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Now Hear This: Leyla McCalla | Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes

I'm getting caught up on the good albums that have come out lately. Like this one.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Leyla McCalla’s Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes is a celebration of the complexity of Black culture and identity, and a tribute to the legacy of poet and thinker Langston Hughes.

A songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, McCalla sets Hughes’ poems to her own spare yet profound compositions. She juxtaposes these with arrangements of folk songs from Haiti, the first independent Black nation and the homeland of her parents, tapping into the nuances of Black experience. McCalla’s music elegantly weaves Haitian influences together with American folk music, just as Hughes incorporated Black vernacular into his remarkable poetry, and the way the Haitian Kreyòl is a beacon for the survival of African identity through the brutal legacy of colonialism. This is music of reclamation, imbued with a quiet power that grapples with the immense weight of history.

Vari-Colored Songs originally had a limited release in 2014. The recording is being brought to a wider audience at a time when the history McCalla explores is more relevant than ever. As she states in the album’s liner notes, “The wisdom and truth that Langston Hughes continues to provide us through his prolific output inspires us to celebrate the assumedly mundane and stigmatized parts of our society. The future has always been uncertain, and it has always been up to us to push for the changes that we want to see in the world.”