Leyla McCalla’s distinctive sound is a union of her roots and experience
September 17, 2020
Join bilingual cellist, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Leyla McCalla live from her home in New Orleans for a performance overflowing with the artist’s diverse musical influences, from Creole and Haitian music to American jazz and folk, inspired by her roots and experience.
McCalla performs songs from her latest album, “The Capitalist Blues,” as well as her forthcoming album “Vari-Colored Songs.” A tribute to the legacy of poet and thinker Langston Hughes and celebration of the complexity of Black culture and identity, “Vari-Colored Songs” will be released on Oct. 16. Her performance will be followed by a moderated conversation with Shawanda Marie, a Christiansburg resident and proud New Orleans-born Creole culture-bearer, on Friday, Sept. 25, at 7:30 p.m.
Ticketholders have access to the performance as it happens, and for seven days following the event.
Described as a “musical virtuoso” by National Public Radio, McCalla rose to fame as a member of Grammy award-winning African-American string band Carolina Chocolate Drops. Now a solo artist, McCalla embraces American roots music at its most fundamental. At once earthy, elegant, soulful, and witty, her music vibrates with three centuries of history, yet feels strikingly fresh, distinctive, and contemporary.
McCalla was born in New York to Haitian parents and spent several formative teenage years in Africa before returning to the states and eventually settling in New Orleans, where she found a renewed connection to her Haitian heritage. Digging into her roots to unearth history and explore musical tradition, McCalla has an entirely unique voice and perspective that is urgently relevant.
Following her performance, McCalla will participate in a conversation moderated by Shawanda Marie. A culinary storyteller, Marie is the owner and creative mind behind New Orleans Creole Story Pot, where she infuses elements of theatre performance, storytelling, visual art, education, cultural exploration, music, and culinary art. Marie often tells the story of New Orleans and South Louisiana through her family’s history and has facilitated experiential dining events throughout the New River Valley.
In addition to the performance, McCalla will participate in several virtual visits with Virginia Tech students, joining students and faculty in two sociology classes for a joint discussion on identities and cultures evident in her music and engaging with students in a Women’s and Gender Studies class about the role of gender in her work.
Exclusive to the Moss Arts Center and designed specifically to be presented online, the “HomeStage” series is a curated collection of virtual performances offering opportunities to engage directly with artists. Guaranteed a front row seat, attendees get up close and personal with “HomeStage” series artists during these distinct performances and conversations, which include moderated discussions.
Tickets are $10 for general public and free for Virginia Tech students. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; or by calling 540-231-5300 during box office hours.
All “HomeStage” series events are free for Virginia Tech students.