I’ve started this series of written reflections on my favourite albums, well-known and otherwise. This isn’t about music history, but maybe it’s my personal music history. The albums won’t often be new releases, though they might be sometimes. Mainly I’m writing out of a deep, abiding love for albums I keep returning to over months, decades, years. These are mainly studio albums, because that’s the musical format I like to listen to and think about the most. xo
First up: Exuma’s self-titled debut album Exuma, The Obeah Man (1969, Mercury Records).
I can’t remember when I first heard this album, but I want to say it was around 2010 or so, or maybe while working at CKUT 90.3FM a couple of years later. I think I came across it on a music blog (remember those?).
Exuma was the musical persona of Bahamian multi-disciplinary artist Tony MacKay. He blended western folk music with Afro-Carribean traditions like Junkanoo and reggae. Of particular note, his imagery and the Exuma persona was influenced by the West-African and Bahamian spiritual tradition of Obeah. Before recording his debut, he spent time in the 1960’s Greenwich village folk scene, playing music in cafes and connecting with the people there.
Exuma, The Obeah Man is a confident, contained, singular and psychedelic sonic world that feels like a joyously unrestrained artist statement. The title track ‘Exuma (The Obeah Man)’ is unforgettable in its declaration of the Exuma persona, with its opening wolf howl and its insanely catchy rhythm and refrain. If you only listen to one Exuma song, let it be this one. However: this album should be listened to in proper sequence, and as a whole, in order to get the full Exuma experience as it was intended to be felt.
Stuff I love about this album: the hisses of “yessssssss”, the jangly percussion, bells, group vocals, penny whistles and field recordings (including an airplane passing overhead!). There’s even an auditory depiction of a seance (which I played on drive time radio once before losing my nerve halfway through and cross fading into another track).
I think this album continues to resonate with me because its sounds are so tactile and it’s lyrical imagery is so world-building. Every time I listen to it, I hear something new. It has the spirit of a dance party blended alchemically with the visions of an artist who’s uncompromisingly put his soul on record. Endlessly captivating.
I hope that you enjoyed reading this and that you enjoy Exuma’s Exuma, The Obeah Man! I’ll link to a few spots you can hear the album below.
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