Haitian American composer, singer-songwriter and musician, Leyla McCalla, is on tour across the United States highlighting the legacy of Haiti’s first independent radio station, Radio Haiti-Inter.
The story examines the history of the station and its owner, Jean Dominique, who was assassinated in 2000. The show features personal narratives from McCalla and, expresses the ongoing spirit of Haiti’s people.
The tour opened in Florida on May 6 and is expected to continue across the U.S. and Canada in June and July. The launch of the project coincides with Haiti’s celebration of Heritage Month.
Speaking on how the project was put together, McCalla reflected, “The more I researched this project, the more I found myself examining my own sense of Haitian-ness. I spent a lot of time recalling my experiences visiting Haiti as a child, thinking deeply about the moments in my life when I felt very Haitian and the moments when I didn’t. In the end, the music, and the stories here all brought me to a more nuanced understanding of both the country and myself.”
The title of the project also pays homage to a proverb used by Jean Dominique to characterize the spirit of Haiti’s disenfranchised poor in the face of violence and political tyranny as they fought to gain and maintain their independence.
Director of the project, Kiyoko McCrae, enriches the project by combining and organizing arrangements of Haitian music, traditional dances, audio, and video records from Duke’s Radio Haiti Archive. The album opens with Nan Fon Bwa, a phone call between McCalla and her mother recounting her mother’s childhood trip to Haiti and McCalla’s grandmother being joyful and proud to be Haitian. Viewers experience Haiti through McCalla’s eyes as she grapples with the country’s harsh political realities and the journalists, such as Dominique, who pushed to elevate Haitian voices.