sounds like it.
Before Arlo Parks broke out in the US, she was already bubbling up in her home city of London a few years ago when her debut song, "Cola," was streamed millions of times. But it was her recent debut LP, Collapsed in Sunbeams, an album that reflected the isolation and quiet of pandemic lockdowns through thoughtful musicianship and honest lyrics, that took her to the next level. She graced the cover of NME, she won the breakthrough artist award at the 2021 BRIT awards, and last month, that debut album won the Mercury Prize. It's just the beginning for Arlo Parks, but what a beginning.
Years ago, Marcus King was already being hailed as a guitar prodigy. He started playing in bands when he was a teen, first getting attention in the blues and Americana world with The Marcus King Band. But things really kicked into high gear a couple years ago when he started working with Dan Auerbach in Nashville. In 2020, King released his debut solo album, El Dorado, which was nominated for best Americana album at the Grammy Awards. Oh, and did I mention he's only 25? He's already had an exciting career – and there's lots more to come.
I'll never forget the moment the team rushed down to the performance space to see Ondara perform. We all knew we were witnessing something special.
Ondara was born in Nairobi, Kenya, but had big dreams to become a musician in the U.S. As a teen inspired by Bob Dylan, he moved to Minneapolis — in the dead of winter. At first he didn't even know how to play an instrument, but since then he's put out a debut album, the Grammy-nominated Tales of America, and has become a rising star in Americana. We're thrilled to share this mesmerizing performance of "American Dream."
Katie Pruitt released her debut album Expectations in 2020. It was a candid reflection on her experience growing up gay in the South – with the clarity of her voice echoing the clarity and honesty she brings to her understated songwriting. That songwriting talent and musical skill is something she's been honing since childhood, and Expectations earned her a nomination for Emerging Act of the Year at the Americana Honors & Awards last year. Recently, she's opened for one of her heroes, Brandi Carlile, and started her own podcast called The Recovering Catholic. She visited World Cafe in March 2020 – from that session, enjoy this live performance of "Expectations."
Clairo shot to viral fame at the age of 19 after her homemade video for her song "Pretty Girl," filmed in her bedroom, racked up tens of millions of views on YouTube. Things accelerated quickly – she released her debut album, Immunity, a couple years later, and her single "Bags" made many best-of-the-year lists in 2019. These days, she's a long way from that bedroom where she started; she recently released an album co-produced by hitmaker Jack Antonoff. That album, called Sling, sees her maturing and growing ever more confident as an artist while still keeping the trademark vulnerability and honesty that made her a viral star in the first place. Watch her performance of "Bags," recorded live during her 2019 World Cafe session.
Billy Strings grew up in Michigan, learning to play traditional bluegrass alongside his stepdad. Later, he thrashed in local VFW halls playing in the metal scene, before discovering his own sound after hearing bands like The String Cheese Incident and Greensky Bluegrass.
Now, Strings is a bona fide phenom, blending old-school bluegrass with rock, psych and beyond. Hear a live performance recorded for the World Cafe that shows how he's a can't-miss concert experience.
2020 was a challenging year, but Joy Oladokun was ready to meet the moment. She has a unique perspective as a queer Black woman who was brought up going to church in Arizona by her Nigerian immigrant parents. That experience informed songs like "Who Do I Turn To?" which Oladokun released around the time of the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020. Her album in defense of my own happiness, which was released in full this past July, displays a great talent for introspective songwriting. With her guitar in hand, Oladokun is able to dissect and explore complex feelings in a welcoming, open way. It's a talent that has attracted attention from some of Nashville's heavy hitters – Maren Morris appeared as a guest on that record, and Oladokun recently toured as support for Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. She's an unprecedented folk music breakout star in unprecedented times.
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