Multi-instrumentalist Leyla McCalla pulls inspiration from stories and traditional folk music recordings, and weaves them into her music, reflecting her life as a Haitian-American living in New Orleans.
Through song, and in conversation with clawhammer banjo player, and Folk Alley host, Brad Kolodner, McCalla shares an extraordinary evening of music and insight into her work.
To Learn About The Artists
Born in New York City to Haitian emigrant parents, Leyla McCalla was immersed in a meld of cultures from an early age. As a teenager, she relocated to Accra, Ghana for two years before returning to the States to study cello performance and chamber music at NYU. Armed with Bach’s Cello Suites, Leyla left New York to play cello on the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Singing in French, Haitian Creole, and English, and playing cello, tenor banjo and guitar, her move allowed her to connect more viscerally to historical Haitian Creole resilience and musical expression. She rose to fame during her two years as cellist of the Grammy award-winning African-American string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, alongside bandmates Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Flemons, before leaving the group in 2013 left to pursue her solo career.
Leyla’s work has been praised by The New York Times, NPR, and The London Sunday Times, among others. Her unearthing of history and musical tradition, combined with her knowledge of cultural hybridization and her own identity as a Haitian-American has given her an entirely unique voice & perspective. Her music reflects her eclectic and diverse life experiences, projecting a respect for eloquent simplicity that is rarely achieved.
Brad Kolodner is an award-winning clawhammer banjo player who as performs as Ken & Brad (along with his father, world-renowned hammered dulcimer player Ken Kolodner), and with the chart-topping Irish, Old-Time, Bluegrass fusion quartet Charm City Junction. He's performed across the country on some of the biggest stages for folk and roots music including the Kennedy Center, Strathmore, American Folk Festival, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Charm City Bluegrass Festival, and Old Songs Folk Festival. He hosts two weekly radio programs on Bluegrass Country Radio and Radio Bristol featuring the latest releases in Progressive Bluegrass, Americana and Old-Time music. In early 2021, Brad signed on as a daily host for the acclaimed online radio station Folk Alley. He was nominated for the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Broadcaster of the Year Award in 2019 and 2020. A resident of Baltimore, Maryland, he co-founded the bi-weekly Baltimore Old Time Jam, the monthly Baltimore Square Dance and the annual Baltimore Old-Time Music Festival.