Nairobi, Kenya, native J.S. Ondara sounds a lot like some of his folk and roots rock heroes throughout his recently unveiled NPR Tiny Desk Concert performance. The video features a live-in-studio set of three of Ondara's best compositions: "Lebanon," "Days of Insanity" and "Saying Goodbye."

The artist behind the Grammy-nominated 2019 album Tales of America grew up admiring Bob Dylan, Neil Young and others heard on his sister's battery-powered radio. Ondara even picked Minnesota as his American landing spot because it's Dylan's home state. Ondara's new musical source in the states became NPR, making the Tiny Desk Concert series a logical goal.

"I remember, at one point, someone told me about this contest that you guys do called 'the Tiny Desk Contest,'" Ondara says during his three-song set. "And I was, at the time, desperately trying to be a folk singer. And I'm not quite. I'm not a big fan of contests, but I like NPR. So I figured I'd give it a shot.

"And I'd just written that song, "Lebanon." So I made a video of me playing that song, and I submitted it. And I suppose that things didn't go quite in my favor," he continues, joking, "So I figured I'd find a bit of a roundabout way to get here, which involved making a record and touring it relentlessly and stalking Bob [Boilen, Tiny Desk Concert creative director] all around South By Southwest. (I actually didn't do that part. I was thinking about it.) And now I'm here.

"The journey would have been a lot shorter had I just won the bloody contest," Ondara concludes. "But in the very wise words of Miley Cyrus, 'It's not about how fast you get there, it's about the climb.'"

Ondara's still climbing, but his Tiny Desk Concert performance gives some idea of how high he's scaled that mountain since arriving in Minnesota back in 2013. Press play above to watch his full set.

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