Leyla McCalla: A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey

As enjoyable as her music is at a baseline level, McCalla embraces so much more in terms of her passion for the complex history of the Haitian people.

Leyla McCalla

A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey

Label: Discograph / Jazz Village
US Release Date: 2016-05-27
UK Release Date: 2016-05-27

Equally as comfortable with soul-ridden interpretations of songs in English, French, and Haitian Creole, Leyla McCalla has always been something of an innovator in her lane. Wherein her previous effort, solo debut Vari-Colored Songs, saw her giving a musical life to the words of celebrated poet Langston Hughes, she now takes inspiration from the words of a traditional Haitian proverb popularized in Gage Averill’s 1997 book, A Day for the Hunter, a Day for the Prey.

Encapsulating such broad traditions as those embraced in such proverbs, finding (as she had called it in an interview with NPR) the “resistance and subterfuge” in Haitian music upon which she bases her foundations, grants McCalla the uncanny ability to transport those who listen intently to another place and another time. Since her time with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and onward, McCalla has a nuanced consistency in transforming trilingual, pan-African poetry (both in the form of original writing and well-chosen covers) into classical and folk-stylized songs that fully envelop the traditions of Haitian music for the modern audience to behold. As she did with translating the words of Hughes into a musical collective on her solo debut, she does so again on A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey, and returns to listeners with another fully conscious set of multi-layered songs written and performed in dedication to Haiti and its people.

Not unlike her previous effort, A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey establishes itself as a complex, politically-minded and proud album right from its opening moments. The album’s titular opening track, written about Haitian refugees traveling by boat to the United States and their vulnerabilities while on that path, does well in establishing the idea that this is an album with purposeful intent wrapped around its inception right away. Musically, it wraps itself around McCalla’s stellar use of the cello as its primary instrumental fold, with an acoustic ensemble featuring banjo and light percussion offering themselves well to its sweeping overall arrangement. It builds up with her jubilant vocal performance as she chants the titular proverb in rising fashion.

It's fortunate that someone as dedicated to her complex roots as Haitian-American McCalla has been birthed as a musician, giving her prominent vocals and deep-rooted lyricism much more of an infectious foil to ensnare them within to develop an even further listenable package. From the buoyant, playful stride of her cello as it pairs up with a fiddle on “Les Plats Sonts Tous Mis Sur La Table”, to the mystifying gypsy jazz of “Far From Your Web” and the subtle ethereality tinging the heartbreak of her performance of traditional Creole slave song “Salangadou”, she once again wears the history of her people on her sleeve and, in doing so, not only establishes herself as a creative tour de force, but also as a genuine article artist whose work transcends the traditional laymen’s perception of music as purely a purpose of entertainment value. As enjoyable as her music is at a baseline level, McCalla embraces so much more in terms of her passion for the complex history of the Haitian people on A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey. It's another fantastic album from her.





Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.


The 10 Best Films of Sir Alan Parker

Here are 10 reasons to mourn the passing of one of England's most interesting directors, Sir Alan Parker.


July Talk Transform on 'Pray for It'

On Pray for It, Canadian alt-poppers July Talk show they understand the complex dualities that make up our lives.


With 'Articulation' Rival Consoles Goes Back to the Drawing Board

London producer Rival Consoles uses unorthodox approaches on his latest record, Articulation, resulting in a stunning, beautiful collection.


Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.


MetalMatters: July 2020 - Back on Track

In a busy and exciting month for metal, Boris arrive in rejuvenated fashion, Imperial Triumphant continue to impress with their forward-thinking black metal, and death metal masters Defeated Sanity and Lantern return with a vengeance.


Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.


Anna Kerrigan Prioritizes Substance Over Style in 'Cowboys'

Anna Kerrigan talks with PopMatters about her latest film, Cowboys, which deviates from the common "issues style" approach to LGBTQ characters.


John Fusco and the X-Road Riders Get Funky with "It Takes a Man" (premiere + interview)

Screenwriter and musician John Fusco pens a soulful anti-street fighting man song, "It Takes a Man". "As a trained fighter, one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to walk away from a fight without letting ego get the best of you."


'Run-Out Groove' Shows the Dark Side of Capitol Records

Music promoter Dave Morrell's memoir, Run Out Groove, recalls the underbelly of the mainstream music industry.


It's a Helluva of a World in Alain Corneau's 'Série Noire'

Alain Corneau's Série Noire is like a documentary of squalid desperation, albeit a slightly heightened and sardonic one.


The 15 Best Americana Albums of 2015

From the old guard reaffirming its status to upstarts asserting their prowess, personal tales voiced by true artists connected on an emotional level in the best Americana music of 2015.


Dizzy's Katie Munshaw Keeps Home Fires Burning with 'The Sun and Her Scorch'

In a world turned upside down, it might be the perfect time to take a new album spin with Canadian dream-pop band Dizzy and lead singer-songwriter Katie Munshaw, who supplies enough emotional electricity to jump-start a broken heart.


Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers Bring Summery Highlife to 'Ozobia Special'

Summery synths bring highlife of the 1980s on a reissue of Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers' innovative Ozobia Special.


'The Upward Spiral' Is Nicolas Bougaïeff's Layered and Unique Approach to Techno

On his debut album for Mute, Berlin-based producer Nicolas Bougaïeff applies meticulous care and a deft, trained ear to each track, and the results are marvelous.


How BTS Always Leave You Wanting More

K-pop boy band BTS are masterful at creating a separation between their public personas and their private lives. This mythology leaves a void that fans willingly fill.


The Psychedelic Furs' 'Made of Rain' Is Their First Album in Nearly 30 Years

The first album in three decades from the Psychedelic Furs beats expectations just one track in with "The Boy That Invented Rock and Roll".


Fontaines D.C. Abandon the Familiar on 'A Hero's Death'

Fontaines D.C.'s A Hero's Death is the follow-up to the acclaimed Dogrel, and it features some of their best work -- alongside some of their most generic.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.