Leyla McCalla

Haiti USA
Jazz Vocal Folk
Leyla McCalla

“Her voice is disarmingly natural...her magnificently transparent music holds tidings of family, memory, solitude and the inexorability of time: weighty thoughts handled with the lightest touch imaginable.” —The New York Times

Deeply influenced by Creole music, as well as by American jazz and folk, McCalla’s music is at once earthy, elegant, soulful and witty — it vibrates with three centuries of history, yet also feels strikingly fresh, distinctive and contemporary. Leyla McCalla finds inspiration from her past and present, whether it is her Haitian heritage or her adopted home of New Orleans, she — a bilingual multi-instrumentalist, and alumna of Grammy award-winning African-American string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops — has risen to produce a distinctive sound that reflects the union of her roots and experience.

In her third solo album, The Capitalist Blues (2019), McCalla processed the current political environment in her own way, by sonically blending New Orleans music and Haitian jazz, with lyrics sung in English, French and Haitian Creole. McCalla’s widely-acclaimed collaborative project, Songs of Our Native Daughters (Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell), released via Smithsonian Folkways in 2019. The album pulled influence from past sources to create a reinvented slave narrative, confronting sanitized views about America’s history of slavery, racism, and misogyny from a powerful, modern black female perspective.

Her newest recording, Breaking the Thermometer to Hide the Fever, (out May 6th, 2022) explores the legacy of Radio Haiti, Haiti’s first privately owned Creole-speaking radio station, as well as of the journalists who risked and lost their lives to broadcast it for nearly 50 years. On a more fundamental level, the collection is a deeply personal reckoning with memory and identity, with the roles of artists and activists and immigrants in modern society, with the very notion of storytelling itself. In delving into the project, McCalla found herself forced to grapple with her own experiences as a Haitian-American woman, unraveling layers of marginalization and generations of repression and resolve as she searched for a clearer vision of herself and her purpose. The result is at once a work of radical performance art, historical scholarship, and personal memoir, a wide-ranging and powerful meditation on family and democracy and free expression that couldn’t have arrived at a more timely moment. Leyla’s music reflects her eclectic and diverse life experiences, projecting a respect for eloquent simplicity that is rarely achieved.


  • Leyla McCalla: Tiny Desk Concert
    Leyla McCalla: Tiny Desk Concert
  • Leyla McCalla - "Dodinin" (Live Session)
    Leyla McCalla - "Dodinin" (Live Session)
  • Leyla McCalla | Concert du 18 novembre 2018 au Théâtre Claude Levi-Strauss
    Leyla McCalla | Concert du 18 novembre 2018 au Théâtre Claude Levi-Strauss
  • Leyla McCalla - "Vini Wè"
    Leyla McCalla - "Vini Wè"
  • Leyla McCalla - The Story Behind the Song: "Dodinin"
    Leyla McCalla - The Story Behind the Song: "Dodinin"
  • Leyla McCalla - Money Is King [Official music video]
    Leyla McCalla - Money Is King [Official music video]
It's an exhilarating thing, hearing a musical virtuoso explore her voice's unanticipated potential in all of the ways that Leyla McCalla does.. a singer-songwriter, tracing the intricate textures of post-colonial, pan-African experience with her poetic language of longing.
Breaking The Thermometer ist weit mehr als ein Musikalbum. Es ist eine Klangreise durch den Tumult der sozialen und politischen Unruhen im Haiti Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts. Dass die Musik, die vor allem vom Cello, Benjo und Gitarre getragen wird, größtenteils melancholisch ist, passt.
Deutschlandfunk Kultur, 05.04.2022
Frohgemut, fast federnd wirkt „Fort Dimanche“, eine Komposition von McCalla – obwohl darin auch Erinnerungen eines Überlebenden des titelgebenden berüchtigten Gefängnisses eingeflochten sind. Bisweilen wirken die Tracks wie ein Hörspiel – und doch verliert dieses Album nie seinen musikalischen Flow.
Taz - die tageszeitung, 05.06.2022
Im Handumdrehen nimmt die 30-jährige Cellistin, Gitarristin und Sängerin ihr Publikum für sich ein und mit auf eine Reise durch afroamerikanischen Folk aus Louisiana, haitianische Traditionals und auf ihr eigenes Boot, das sinnbildlich für Geschichten von Flucht, Einwanderung und Ankommen steht. McCallas Stimme weht zugleich zart und kraftvoll durch die Mittagsluft, ihr schnörkelloser Gesang in lauschverwöhnenden Timbres erreicht die Gefühlswelten aller Anwesenden.
Taz - die tageszeitung
"Scaled To Survive" yearns for personal independence, while the soulful "Tree" is illuminated by Leyla McCalla’s lilting vocal performance
Clash, 01.31.2024
An ambitious, accomplished piece of work.
The Guardian, 04.30.2022
Like Anaïs Mitchell’s similarly ambitious, multimedia Hadestown, you can imagine this beautifully immersive record finding a wide audience. Singing in Creole and English, McCalla’s voice has an inviting, soft authority; her kinetic cello plucks and the percussion really kick up dust.
The Guardian, 06.07.2022
Breaking The Thermometer
Breaking The Thermometer
Anti- Records
Songs of our Native Daughters
Songs of our Native Daughters
Smithsonian Folkways
The Capitalist Blues
The Capitalist Blues
Jazz Village
A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey
A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey
Jazz Village
Line up
Sun Without The Heat

Leyla McCalla - vocals, cello, banjo guitar

Shawn Myers - drums, congas
Pete Olynciw - bass, upright bass
Nahum Zdybel - guitar
+1 tour manager



Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Central Europe

2024 summer, fall
Frank Abraham
Frank Abraham
Managing Director, Head of A&R Global Pop Music, Booking Agent
fa@f-cat.de / +49 30 26 103 29 20
Ibrahim Bilen
Ibrahim Bilen
Head of A&R Jazz, Booking Agent
ibrahim@f-cat.de / +49 30 26 103 29 22

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