Banjo Stories and Songs from Haiti & New Orleans

Wednesday December 7 @ 6:30pm


Laurent Dubois

The Lapidus Center presented an exciting program that mixed history and music, Africa and the Americas, New Orleans and Haiti around an instrument that is as conspicuous as it is poorly understood, an African creation that became an international instrument that truly deserved the in-depth biography, The Banjo: America’s African Instrument written by Laurent Dubois, Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke University whose focus is on the culture of the Atlantic world, particularly Haiti.

In conversation with Dubois was renowned singer/musician Leyla McCalla.  Born in New York, Leyla is a Haitian-American who sings in French, Haitian Creole, and English. she plays cello, tenor banjo and guitar.Her music is deeply influenced by traditional Creole, Cajun and Haitian music, as well as by American jazz and folk.


Leyla McCalla

An enthusiastic audience was in for a treat, with Dubois delving into the history of the banjo and McCalla singing and playing several tunes from Haiti and New Orleans.  Among the audience were the legendary New York based Ebony Hillbillies and Kandia Crazy Horse who, like Leyla, keep vibrant a type of music that mixes folk, country, old-time music, and blues.




View video here.



Laurent Dubois and Leyla McCalla


Laurent Dubois, Leyla McCalla and the Ebony Hillbillies


Leyla and Kandia Crazy Horse



Leyla McCalla and Laurent Dubois


Photos: William Farrington