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At the heart of English folk

Rhiannon Giddens & Leyla McCalla

Ahead of their gig at Cecil Sharp House on 3 October, we caught up with Rhiannon Giddens and Leyla McCalla of the Carolina Chocolate Drops to discuss their music.

Describe your music for someone who has never heard it.

Our music uses fiddle, cello, guitar and different kinds of banjos to play and talk about different musical traditions from North Carolina to Ireland to Haiti.


What are your musical influences?

We’ve been influenced by artists and genres across the world. We’re particularly inspired by artists like Bessie Smith, Etta Baker, Joe Thompson, the Balfa Brothers and the Carriere Brothers, among others.


Career highlight so far?

One of our biggest career highlights has been attending the Grammy Awards Ceremony in 2013. But I’m sure for Rhiannon it was winning a Grammy for the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ record Genuine Negro Jig in 2011!


Carolina Chocolate Drops


Your music draws on many styles, genres and cultures – how easy/difficult have you found it making the transition from one folk style to the next?

We craft each song according to what we feel each song needs. Though it can sometimes be challenging to find what that is, it’s something that opens us to different ways of expressing and is ultimately what excites us about arranging and writing music.


If you could jam with any artist, past or present, who would it be?

If I could jam with any artist, it would be Canray Fontenot, one of the best Louisiana Creole fiddlers that ever lived. 


What was the last CD you bought?

Louisiana Hot Sauce: Creole Style by Canray Fontenot.


What was the last gig attended?

The last show I attended was the Rockygrass Bluegrass Festival in Lyons, Colorado.


2013/14 plans?

Leyla will be releasing her first solo record, Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes, in October, 2013 in Europe and February, 2014 in the United States.

Find out more about the show

Book tickets for the show


Rhiannon and Leyla performing as the Carolina Chocolate Drops


National Youth Folk Ensemble

National Youth Folk Ensemble


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