Breaking the Thermometer

Breaking the Thermometer

Haitian American singer-songwriter Leyla McCalla (Our Native Daughters), who now calls New Orleans home, chronicles a vital part of Haitian history with a groundbreaking concept album made in partnership with Duke University. Breaking the Thermometer draws inspiration from the story of Radio Haiti, a now-defunct independent radio station that, in addition to playing Creole music and broadcasting primarily in Creole language in the French-dominated country, used its platform to challenge corruption in Haiti. McCalla spent time with Duke’s archive of Radio Haiti recordings and devised a multidisciplinary stage show around the material, the music from which makes up Breaking the Thermometer. Primarily performed in Creole, Breaking the Thermometer is part homage, part time capsule, part journalistic reporting, all anchored by McCalla’s dynamic voice, masterful banjo picking, and deep connection to her roots. Highlights include “Fort Dimanche,” named for an infamous French-built former prison known for torturing inmates, and the jazzy, English-language “You Don’t Know Me.”

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