Leyla McCalla embraces the rain to open XPNFest day three - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
2023.09.24 - Leyla McCalla - XPoNential Music Festival 2023

A dedicated crowd gathered around the Wiggins Park River Stage, refusing to let a second day of rain ruin their weekend at XPoNential Music Festival. Amongst the umbrellas, raincoats and ponchos, New Orleans-based classical and folk musician Leyla McCalla entered the stage, her white dress flowing in the rainy wind.

After setting a mellow atmosphere with melodic strings, the Haitian-American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalists shared the mission of her newest record Breaking The Thermometer. The album is a companion to her stage production exploring the legacy of Radio Haiti, and the assassination of its owner Jean Dominique; it also explores McCalla’s experiences as a Haitian-American woman, and she performed a vast collection of songs from the album.

Showcasing her ancestral roots, McCalla sings in Creole for a vast majority of her songs, including “Fort Dimanche” and “Le Bal est Fini.” Switching between her banjo, cello, and bright baby blue guitar, McCalla unveils her many talents. “I Knew I Could Fly,” a song co-written by McCalla and Allison Russell, comforted the spirits of the rain-soaked audience. The classic folk style melodies felt like a warm ray of sunlight as the precipitation picked up as she sang “I’m counting my dreams, my face to the sun”.

The New Orleans soundscapes and deep grooving baselines felt so hypnotic you could almost forget about the unforgiving showers drenching the festival grounds. McCalla’s gracefully raspy voice counteracting with pockets of tonal guitar riffs and incredibly rhythmic drum solos made for a perfect Sunday afternoon opening set.

Leyla McCalla
XPoNential Music Festival
  • Nan Fon Bwa
  • Fort Dimanche
  • Le Bal est Fini
  • You Don't Know Me
  • I Knew I Could Fly
  • Search
  • Lavi Vye Neg
  • Crown
  • Memory Song
  • Boukman's Prayer
  • Dodinin
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