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April 26-28, 2024

Word of South

Leyla McCalla

Leyla McCalla finds inspiration from her past and present, whether it is her Haitian heritage or her adopted home of New Orleans, she — a bilingual multi-instrumentalist, and alumna of the Grammy award-winning African-American string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops — has risen to produce a distinctive sound that reflects the union of her roots and experience. McCalla’s music is at once earthy, elegant, soulful and witty — it vibrates with three centuries of history, yet also feels strikingly fresh, distinctive and contemporary, sonically blending New Orleans influences and Haitian rhythms, with lyrics sung in English, French and Haitian Creole. McCalla’s widely-acclaimed collaborative project, Songs of Our Native Daughters (Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell), was released via Smithsonian Folkways in 2019. The album pulled influence from past sources to create a reinvented slave narrative, confronting sanitized views about America’s history of slavery, racism, and misogyny from a powerful, modern Black female perspective.