Haitian-American artist Leyla McCalla draws upon her experience as a bilingual multi-instrumentalist and New Orleans resident to create distinctive music that reflects both her past and present. Today she announces Breaking The Thermometer, released on 6th May.
In 2016 North Carolina’s Duke University acquired the archives of Radio Haiti, the first independent radio station to report the local news there in Haitian Kreyol. Active from 1957 to 2003, the station became a hub of Haitian politics, society and culture.
Upon acquiring the archives Duke commissioned McCalla to create a multi-disciplinary theatre project with them, which became Breaking The Thermometer. The album combines original compositions and traditional Haitian tunes with historical broadcasts and contemporary interviews to forge an immersive sonic journey through the tumult of social and political unrest in late 20th century Haiti.
“While many of the songs on the album are inspired by the listening that I have done in the archive, much of the album is deeply self-reflective – integrating experiences that I have had navigating life as a child both in the US and Haiti, my journey in claiming my Haitian-American identity and understanding the experiences, sacrifices and challenges overcome by my immigrant relatives”, McCalla explains.
Today she has shared a video for the new song ‘Vini Wè’, a track inspired by the love story of Radio Haiti station owner and journalist Jean Dominique and his wife and fellow journalist Michéle Montas. Putting themselves in harm’s way every day for the right to a free and independent press, Dominique was assassinated at the station in 2000, alongside his security guard Jean-Claude Louissant. The track comes alongside a video directed by Zuri Obi.
Speaking of the song McCalla says: “I also felt that this collection of songs needed moment to acknowledge the possibility and hope that love can offer us, despite what the world throws at us. Vini Wè Soley Leve – means come see the sunrise”.
Born in New York City to Haitian emigrants and activists, McCalla developed an early fascination with the country and its culture thanks in part to the time she spent visiting her grandmother there as a child. She is an alumna of Grammy award-winning African-American string band The Carolina Chocolate Drops and the 2019 project Our Native Daughters (Leyla McCalla, Amythyst Kiah, Allison Russell and Rhiannon Giddens).
2022 tour dates…
8 Feb – Manchester @ Bridgewater Hall – Transatlantic Sessions 2022
9 Feb – Gateshead @ Sage Gateshead – Transatlantic Sessions 2022
10 Feb – Birmingham @ Symphony Hall – Transatlantic Sessions 2022
11 Feb – London @ Royal Festival Hall – Transatlantic Sessions 2022
12 Feb – Bath @ Bath Forum – Transatlantic Sessions 2022