Leyla McCalla pays homage to her Haitian and Louisiana roots
How many miles do you think is between Haiti and Louisiana? How much commonality could possibly exist between the two? And how does it even exist?
Leyla McCalla, 30, migrated in her toddling years from Haiti to New Orleans brings the distance closer and the shared culture to life by falling in love with strings and sounds of a cello and recording her music.
Her new album “A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey (Jazz Village),” a Haitian proverb and also the title of a book by musicologist Gage Averill, is all about reviving the linkage between her identity and her heritage.
When history is written, no poems or songs can overwrite it. But for identity, one always finds a solution. McCalla’s notes denote her own experience growing up watching and hearing about how Haitian refugees were reduced to the plight where fleeing the country and seeking safety in chancy water via unsteady boats in the 1990s was the last hope they could clutch.
When she first set foot in New Orleans, she found communities with Haitian roots as unaware of their Haitian heritage as she was unaware of this inconceivable connection. With a glimmer of hope, she rekindled the buried longing for an unclouded origin by sharing her experience in her songwriting and playing.
It is open to contemplation whether she is a harbinger or retriever of her lost culture, but one thing for sure is she is a devoted musician. Through her music, I see a beautiful face. The cry of her soul is raw like jolly folks and yet full of spirit, delicate and fearless. She has a fierce attitude towards music, “Music hits you right away, so you either like it or you don’t.”
Her motive behind what she’s created is simple: “I don’t want people to just like it, but I want people also feel like they understand what I’m trying to say. I think that when you’re saying something or you’re feeling something and you can say it the right way, and also musically express it the right way, people can connect to that because you’re being clear and you’re being honest.”