Thursday, February 20, 2014

Leyla McCalla redefines the cello, with songs from Haiti and help from Langston Hughes

Musician Leyla McCalla won’t play it straight.

On the cellist’s stunning debut, she doesn’t draw from that instrument’s common genre or adopt its conventional tone. She doesn’t even stroke its strings with the usual tools.

Instead of offering classical baroque music, McCalla plays a rare brand of folk. Rather than stick to the instrument’s stern or somber tone, her approach can seem playful and spry. And instead of elegantly crossing the cello’s strings with a long, resonant bow, she picks and slaps them with her raw fingers, like a standup bass.

“Some of that approach comes from my guitar playing,” McCalla says. “From when I was 13, I was reading tablature for finger-pickings and replicating them on the strings.”

Then there was her mentor, cellist Rufus Cappadocia. “He would pluck the strings like a flamenco guitar or flap the bow off them,” McCalla says. “It was mind-blowing.”

No comments:

Post a Comment