A bilingual multi-instrumentalist and alumna of the Grammy Award-winning African American string band Carolina Chocolate Drops, Leyla McCalla’s work is inspired by both the past and present. She pays homage to her Haitian heritage and her adopted home of New Orleans with a distinctive sound that reflects the union of her roots and experiences, creating music that is at once earthy, elegant, soulful, and witty. Her sonic blending of New Orleans influences and Haitian rhythms comes to life with lyrics sung in English, French, and Haitian Creole. It vibrates with three centuries of history, yet also feels strikingly fresh, distinctive, and contemporary.
Widely acclaimed, McCalla’s work carefully crafts stories that challenge dominant narratives around slavery, racism, and misogyny in America, while also shedding light on the Haitian-American experience. In addition to her four solo albums, McCalla collaborated on the 2019 Smithsonian Folkways release Songs of Our Native Daughters, featuring folk powerhouses Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, and Allison Russell.