Thursday, October 13, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Nine - Obeah Bath

Years ago, one of the write-ups for a track I featured in a Halloween Spooktacular featured an article that originally appeared in the Gleaner concerning Joseph, a practicing obeahman in Jamaica who professed to know not only about obeah but voodoo, Arabic and Kabbalah.  Oddly enough, judging by the replies I got from people wanting to get in touch with Joseph, it was one of the single most popular posts in the eleven year history of doing these Halloween mixes.  Now, I'm not in a position to pass judgement in those who believe in the powers of obeah because in the grand scheme of things what works for others is no concern of mine.  But judging from what I have heard in Jamaican music over the years, it seems that practitioners of this form of spiritual magic have been regarded by many to have developed a reputation for being shysters and charlatans.

Take for instance, Delroy Wilson's tune "Voodoo Man" recorded for Coxsone Dodd and released in 1963 on Black Swan... in the song Delroy concludes that the only thing the voodoo man can cure is the heft of ones wallet when they unscrupulously take advantage of those who place their trust in the black arts.   Fast forward to 1967, Derrick Morgan's track "Father Killam"; an obeah practitioner is sent in to rid a home of an unwelcome spirit and gets his ass kicked by the duppy before being ridiculed and mocked for having no power to actually dispense of him.  How about The Ethiopians 1977 track "Obeah Book" from their album Slave Call;  Leonard Dillon and crew profess their Rastafari faith while expressing their disdain for those who put their trust in obeah.  I could go on but I think you've got the point... for the most part it seems the artists in Jamaican music have little regard, or dare I say, respect for obeah. 

Which brings us to today's track, "Obeah Bath" by the great Dillinger taken from a 1978 7" on the Big Phil label.  Riding a sweet dubbed-out version of Delroy Wilson's "Can't Stop Me" Dillinger tells the tale of Melinda who jumped out the window broke her little finger and immediately went to the obeahman for treatment.  The treatment, and namesake of the song, is an "obeah bath" where a person seeking healing is given a bath in water infused with herbs and potions while receiving incantations and chants.  Without saying so directly, Dillinger ridicules the practice and admonishes Melinda for believing in the ability of obeah to heal something as simple as a broken finger.  He then follows suit, like the artists before him, by boasting that no power of obeah will stop him from forwarding his career, living his life or have him to cowering in fear. 

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