Leyla McCalla mixes Haitian folk songs with Langston Hughes’ poetry on Vari-Colored Songs

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“All of these songs are manifestos of my life as a Black, Haitian-American woman and the daughter of Haitian immigrants.”

Multi-instrumentalist and singer Leyla McCalla’s debut album Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes has been reissued, via Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

McCalla first encountered Hughes’ work as a teenager, later connecting to his writing’s sense of melody and natural rhythm.

“I can see clearly now how acutely Hughes’ work reflects the harm imposed by the white supremacist American paradigm, explains McCalla. “His work — which spans all genres of writing — celebrates Black culture and Black contributions to American life, countering the chronic dismissal of Black lives, Black feelings and Black thought.”

Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes places musical settings of his poetry alongside original compositions and traditional Haitian folk songs.

Purchase a copy here, and check out the artwork and tracklist below.

Tracklist:

1. Heart of Gold
2. When I Can See the Valley
3. Mèsi Bondye
4. Girl
5. Kamèn sa w fè?
6. Too Blue
7. Manman Mwen
8. Song for a Dark Girl
9. As I Grew Older / Dreamer
10. Love Again Blues
11. Rose Marie
12. Latibonit
13. Search
14. Lonely House
15. Changing Tide

Photo by: Mário Pires