Leyla McCalla

(New Orleans, LA) 

Leyla McCalla is a child of many stories; those of her Haitian parents, her suburban New Jersey upbringing, her years spent living in Ghana, her mastery at New York University of the cello and chamber music (she also plays tenor banjo and guitar), and her adoration of her adopted New Orleans home, where she started out busking Bach in the streets of the French Quarter. Those stories weave together into a tapestry of a young life and a musical talent that—as you might expect—is extraordinary.

McCalla has become immersed in the heady musical culture of the Big Easy. Shortly after moving there, she found herself introduced to festival favourites Carolina Chocolate Drops, with whom she toured extensively before deciding striking out on her own. The connections between her heritage, the history of New Orleans and her creative muse, the revered African American poet and social activist Langston Hughes, led to McCalla’s debut album Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes, which sets Hughes’ poems, traditional Haitian numbers sung in Creole and a handful of yearning originals to the pizzicato warmth of McCalla’s cello. Her multi-instrumental playing gives songs about losing innocence and finding death a vibrancy that is the definition of folk music.


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