Straddling the Abyss between the World of the Dead and the Living (We’re Not Coming for your Brains, just your Souls)


Yesterday’s Freaky Friday post was delayed due to an airplane journey home.  Airports and airplanes suck, but it beat driving through the snow in my non-existent car.  While I am home I will attempt to follow my schedule, but certain days may be missed for reasons of lacking on-hand music or being busy with family and friends, but the week will still be fruitful and productive.  Anyways, on to the belated Freaky Friday post, which is focused on the startlingly debut album of Exuma.

Exuma’s self-titled 1970 release, Exuma, is raw, spiritual music and thoroughly primal and original.  Unlike most anything else I’ve ever heard, Exuma’s debut blows minds, nourishes the soul, and disturbs the pious.  It isn’t a field recording, but it is just about as raw.  Featured in the re:Discovery section of September/October waxpoetics, the album artwork immediately grabbed my visual cortex.  After locating the album, the sounds on it kidnapped my aural neurons.  Exuma’s music truly is unclassifiable.  It is the result of a mind not transfixed in present time, but aware of the infinite within and beyond.


Exuma the Obeah Man was the creation of McFarlane Anthony McKay, born in the early 1940s on Cat Islands in the Bahamas.  He moved to New York at the age of seventeen to study architecture.  He ran out of money for his studies and in 1962, participated in folk music hootenannies.  Gaining confidence, he started a group called Tony McKay and the Islanders.  He also was in a show called A Little of This ‘n’ That in 1965, where he appeared alongside Richie Havens.  Exuma played in the famous Greenwich Village folk clubs Cafe Wha?and the Bitter End.  However, the music Exuma made wasn’t folk music, although it had some similarities. Still, Exuma was dripping with too much ju ju.

Whatever It is  Exuma has IT!  Open your third eye to the sounds of cosmos.

Opening the album is “Exuma, the Obeah Man,” a song detailing Exuma’s potent powers, which include raising the dead and making your unhappy woman love you.  A dense, syncopated rhythm .  Bones and other percussive sounds create a skeletal undercurrent.  You can’t deal with Charon daily without the boatman of the underworld introducing some new sounds into your vocabulary.  Despite the ominous mood and supernatural eeriness of the Obeah Man, the whistles at the end emote playfully.

“Dambala” follows the voodoo-infused “Exuma, the Obeah Man” with its’ own juju.  The bass drum hits hard, providing a nice contrast to the otherwise sonically light song.  The lyrics again deal with the supernatural and spirituality.  At this point, Exuma’s prowess using the human voice to emote has been proven.  Not capable of hitting all the highs, nor all the lows, Exuma just emoted beautifully.

Words are meant to fail for words are symbols made up of symbols, aka letters.  Symbols can only describe and never truly capture a moment.  Exuma understood that projecting words with his voice box would utterly fail at expressing the inexpressible.  All attempts at expressing the inexpressible have no choice but to fail, but at least Exuma realized it is more potent to vocally project moods and moments with sounds rather than modern language.  When our ancestors first utilized their vocals cords there were no words let alone formal language.  Exuma travels back to that time when he forgoes words for sounds.  The “yeah” whisper is unsettling yet seductive, like the siren call of the underworld.

“You won’t go to Heaven,

You won’t go to Hell,

You’ll remain in your graves,

With the stench and the smell.”

Zombies are on the prowl on “Mama Loi, Papa Loi.”  The voices carry a sense of urgency, which make sense considering the song is a warning.  Have no fear my dear Paul Revere is near!  The beat pounding during the buildup to the release after the 2 minute mark is way intense, sounding like the feet of an approaching  zombie horde.  Exuma loves creepy voices.  “I see fire in the dead man’s eye.”

After the intensity of “Mama Loi, Papa Loi,” “Junkanoo” is a welcome breath of lightheartedness and respite.  Super syncopated using whistles, the creepy voices and dark magic of the previous songs return to its’ resting place.  The drums that drop in at the 2:20 mark, and fade too quickly, bring some bass.

Returning to metaphysical deep end, “Séance in the Sixth Fret” is strange, intense and a little bit frightening way.  Spirits are being called upon, a gong sounds, and the weird frogish voice again calls from the other side.  This sounds like an actual Séance, and it very could be.  Communing with the other side, Exuma gathers pertinent wisdom, such as hell is no good, god is not dead, and we should stop shedding blood.

The catchy pop, for Exuma’s standards, of “You Don’t Know What’s Going On” contrasts sharply to the third eye vision of “Séance.”  Do not eat the holy cow, nor attempt to take the milk from the milky way.  The weirdest lyric of the whole song might be “you can’t put the light in Ray Charles’ eye.”  Considering the cosmic, metaphysical ancient vibe of the album, this lyric‘s modernity creates a comic juxtaposition.  Exuma accepts the inevitable, realizes the absurdity of life, and is going home.  He’ll leave the ball behind, where he is going he won’t be needing it.

“The Vision” is the ultimate song, in the sense of it being the last.  A sense of purity is evident here.  The mysterious dark magic is still present, but seems less sinister.  Exuma lays out a vision he had one night.  Then he vanishes into the ether, leaving us with warnings of the c0ming apocalypse and pearls of wisdom.

Exuma owes some thanks to Dr. John, aka the Night Tripper, for Gris Gris (1968), which mixed psychedelica, R&B, and voodoo.  Gris Gris, Dr. John’s first album, received critical acclaim and popular attention helping pave the way for Exuma.  From there, Exuma helped illuminate at least a sliver of the ultimate using junk percussion, simple guitar, and a haunting voice.

Saturday’s scheduled post is postponed, but I hope to burst the Church of Metal cherry on the week before the birth of the boy in the manger.


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