Modern Griots: Exuma


Obeah consists of folk magical practices that are performed in Caribbean islands, such as in my parents’ islands of Barbados and Dominica. It is also practiced in the Bahamas where singer Macfarlane Gregory Anthony McKay (Tony McKay) was born in 1942, and he later adopted the name of one of its islands, Exuma. Active during the late 60s and throughout the 70s, Exuma’s music had a distinct sound that differed from more mainstream music at the time. Mixing together Bahamian folk music, such as junkanoo, with rock and pop music, he created his own style.

In his signature song, “Obeah Man,” Exuma creates his own mythical legend, singing about his conception by way of a lightning bolt and his fiery birth as well as meeting with with Charon (the boatman from the River Styx) and Hector Hippolyte, a well known Vodou priest. The soundtrack is filled with a mixture of sounds from howling wolves, croaking frogs, a variety of percussion and guitar riffs. Other songs, like :Mama Loi, Papa Loi, cover topics like zombies, which actually is a word that comes from Haitian creole.

Also a painter, he designed his own album covers. He was also friends with and composed for other musicians, like Nina Simone (“Obeah Woman”). Exuma recorded 12 albums, including Exuma I & II, Do Wah Nanny, Snake, and Reincarnation. Although he passed in 1997, Exuma’s memory still lives on with his daughter Kenyatta Mackey, who is also a singer.

More on Exuma

“Obeah Man”

“Mama Loi, Papa Loi”

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