Leyla McCalla - Live 2023

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Deeply influenced by Creole music as well as American jazz and folk, McCalla's music is at once earthy, elegant, soulful and witty. Her music vibrates with three centuries of history, yet feels strikingly fresh, distinctive and contemporary. Leyla McCalla draws inspiration from her past and her present, whether it's her Haitian heritage or her adopted home of New Orleans. The bilingual multi-instrumentalist and former member of the Grammy-winning African-American string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, has developed a distinctive sound that reflects her roots and experiences.

In her third solo album, The Capitalist Blues (2019), McCalla processes the current political environment in her own way, sonically blending New Orleans music and Haitian jazz with lyrics in English, French and Haitian Creole. McCalla's well-received collaborative project, Songs of Our Native Daughters (Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla and Allison Russell), was released in 2019 via Smithsonian Folkways. The album drew influences from past sources to create a reimagined slavery narrative that confronts the glossed-over views of America's history of slavery, racism, and misogyny from a powerful, modern black female perspective.

Her latest work, Breaking the Thermometer to Hide the Fever (released May 6, 2022), explores the legacy of Radio Haiti, the first private Creole-language radio station in Haiti, and the journalist:ing who risked and lost their lives to stay on the air for nearly 50 years. On a more fundamental level, the collection is a deeply personal reckoning with memory and identity, with the role of artists, activists, and immigrants in modern society, and with the very notion of storytelling. In working on the project, McCalla found herself forced to confront her own experiences as a Haitian-American woman, unraveling layers of marginalization and generations of oppression and determination as she sought a clearer vision of herself and her purpose. The result is simultaneously a work of radical performance art, historical scholarship, and personal memoir, a sweeping and powerful meditation on family, democracy, and free expression that could not have come at a better time.

Leyla's music reflects her eclectic and varied life experiences and evinces a respect for eloquent simplicity that is rarely matched.

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