August 19, 2022

Jordan Peele’s ‘NOPE’ Was Partly Inspired by This Cult Musician’s Legacy

4 min read


Jordan Peele’s giant sci-fi horror flick No He was inspired by a burned CD by a friend in the mid-2000s. Scrolled with the words “Exuma,” the CD featured cult Bahamian artist Tony McKay’s 1970 debut—and the kernel that would become an epic film about black figure history has been forgotten.

“I immediately responded to the haunting and elemental quality of his music,” Peele recounts. Rolling stone Exuma’s, whose records are basically aural movies about zombies, gods and slaves who rise up to punish their oppressors—a parade or two is thrown in for good measure. “I remember this shocking takeaway: Here was such an influential and important musician I hadn’t heard of in the first half of my life. Mackey was such an amazing artist, and he was not given the due respect he deserved.” .

Tony McKay borrowed his stage name from an island district in the Bahamas, moving into the New York and Greenwich music scene in 1961, where he combined modern rock and roll with the sounds and traditions of his homeland. A central figure in their music was the Obeh Man, a type of mysterious creature from local legends. “He’s a man with colorful robes who deal with the elements and moonrise, clouds and the vibrations of the earth,” McKay said in an interview. Although McKay had some industry backing for her debut—Nina Simone even covered some of her songs—her music was still… out there Being marketable in a playful business like entertainment. Nevertheless, he was a mainstay at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and wrote music and plays, and made art until his death in 1997. He managed to find a niche among Kreidiger and music lovers with a taste for the beautiful and the quirky – including Peele.

according to go The director, McKay’s actual theme song “Exuma, the Obeh Man” was on his mind when he first began writing. No, The song is essentially a blatant boasting track about how Exuma came to Earth to cast a spell on bolts of lightning and cure the ills of his people. ,[Obeah] I was with my grandfather, with my father, with my mother, with my uncles who taught me,” McKay said in a 1970 interview. “It’s been my religion that everyone follows some religion or the other. has grown up. … He revealed to Moses the secrets of good and evil, so that Moses could help the Israelites. It’s the same thing, absolute perfection—obeh man, the spirits of the wind.”

The song comes at a critical point in the film, which follows the plight of siblings OJ and Emerald Heywood as they attempt to save their father’s Hollywood horse-training business – the only Black-owned operation of its kind. – On camera holding a supernatural creature. (It’s such a simple description that we can give without any major spoilers.) “From early on in writing, ‘The Obeh Man’ is a song that was in the script exactly where it was in the final cut of the film. . .,” Peele says. “It comes at a time when the Emerald is in her father’s office and is reflecting on this person in her life that she is lost and has not paid full tribute to in death. The song’s lyrics are in this great, mysterious describe a person who is in many ways representative of [their father] Otis Sr.

Peele says that the song is a kind of “anthem” for the family, because “at its core, the film is about giving agency to figures that have been erased or underestimated in history – who are directly related to Exuma and his legacy.” ties with.” As Emerald explains during an opening scene, her business was founded by her ancestor, Bahamian jockey Alasdair E. Heywood, based on the unidentified black man in pioneer photographer Edward Muybridge’s early moving photographs. “The aim was to make a direct connection to Exuma’s music, Black Westerns, and the Heywood family heritage,” Peele says.

He continued, “When you discover such an underappreciated artist later in life, you develop a very special relationship, and on a personal level, I have come to terms with this feeling of being an outsider. Made a connection and recognized.”





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