Leyla McCalla is a Haitian-American multi-instrumentalist whose cultural and musical roots run deep into her familial country of origin, Haiti.
Born in NYC to Haitian emigrants and activists, McCalla often visited her grandmother in Haiti where her fascination with the country, its people, its history, and its culture were nurtured. Leyla’s formal musical education focused on the traditions of Western classical music. She earned a degree from NYU in cello performance, and ultimately made her home in New Orleans in 2010 where she initially made her living playing cello in the French Quarter.
In New Orleans, McCalla quickly found herself diving into the cultural and historical connections between her new home and its Haitian roots. She picked up the tenor banjo and started researching Haitian folk songs where she found a rich banjo tradition in the music. McCalla’s most recent album, “Breaking The Thermometer”, is an exploration into her musical roots and connections to Haiti, with inspiration and content drawn from her research into the Radio Haiti archives at Duke University.
The performances by Leyla McCalla are funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council.