A Haitian-American who sings in French, Haitian Creole and English, Leyla McCalla plays cello, tenor banjo and guitar. She has been deeply influenced by traditional Creole, Cajun and Haitian music, as well as by American jazz and folk. A former member of The Carolina Chocolate Drops, her solo debut album, Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes, was named 2013’s Album of the Year by the London Sunday Times and Songlines magazine. On her second solo album, A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey, she explores themes of social justice and pan-African consciousness through her own original songs, along with new arrangements of traditional songs from Louisiana and Haiti. Saying of her work that she "can’t help but be inspired by history, as well as what’s going on today," Leyla draws on her appreciation for Haiti's history of resistance to reimagine the country's traditional music in light of contemporary political upheaval in the United States and beyond, and to inspire her own new compositions.
Photo credit: Sarrah Danzinger