Modern Griots: The Mighty Shadow’s Musical Jumbie


Sherese Francis: Futuristically Ancient

For an afrofuturist artist in jazz, you may think of Sun Ra, in funk, Parliament Funakdelic, and in reggae/dub, “Scratch” Lee Perry. But for calypso, it is probably singer The Mighty Shadow, or Shadow.

Born Winston Anthony Bailey and originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Shadow is known for his 1974 mythic song “Bassman,” about a musical ghost named Farel who won’t leave him alone. He is also known for his black gown and black hat, and skeleton outfits that he wears on stage, as if he is some sort of grim reaper or Baron Samedi.

In fact, themes of ghosts, death, alienation, mysticism, disorientation, and darkness are throughout Shadow’s work, from his name to his songs. He grew up listening to ghost, or jumbie in the Caribbean, stories from his grandparents and later infused it into his music.

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