Tag Archives: Jumbies

The M(N)STRY: Words of Wisdom from “The Jumbies”

baptiste_jumbies_jkt_pbk_rgb_hr_2mbRecently I’ve been reading Tracey Baptiste’s YA book, The Jumbies, which is a supernatural fantasy book that takes place on the island of Trinidad. I won’t give away what the book is about; instead I suggest for you to go read it, but I will tell you that one of my favorite characters is the witch because she is truth teller. Here is a poignant passage I resonated with and that I believe is relevant for now:

“Everybody thinks they need magic. Everybody wants answers. Get rid of this boil. Help me find money. She doesn’t love me anymore. Why won’t my cane stalks grow tall as my neighbors? Everybody wants a fast, easy solution. Maybe if you took care of you’re skin, you wouldn’t have gotten the boil in the first place. Maybe if you worked harder you would make more money. Maybe that person isn’t the right one for you. Maybe if you found a better way to farm, your crop would come up better. But nobody wants to hear those things. They want a bottle. Instant success! Something to drink, or sprinkle, or spill on the ground. They want magic from nothing. Magic doesn’t come from nothing. It comes from somewhere. And it isn’t so extraordinary. It’s just work. It’s just using your head and your heart.”

In many ways, the indoctrination of an instant gratification culture obsessed with instant power, wealth and fame is part of the blame to how we got to this point. Let us learn, as Baptiste teaches us in The Jumbies, that to create true change and to fight back, we must trust our true instincts, understand our connection to the earth and that doing real magic takes work.







Modern Griots: The Mighty Shadow’s Musical Jumbie

For an afrofuturist artist in jazz, you may think of Sun Ra, in funk, Parliament Funakdelic, and in reggae/dub, “Scratch” Lee Perry. But for calypso, it is probably singer The Mighty Shadow, or Shadow.

Born Winston Anthony Bailey and originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Shadow is known for his 1974 mythic song “Bassman,” about a musical ghost named Farel who won’t leave him alone. He is also known for his black gown and black hat, and skeleton outfits that he wears on stage, as if he is some sort of grim reaper or Baron Samedi.

In fact, themes of ghosts, death, alienation, mysticism, disorientation, and darkness are throughout Shadow’s work, from his name to his songs. He grew up listening to ghost, or jumbie in the Caribbean, stories from his grandparents and later infused it into his music.

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