Vari-Colored Songs by Leyla McCalla on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Leyla McCalla - Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute To Langston Hughes


  • £24.99

Leyla McCalla’s Vari-Colored Songs 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" was originally had a limited release in 2014, with the New York Times proclaiming that “[McCalla’s] magnificently transparent music holds tidings of family, memory, solitude and the inexorability of time: weighty thoughts handled with the lightest touch imaginable.” The recording is being brought to a wider audience by Smithsonian Folkways 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.” 

  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 
  10. Dreamer 
  11. Love Again Blues 
  12. Rose Marie 
  13. Latibonit 
  14. Search 
  15. Lonely House 
  16. Changing Tide 


  • US import 




see also: 
Langston Hughes - Selected Poems   paperback 
Langston Hughes - Langston Hughes & The Chicago Defender   paperback 


also on Smithsonian Folkways: 
Joseph Spence - Encore   LP | CD 
Charlie Parr - Last Of The Better Days Ahead   2LP | CD 
Various - The Village Out West: The Lost Tapes Of Alan Oakes   2CD 


browse collections: 
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