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Leyla McCalla Creates Songs from Langston Hughes’s Poetry

By Harriet Staff

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On Leyla McCalla’s solo debut, Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes, the cellist and former Carolina Chocolate Drops member places adventures in Langston Hughes’s poetry amidst Haitian folk songs and original compositions. She’s featured on NPR’s “Tell Me More” this week, and highlights from her interview are included below:

On being inspired by Langston Hughes

I grew up knowing about Langston Hughes. I think when I was about 16 or 17 my dad bought me a book of his poetry and actually wrote me a poem in the front of the book. And I loved his poems so much … and I just started to feel rhythmic connection to some of the poems and I just fell in love with his words.

On including Haitian folk songs on her album

A lot of these songs are just stories about peoples lives that I really feel like frame the culture in Haiti, in a way that we don’t experience through normal media, or normal stories that we hear about Haiti.

On funding her album through Kickstarter

I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, to tell you the truth, and so I asked for $5,000 and the people at Kickstarter were fans of my video and fans of my project, so they put me on their newsletter. So I went from, “Who’s going to be my 200th backer?” to having over 530 backers in about 48 hours.

To listen to her interview and to hear her perform, visit NPR. Enjoy!

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Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 by Harriet Staff.