Breaking The Thermometer Leyla McCalla

Album info

Album-Release:
2022

HRA-Release:
06.05.2022

Label: Anti/Epitaph

Genre: World Music

Subgenre: Worldbeat

Artist: Leyla McCalla

Album including Album cover

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FLAC 96 $ 12.30
  • 1Nan Fon Bwa04:36
  • 2Fort Dimanche03:07
  • 3Bon Appétit Messieurs01:05
  • 4Le Bal est Fini04:24
  • 5Dan Reken02:38
  • 6Dodinin03:28
  • 7Ekzile03:16
  • 8Pouki04:11
  • 9You Don’t Know Me03:47
  • 10Jean and Michèle01:40
  • 11Vini Wè04:34
  • 12Artibonite02:50
  • 13Still Looking00:22
  • 14Memory Song03:53
  • 15Boukman's Prayer02:27
  • Total Runtime46:18

Info for Breaking The Thermometer



Breaking the Thermometer to Hide the Fever is a multidisciplinary performance set to new music by Haitian-American singer-songwriter Leyla McCalla and directed by Kiyoko McCrae, both New Orleans-based artists. Commissioned by Duke Performances, the project explores the legacy of Radio Haiti-Inter, Haiti’s first privately owned Creole-speaking radio station, and the assassination of its owner, Jean Dominique, in 2000. The title is derived from a proverb used by Dominique to describe the spirit of Haiti’s marginalized poor in the face of violence and political oppression.

Breaking the Thermometer weaves together storytelling, dance, video projection, and audio recordings from Duke’s Radio Haiti Archive with McCalla’s own compositions and arrangements of traditional Haitian songs. Through this juxtaposition of voices — the personal and political, the anecdotal and the journalistic — McCalla gives expression to the enduring spirit of Haiti’s marginalized poor in the face of several centuries of political oppression. She pays homage along the way to the activists like Dominique who have fought, often at great personal cost, to amplify these unheard voices.

In telling this story, McCalla also lends her own voice to a tradition of Haitian-American activism spanning three generations within her family. Her father, Jocelyn McCalla, served as executive director of the New York-based National Coalition for Haitian Rights from 1988 to 2006. Her mother, Régine Dupuy, is the founder of Dwa Fanm, an anti-domestic violence human rights organization, and the daughter of Ben Dupuy, one of Haiti’s foremost radical journalists, who from 1983 until 1991 ran Haïti Progrès, a New-York based Haitian socialist newspaper.

Beginning literally in darkness, with a recorded conversation between McCalla and her mother, McCalla embarks on a journey of remembrance and self-discovery, connecting her earliest childhood memories of Haiti with political events whose historical reverberations she lacked the context to understand at the time. Coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of Dominique’s assassination on April 3, 2000, Breaking the Thermometer also presents a timely affirmation of the importance of a free press capable of speaking truth to power: one that stands to resonate broadly in our current political landscape, where the efforts of journalists are increasingly discredited by officials at the highest levels of elected office.

Breaking the Thermometer is the latest installment in Duke Performances’ ongoing From the Archives initiative — following Jenny Scheinman’s Kannapolis, Hiss Golden Messenger’s Heart Like a Levee, and Gerald Clayton’s Piedmont Blues — in which performing artists create works engaging archival materials from Duke’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The Radio Haiti Archive is contained within the broader Human Rights Archive at Duke. Over the past two years, McCalla and McCrae, with guidance from Duke professor and Haiti specialist Laurent Dubois and Radio Haiti project archivist Laura Wagner, have mined this archive for recordings that showcase the impact of Radio Haiti-Inter on Haitian cultural and political history.

Duke Performances is lead commissioner of Breaking the Thermometer. The project will premiere in Durham, NC in March 2020 and is currently seeking commissioning and presenting partners. The work is available for touring nationally and internationally in Spring 2020 and beyond.

"As my work on the theater piece Breaking the Thermometer to Hide the Fever began to materialize, I began to also hear an album in the making. After years of digesting audio recordings from the Radio Haiti archive housed at Duke University, with guidance from director Kiyoko McCrae and archivist Laura Wagner, I started to imagine how my personal story, the story of Radio Haiti and the story of Haiti-US relations could be connected through song in one album. 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. This story is mine in many ways and yet belongs to the greater movement for freedom of speech and human rights worldwide." — Leyla McCalla

Leyla McCalla, vocals, cello, tenor banjo, guitar
Shawn Myers, drums, percussion
Pete Olynciw, electric & upright bass
Jeff Pierre, tanbou
Nahum Johnson Zdybel, guitars
Special guest:
Melissa Laveaux, vocals (on “Pouki”)


Leyla McCalla
Named 2013’s Album of the Year by the London Sunday Times and Songlines magazine, Leyla McCalla’s debut album, Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes, made a profound impression upon all who heard it. The record, which set some of Hughes’ poems to Leyla’s music, and also included original compositions and Haitian folk songs, received rapturous reviews for its haunting mixture of music and message.

A Haitian-American who sings in French, Haitian Creole and English, Leyla McCalla plays cello, tenor banjo and guitar. Deeply influenced by traditional Creole, Cajun and Haitian music, as well as by American jazz and folk, her music is at once earthy, elegant, soulful and witty — it vibrates with three centuries of history, yet also feels strikingly fresh, distinctive and contemporary.

Offbeat called Vari-Colored Songs “ambitious, deep and gorgeous,” while the Boston Globe described the record as “at once varnished and sparse, like field recordings in high definition.” The track “Heart of Gold” was featured on NPR, which noted that the song’s instrumentation “sounds like lonesome nighttime.” But it was the New York Times who perhaps put best, characterizing the album’s material as “weighty thoughts handled with the lightest touch imaginable.”

Born in New York City to Haitian immigrant parents, and raised in suburban New Jersey (with a couple of teenage years spent in Accra, Ghana), Leyla experienced a renewed sense of connection with her Haitian heritage after moving to the Crescent City in 2010. “I feel very at home here,” she says. “The more I learned about the history of Louisiana, its ties to Haiti and French speaking culture, the more sense of belonging I felt and continue to feel.” The relocation led to her appearance on the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ GRAMMY-nominated 2012 album Leaving Eden, as well as extensive concert dates as a touring member of the group. It also deeply enriched Leyla’s own music and sharpened her sense of purpose, setting her on the path that ultimately resulted in the making of Vari-Colored Songs.

Now, having toured extensively in the U.S., Europe and Israel in support of Vari-Colored Songs, Leyla is focusing on her next album. Titled A Day For The Hunter, A Day For The Prey, the album will be released in the spring of 2016 by Jazz Village/Harmonia Mundi. Named after the Haitian proverb that also provided the title of Gage Averill’s 1997 book about popular music, power and politics in Haiti, A Day For The Hunter, A Day For The Prey will continue to explore the themes of social justice and pan-African consciousness that marked Vari-Colored Songs. “I can’t help but be inspired by history, as well as what’s going on today,” Leyla says. Featuring songs sung in English, French and Haitian Creole, A Day For The Hunter, A Day For The Prey will include guest appearances by legendary guitarist Marc Ribot, Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Louis Michot of the Lost Bayou Ramblers, and New Orleans singer-songwriter/guitarist Sarah Quintana. “There’s a lot of goodness around this record,” Leyla says. “There will be new arrangements of traditional songs, but maybe a third of the album will also be original material. I’m really interested in continuing to develop that part of my work — and I’m really excited to be moving forward creatively.”

This album contains no booklet.

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