In the opera Koanga (1897), of which La Calinda forms part, Delius drew much inspiration from his own experiences as a young man when his family sent him to work in Florida as the manager of a grapefruit plantation.
Delius’ fascination with African-American spirituals and folk music is very much in evidence in Koanga which tells the story of a voodoo prince sold into slavery who falls in love with slave girl Palmoyra. Together they dance La Calinda as they prepare for their wedding. In African-American culture the Calinda dance was officially banned in 1843 due to its sexually risqué and somewhat violent and hysterical nature. Needless to say Bradford-born Delius’ version is tame by comparison but Negro rhythms and melodies abound in the dance in which Delius adapted musical material from his earlier Florida Suite.
La Calinda is the only part of Delius’ score that remains popular today.