A former member of Carolina Chocolate Drops, cellist, banjoist, singer, and guitarist Leyla McCalla embraces American roots music at its most fundamental, with a deep personal connection to the cultural legacy built by the immigrants who settled here over the generations. This concert features from her new album, Breaking The Thermometer.
A “musical virtuoso” (NPR), McCalla was born in New York to Haitian parents and spent several formative teenage years in Africa, before returning to the States to study cello performance and eventually settling in New Orleans, where she found a renewed connection to her Haitian heritage. She appeared on the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ GRAMMY-nominated 2012 release Leaving Eden and toured extensively with the group before departing to focus on her own work, which began in earnest on 2013’s Vari-Colored Songs, a tribute to Harlem Renaissance icon Langston Hughes that was named album of the year by Songlines magazine and London’s Sunday Times.
With Breaking The Thermometer, McCalla brings a collection of songs of struggle and social consciousness inspired by the iconic radio station Radio Haiti – the first station to broadcast in the Haitian Kreyòl language as the independent voice of the people. On a personal level, the album is a powerful meditation on family, democracy and free expression.