Leyla McCalla will be performing at JusticeAid’s Voices to Protect the Vote online May 18th concert in support of Election Protection and the 866-OUR-VOTE coalition hotline.
Leyla McCalla finds inspiration from her past and present, whether it is her Haitian heritage, living in New Orleans, dancing at Cajun Mardi Gras, or growing up on the streets in Brooklyn. A bi-lingual multi-instrumentalist cellist and singer, she has risen to produce a distinctive sound that reflects the union of her roots and experience.
Born in New York City to Haitian immigrant parents, Leyla was immersed in a meld of cultures from an early age. As a teenager, she relocated to Accra, Ghana for two years before returning to the States to study cello performance and chamber music at NYU. She left New York to play cello on the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans, where she was able to connect more viscerally to historical Haitian Creole resilience and musical expression. She rose to fame during her two years as cellist of the Grammy award-winning African-American string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, before leaving the group in 2013 left to pursue a distinguished solo career.
Leyla’s music is earthy, elegant, soulful, and witty: it vibrates with three centuries of history, yet also feels strikingly fresh, distinctive, and contemporary. Her work reflects her eclectic and diverse life experiences, projecting respect for an eloquent simplicity that is rarely achieved. Following her solo release came widely acclaimed collaborative project, Songs of Our Native Daughters (Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell), via Smithsonian Folkways. 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.
“She’s partly in the moment and partly looking beyond it, and seeing truths that we’ve missed.”
—NPR on The Capitalist Blues (2019)