Kanaval

Meet Leyla McCalla, host of Kanaval: Haitian Rhythms and the Music of New Orleans

The three-hour documentary, Kanaval: Haitian Rhythms and the Music of New Orleans, is hosted by Haitian-American and New Orleans based artist and musician, Leyla McCalla.

Leyla is a founding member of Our Native Daughters and alumna of the GRAMMY award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. Leyla’s work unearthing history and musical tradition, combined with her knowledge of cultural hybridization and her own identity as a Haitian-American have given her a unique voice and perspective. Her music reflects her eclectic and diverse life experiences, projecting respect for eloquent simplicity that is rarely achieved.

Leyla has three solo albums to her credits. Vari-Colored Songs is a celebration of the complexity of Black culture and identity, and a tribute to the legacy of poet and thinker Langston Hughes. On it, McCalla sets Hughes’ poems to her own compositions, juxtaposing them with arrangements of folk songs from Haiti.

In 2018 McCalla released A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey, and 2019 saw the release of Capitalist Blues.

Leyla’s current project, Breaking The Thermometer To Hide the Fever, tells the legacy of Radio Haiti, Haiti’s first privately owned Creole-speaking radio station, and the assassination of its owner through Leyla’s own Haitian-American lens. The multidisciplinary performance, featuring her original compositions and arrangements of traditional Haitian songs and premiered in March 2020 at Duke University and will be presented in Philadelphia as part of the Kanaval project.

Kanaval: Rhyhms of Haiti and the music of New Orleans is available on NPR stations across the country beginning February 1, 2021.

Kanaval: Haitian Rhythms and the Music of New Orleans has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.