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Leyla McCalla|Breaking The Thermometer

Breaking The Thermometer

Leyla McCalla

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Leyla McCalla's stunner of a fourth album feels like the audio equivalent of a family photo album. The songs and snippets of archival conversations were mostly put together for Breaking the Thermometer to Hide the Fever, a music, dance and theater performance co-developed by the singer-songwriter and cellist that has been touring the country for the past couple of years. The project looks at the legacy of Radio Haiti, that country's first privately-owned Creole radio station; its owner, Jean Dominique, who was assassinated; and McCalla's own family history. The musician—known for her work in the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Our Native Daughters—grew up in the New York area but also spent portions of her childhood with her grandmother and other relatives in Haiti. The album starts with a conversation between McCalla and her mother, who recalls how, after those trips, "You started identifying more as being Haitian." She opens with a cover of a "Nan Fon Bwa," a traditional folk song by Haitian guitarist Frantz Casseus; against a rush of water and the sounds of birds, rooster, windchimes, and hand drums, her cello sounds like it's speaking: insistently, animatedly, wistfully. "Fort Dimanche" uses a pretty, swaying percussive beat to explore an ugly story, of the prison where the "Baby Doc" Duvalier regime tortured and killed political prisoners. "Vini Wè" is truly lovely, a tribute to the love of Jean Dominique and his wife—the sound of rhythmic sweeping is a reminder of the ordinary, everyday moments that make up life even among horrors. Singer Mélissa Laveaux's almost baby-doll voice shadows McCalla's like a little sister following her around, tugging at her hem, on "Pouki," a quirky island breeze of a cover of Manno Charlemagne's protest song. There's also a sultry cover of Caetano Veloso's "You Don't Know Me," and a troubadour-meets-tropicália version of "Dodinin" ("Rocking") by New York's Atis Indepandan. McCalla adds her own lyrics—"He lives in the fields, he lives in the valley/ His body was made to be in the soil"—to a song by master drummer and Haitian legend Sanba Zao, honoring him well with the bright deepness of the tanbou drum. The  traditional "Dan Reken" bumps up against a poem written and read by assassinated journalist Richard Brisson. Throughout, and especially on songs like the hypnotic "Memory Song," McCalla's voice is, simply, beautiful, warm and rich: as strong as a graceful tree that's stood strong through a hurricane. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz

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Breaking The Thermometer

Leyla McCalla

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1
Nan Fon Bwa
00:04:36

Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Frantz Casseus, Composer, Lyricist - Leyla McCalla, MainArtist - HAITIANA MUSIC COMPANY, MusicPublisher

2022 Anti 2022 Anti

2
Fort Dimanche
00:03:07

Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Leyla McCalla, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Makala Music (ASCAP), MusicPublisher

2022 Anti 2021 Anti

3
Bon Appétit Messieurs
00:01:05

Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Leyla McCalla, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Makala Music (ASCAP), MusicPublisher

2022 Anti 2022 Anti

4
Le Bal est Fini
00:04:24

Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Leyla McCalla, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Makala Music (ASCAP), MusicPublisher

2022 Anti 2022 Anti

5
Dan Reken
00:02:38

Traditional, Composer - Copyright Control, MusicPublisher - Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Leyla McCalla, MainArtist - Richard Brisson, Lyricist

2022 Anti 2022 Anti

6
Dodinin
00:03:28

Copyright Control, MusicPublisher - Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Leyla McCalla, MainArtist - Atis Indepandan, Composer, Lyricist

2022 Anti 2022 Anti

7
Ekzile
00:03:16

Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Leyla McCalla, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Makala Music (ASCAP), MusicPublisher

2022 Anti 2022 Anti

8
Pouki
00:04:11

Copyright Control, MusicPublisher - Melissa Laveaux, FeaturedArtist - Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Leyla McCalla, MainArtist - Manno Charlemagne, Composer, Lyricist

2022 Anti 2022 Anti

9
You Don’t Know Me
00:03:47

CAetano Veloso, Composer, Lyricist - Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Leyla McCalla, MainArtist - TERRA ENTERPRISES, INC., MusicPublisher

2022 Anti 2022 Anti

10
Jean and Michèle
00:01:40

Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Leyla McCalla, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Makala Music (ASCAP), MusicPublisher

2022 Anti 2022 Anti

11
Vini Wè
00:04:34

Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Leyla McCalla, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Makala Music (ASCAP), MusicPublisher

2022 Anti 2022 Anti

12
Artibonite
00:02:50

Copyright Control, MusicPublisher - Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Leyla McCalla, Lyricist, MainArtist - Louis Lesly Marcelin, Composer - Makala Music (ASCAP), MusicPublisher

2022 Anti 2022 Anti

13
Still Looking
00:00:22

Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Leyla McCalla, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Makala Music (ASCAP), MusicPublisher

2022 Anti 2022 Anti

14
Memory Song
00:03:53

Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Leyla McCalla, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Makala Music (ASCAP), MusicPublisher

2022 Anti 2022 Anti

15
Boukman's Prayer
00:02:27

Copyright Control, MusicPublisher - Kevin Ratterman, Producer, Mixer - Leyla McCalla, Composer, MainArtist - Makala Music (ASCAP), MusicPublisher - Dutty Boukman, Lyricist

2022 Anti 2022 Anti

Album Description

Leyla McCalla's stunner of a fourth album feels like the audio equivalent of a family photo album. The songs and snippets of archival conversations were mostly put together for Breaking the Thermometer to Hide the Fever, a music, dance and theater performance co-developed by the singer-songwriter and cellist that has been touring the country for the past couple of years. The project looks at the legacy of Radio Haiti, that country's first privately-owned Creole radio station; its owner, Jean Dominique, who was assassinated; and McCalla's own family history. The musician—known for her work in the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Our Native Daughters—grew up in the New York area but also spent portions of her childhood with her grandmother and other relatives in Haiti. The album starts with a conversation between McCalla and her mother, who recalls how, after those trips, "You started identifying more as being Haitian." She opens with a cover of a "Nan Fon Bwa," a traditional folk song by Haitian guitarist Frantz Casseus; against a rush of water and the sounds of birds, rooster, windchimes, and hand drums, her cello sounds like it's speaking: insistently, animatedly, wistfully. "Fort Dimanche" uses a pretty, swaying percussive beat to explore an ugly story, of the prison where the "Baby Doc" Duvalier regime tortured and killed political prisoners. "Vini Wè" is truly lovely, a tribute to the love of Jean Dominique and his wife—the sound of rhythmic sweeping is a reminder of the ordinary, everyday moments that make up life even among horrors. Singer Mélissa Laveaux's almost baby-doll voice shadows McCalla's like a little sister following her around, tugging at her hem, on "Pouki," a quirky island breeze of a cover of Manno Charlemagne's protest song. There's also a sultry cover of Caetano Veloso's "You Don't Know Me," and a troubadour-meets-tropicália version of "Dodinin" ("Rocking") by New York's Atis Indepandan. McCalla adds her own lyrics—"He lives in the fields, he lives in the valley/ His body was made to be in the soil"—to a song by master drummer and Haitian legend Sanba Zao, honoring him well with the bright deepness of the tanbou drum. The  traditional "Dan Reken" bumps up against a poem written and read by assassinated journalist Richard Brisson. Throughout, and especially on songs like the hypnotic "Memory Song," McCalla's voice is, simply, beautiful, warm and rich: as strong as a graceful tree that's stood strong through a hurricane. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz

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