Exuma (Tony McKay) is a musician from the Bahamas who recorded the bulk of his discography in the 70’s and 80’s, with Exuma being his self titled debut. This album, like a lot of the rest of his music, is a strange mix of genres and cultures, but most influenced from African Folk music. The recording is quite lo-fi, but I think that just adds to the charm of this album. It’s mystical, prophetic, hypnotic, and tribal Folk music.
Exuma, the Obeah Man opens the album with a true Folktale, telling a story of himself from his supernatural birth to his mystical, magical powers. “Obeah” is a kind of voodoo or magic practiced in the Bahamas, and he sings of the miracles he can produce now that he’s a medicine man. The sound of this song is a blood pumping Folk tune with heavy African influences. It’s also layered over some crickets and frogs making noise in the background, giving it the feel that he’s preaching this over a bonfire in the middle of the night, out in the wild. I love the call and response chanting of “Obeah!” in the verses on this song, and McKay’s gravely shouts are entrancing. Dambala is a mournful, spiteful but apocalyptic song calling to Dombala, the spirit in Voodoo responsible for the creation of life. You can really hear the venom in his voice when he sings:
“You slavers will know what it’s like to be a slave
A slave to your hearts, a slave to your head
A slave to your souls, a slave to your graves
You won’t go to heaven
You won’t go to hell
You’ll remain in your graves
with the stench and the smell”
As bizarre the first half of the album was, Seance in the Sixth Fret is something completely else. Chimes and bells are rattled nonstop, four notes are plucked on an acoustic guitar, and Exuma chants and sings a string of unintelligible references and commands. For some reason I’m in love with songs like these, just completely off the wall stuff that makes very little sense but is still enjoyable. It’s songs like this make me come back to Exuma again and again. You Don’t Know What’s Going On is the most accessible song, a more traditional Folk/Rock song with a chorus that’s hard not to sing along to. The Vision is a beautiful closer, but it’s another song where he has a vision of judgement day. This whole album is captivating, and I highly recommend this to anyone who like Folk, African, or simply strange music.