Breaking The Thermometer
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Leyla McCalla finds inspiration from her past and present. Whether it is her Haitian heritage or her adopted home of New Orleans, she - a bilingual multi-instrumentalist and alumna of Grammy award-winning African-American string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops - has risen to produce a distinctive sound that reflects the union of her roots and experience. McCalla has produced a multi-disciplinary music, dance and theatre work, Breaking the Thermometer to Hide the Fever, which follows her personal journey as she uncovers the history of Radio Haiti, the first radio station in Haiti to report news in Haitian Kreyol - the voice of the people. Through this juxtaposition of voices - the personal and political, the anecdotal and the journalistic - McCalla gives expression to the enduring spirit of Haiti's marginalized poor in the face of several centuries of political oppression. Performances of the theatre work are currently scheduled in New Orleans and Philadelphia with more to be announced in soon. The process of creating Breaking the Thermometer to Hide the Fever included listening to countless archival recordings of interviews by Radio Haiti's journalists, and McCalla specifically wrote "Fort Dimanche" after listening to a testimonial interview that Michele Montas - the prominent former journalist and station director at Radio Haiti - had conducted with a survivor of Duvalier's political prison. In the interview, the man outlined his living conditions, the daily terror and torture that these political prisoners were subjected to and the events that led to his arrest. This album is a soundtrack of sorts to the theatre piece, featuring the songs that Leyla McCalla wrote and performs in this work. McCalla's beautiful vocals are described by The New York Times as, "Her voice is disarmingly natural... her magnificently transparent music holds tidings of family, memory, solitude and the inexorability of time: weighty thoughts handled with the lightest touch imaginable. "