Next week, Elizabeth Nunez will be read from her memoir, Not for Everyday Use, at the fifth annual ringShout event, which will be the Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend event. The event will take place September 16 at 7pm at the Franklin Park Bar and Beer Garden in Brooklyn, and also features Bridgett M. Davis (Into the Go-Slow), Saeed Jones (Prelude to Bruise), and Lauren Francis-Sharma (‘Til the Well Runs Dry). By coincidence, i randomly picked up two of Nunez’s works at the library a couple of months ago, Beyond the Limbo Silence, and When the Rocks Dance, and they were great introductions to her mythic and magic-filled writing. As I continue to look for Caribbean works that can be analyzed from an afrofuturist lens, I was fortunate to stumble across her work.
Born in Trinidad, Nunez combines Trinidadian and Caribbean culture with magic realist, mytho-spiritual and mystical elements. The first work of hers I read was Beyond the Limbo Silence, an alternate historical fiction set in 1960s Trinidad and America during the Civil Rights Era that infuses water myths, dreams, Voudou ritual and Obeah magic. The story follows Sara Edgehill, a young woman who feels like an outcast in her native land of Trinidad, Continue reading Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth: Elizabeth Nunez ‘s Books of Caribbean Magic
To end my Caribbean focus for the past few weeks and to show support for the re-premiere of the Canada show Obeah Opera (hopefully one day it will go international), here is an Obeah playlist. Enjoy!
Exuma – “Obeah Man”
Nina Simone – “Obeah Woman”
“Scratch” Lee Perry – “Obeah Room”
Mighty Shadow – “Obeah” and “Obeah Man”
Mighty Sparrow – “Obeah Wedding” and “Obeah Man”
Mad Professor – “The Coming of the Obeah Man”
Dillinger – “Obeah Bath”
Charlie Chaplin (reggae singer) – “Obeah Business”
Obeah Opera videos with Nicole Brooks
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
“Mama Loi, Papa Loi”