Today, GRAMMY-nominated multi-instrumentalist, cellist and singer, Leyla McCalla, is reissuing her Langston Hughes tribute, ‘Vari-Colored Songs’on Smithsonian Folkways.
Drawing on her Afro-Haitian roots, McCalla artfully pays homage to the creative spirit of Langston Hughes through her musical settings of his poems alongside original compositions and traditional folk songs. The album explores the legacy of one of the true trailblazers of Black art and Black culture in America, and highlights the importance of this legacy in 2020.
Bandcamp called it: “A lovely album concerned with beauty, truth, and healing—topics especially crucial in a year of social and political unrest and death. Vari-Colored Songs…is an illuminating conversation between artists both past and present, and balm for the soul.” Read more here: https://daily.bandcamp.com/album-of-the-day/leyla-mccalla-langston-hughes-tribute-review
On the inspiration behind the album, Leyla says, “Langston Hughes’ work will always be relevant. The lessons and wisdom of his words hit hard. This year has forced us to look in the mirror and see the truth of ourselves and the world that we live in. When he writes, “All life is but the climbing of a hill” – I feel the struggle that we all share and it comforts me. When he writes “I wonder why it’s yes to me, but yes sir, sir to you”, it makes me wonder about the inequality in our society and how we can strive to change the status quo. When he says “Love is a naked shadow on a gnarled and naked tree,” we feel the tragedy of our white supremacist society.
The nuances of Hughes’ poetry drew me into his work and inspired me to set his poems to music. When I started writing these songs, I had no idea that I was even a singer. And perhaps therein lies the lesson: some of these poems were written in the 1920’s but the truths laid bare continue to reveal to us who we are.”
Leyla will be playing a digital release show for Vari-Colored Songs via the Hideout tonight. Information and tickets are available here: https://www.hideoutchicago.com/e/leyla-mccalla-vari-colored-songs-release-show-122748204183/