MUSIC SET TO HUGHES' POETRY, TWO ORIGINAL SONGS, AND HAITIAN FOLK SONGS CAST "A CHARMING, RESONANT SPELL" (THE GUARDIAN)
"Haiti, land of blue sea and green hills… Nights full of stars,
throbbing with Congo drums. At the capital lovely ladies ambergold,
mulatto politicians, warehouse full of champagne, banks full of money. A
surge of black peasants who live on the land, and the foam of the
cultured elite in Port-au-Prince who live on the peasants."
- Langston Hughes, "I Wonder as I Wander," 1956
New Orleanian, cellist, and Carolina Chocolate Drop Leyla McCalla will
release her solo debut 'Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston
Hughes,' February 4
on Music Maker Relief Foundation. Hughes was born February 1, 1902.
Bouncing cello, pulsing tenor banjo, and her rich voice accompany the
original music set to Hughes' poetry; two original songs with original
lyrics; and several Haitian folk songs, reflecting both McCalla's own
heritage and Hughes' travels to Haiti.
See Leyla in performance.
There is already buzz in the UK, where she has played on three BBC
programs and the Guardian made her subject of a profile and a four-star review, saying that the album casts "a charming, resonant spell."
Raised in the NYC area by Haitian-born parents, McCalla was inspired to
become creative by reading Langston Hughes at a young age. She was
classically trained in cello at NYU before moving to the Crescent City,
where she began a creative rebirth. She would play Bach's Cello Suite #1
and Bach's Sarabande from Suite #3 on the streets of the French Quarter
for tips and began to learn about the cultural relationships between
Haiti and New Orleans. "The more I learned about the history of
Louisiana, its ties to Haiti and French speaking culture, the more sense
of belonging I felt and continued to feel," she reflects.
'Vari-Colored Songs' was recorded in rural, southern Virginia with
additional sessions in New Orleans, with special guests Rhiannon Giddens
(also of the Carolina Chocolate Drops), Hubby Jenkins (The Carolina
Chocolate Drops), and Luke Winslow-King (now signed to Bloodshot
McCalla is booked by Concerted Efforts and is presently touring Europe with Giddens.