“One of the most exciting purveyors of folk music in recent memory.” – Folk Alley
Leyla McCalla is a Haitian-American multi-instrumentalist based in New Orleans. Her music vibrates with three centuries of history, sonically blending New Orleans influences and traditional Haitian rhythms on cello, banjo & guitar, with lyrics sung in English, French and Haitian Kreyol. In addition to her solo work, McCalla is a co-founder of Our Native Daughters (with Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah and Allison Russell), and was the cellist for Grammy-award-winning string band, The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Leyla’s 2022 release, Breaking the Thermometer, is the album companion to a multidisciplinary music, dance and theatre work which follows Leyla’s personal journey as she uncovers the history of Radio Haiti—the first independent radio station in Haiti to report news in Kreyol during Duvalier’s regime—until a crackdown on the station’s journalists by the State and the assassination of the station’s founder. Leyla is currently the Artist-in-Residence at the University of Richmond and is the recipient of a 2023 artist research fellowship at ARC/Rivers Institute. She was awarded the International Folk Alliance People’s Voice Award in 2023, given to artists who unabashedly embrace social and political commentary in their creative work. At Big Ears, McCalla will share music from her new record, Sun Without The Heat, in a quartet with Shawn Myers (drums, percussion), Nahum Zdybel (guitars) and Pete Olynciw (bass, upright bass).