Leyla McCalla

Music

New Orleans, LA

Combining original compositions and traditional Haitian tunes with historical broadcasts and contemporary interviews, Leyla McCalla’s remarkable new album, Breaking The Thermometer, offers an immersive sonic journey through 50 years of racial, social, and political unrest as it explores the legacy of Radio Haiti—the first radio station to report in Haitian Kreyòl, the voice of the people—and the journalists who risked their lives to broadcast it. McCalla’s performances here are captivating, fueled by rich, sophisticated melodic work and intoxicating Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and the juxtaposition of voices is similarly entrancing, raising the dead while shining a light on the enduring spirit of the Haitian people. McCalla isn’t just some detached observer, though; she writes with great insight and introspection, grappling with memory, family, and her own Haitian-American identity as she searches for a clearer vision of herself, both as a woman and an artist. Born to a pair of Haitian emigrants and activists, McCalla first rose to fame with the GRAMMY-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops before launching her solo career to widespread acclaim in 2014. The NY Times raved that “her voice is disarmingly natural, and her settings are elegantly succinct,” while Rolling Stone hailed her “politically pointed lyrics,” and NPR declared that her writing is “partly in the moment and partly looking beyond it…seeing truths that we've missed.” McCalla currently resides in New Orleans, LA.
Leyla McCalla