Savannah Music Festival Review: Dom Flemons, Chouk Bwa Libete/Leyla McCalla

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It’s safe to say much of the audience at the Morris Center was deeply impacted by the cultural immersion. Happily, only a very few left early for whatever reason, and almost all the sold-out crowd remained for the extra-long set, which Savannah Music Festival Director Rob Gibson had subtly alerted the audience might happen if the band desired to make it so.

While on paper it seemed odd for the actual celebrity of the night, former Carolina Chocolate Drops member and Grammy winner Leyla McCalla to open instead of headline, I think McCalla herself would agree there is no way to “follow” a show as intense and charismatic as Chouk Bwa Libete’s.

A delightful and calming stage presence, McCalla’s set focused on some Haitian folk music gems played mostly on Western instrumentation. McCalla herself played a cello, a guitar, and banjo at various points, all expertly.

These sweetly-sung, plaintive songs were interspersed with frequent musicological interludes by McCalla, explaining not only the songs and lyrics (sung in Haitian Creole/French) but how she discovered the songs and their meaning to her.

McCalla, violist Free Feral, and guitar/banjo player/husband Daniel Tremblay were joined several times by McCalla’s former Carolina Chocolate Drops colleague Dom Flemons. The softy teasing, almost sibling relationship between the two was warm and inviting.  Read more here.

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