|Kobo Town — Jumbie In The Jukebox (2013)|
Kobo Town — Jumbie In The Jukebox
◊ "You have to keep your creative source of inspiration close to you. Keep writing, playing and reaching out in the music world, in the hopes of touching and making an impact on people." — Ryan B. Patrick
◊ Kobo Town's Drew Gonsalves: "Calypso is the folk music of urban Trinidad. It's the music that not only speaks to us, but like us." — Paul Wright
◊ Drew Gonsalves: "Producer Ivan Duran and I wanted this album to be a contemporary expression that said something about Caribbean music, our heritage, and the potential for a new voice that resonates with people today." — Paul Wright
Born: in Diego Martin, Trinidad and Tobago
Location: Toronto, Ontario ~ Port-of-Spain, Trinidad
Album release: April 23, 2013
Record Label: Cumbancha
01. Kaiso Newscast (2:55)
02. Mr. Monday (3:29)
03. Postcard Poverty (3:11)
04. Half Of The Houses (2:53)
05. The Call (3:00)
06. Joe The Paranoiac (3:47)
07. Diego Martin (3:19)
08. Road To Fyzabad (3:39)
09. The Trial Of Henry Marshall (2:44)
10. Waiting By The Sea (3:22)
11. The War Between Is And Ought (3:32)
12. Tick Tock Goes The Clock (5:43)
◊ Drew Gonsalves (lead vocals, cuatro, guitar)
◊ Robert Milicevic (drums)
◊ Derek Thorne (percussions)
◊ Linsey Wellman (flute, saxophone)
◊ Roger Williams (bass)
◊ Patrick Giunta (guitar)
◊ Cesco Emmanuel (lead guitar)
◊ Jan Morgan (trumpet)
◊ Alec Dempster Drawing
◊ Ronnie Desvignes Congas, Vocals (Background)
◊ Ivan Duran Arranger, Bass, Engineer, Guitar (Electric), Mixing, Producer, Sound Treatment
◊ Jacob Edgar Graphic Design
◊ Francesco Emmanuel Guitar (Electric), Vocals (Background)
◊ Lane Gibson Mastering
◊ Drew Gonsalves Arranger, Bass, Bottle, Composer, Cuatro, Guitars (Ac+El), Liner Notes, Vocals
◊ Bayto Kahj Vocals (Background)
◊ Eric Levine Studio Assistant
◊ Judith Lezama Vocals (Background)
◊ Lyndon Livingstone Vocals (Background)
◊ Tony Maestre Vocals (Background)
◊ Jan Morgan Trombone, Trumpet
◊ Phil Nicholas Keyboards
◊ Derrick Noah Studio Assistant
◊ Timothy O'Malley Graphic Design
◊ Al Ovando Engineer, Guitar (Rhythm), Jawbone, Mixing
◊ Colin Petty Studio Assistant
◊ Rolando "Chichiman" Sosa Claves, Garifuna
◊ Derek Thorne Congas, Vocals (Background)
◊ Michelle Walker Vocals (Background)
◊ Linsey Wellman Clarinet (Bass)
◊ Paul Wright Photography
◊ Mike Zuñiga Studio Assistant
Press: Ryan Romana -
Agent: Cumbancha -
◊ Independence, their much-acclaimed debut album was released in 2007. Recorded between Trinidad and Toronto, it was nominated for an Indie, a Canadian Folk Music Award award and Folk Alliance Award. It recieved frequent spins on the CBC, BBC and community stations on both sides of the Atlantic, and it garnered praise for its strong lyricism as well as its “traditional instrumentation and joyous vibe.” (Global Rhythm)
◊ "Founded by Trinidadian-Canadian songwriter Drew Gonsalves, Kobo Town is named after the historic neighborhood in Port-of-Spain where calypso was born. Kobo Town takes the intricate wordplay of classic Caribbean music and runs it through a 21st Century filter. In the world of Kobo Town calypso, roots reggae, and acoustic instrumentation meet innovative production techniques, social commentary and indie rock attitude."
◊ "Quand Drew Gonsalves, le chanteur de Kobo Town, est né a Trinité, il était trop petit pour savoir que son île était le berceau du calypso. Puis, a 13 ans, il est parti vivre au Canada, ou il a découvert et exploré la musique des Caraibes.
◊ Si Kobo Town (le nom vient du quartier de Port of Spain, la capitale ou le calypso est né) exprime le mal du pays, c’est un mal pour un bien : cette musique interdit la nostalgie. Retour aux racines – un son roots tres acoustique – mais ouverture sur les autres musiques caribéennes.
◊ Croisé avec du mento, du reggae et d’autres spécialités locales, caréné par une section de cuivres omniprésente, produit a l’américaine, chanté par un gars qui ne doit pas aimer s’énerver, le deuxieme album de Kobo Town est une petite bombe de pop tropicale, nonchalante et groovy, idéale pour les prochaines soirées barbecue." (source: www.lesinrocks.com)
◊ The music of the Toronto band can drift between classic Caribbean pop styles and even verge on hip-hop, but the singer's perspective remains sharply focused, wry and witty. Jumbie in the Jukebox is a seductive invitation to musical time travel and one that's hard to resist. — NPR's All Things Considered
◊ Kobo Town brings Neil Young's angst and Jerry Dammers's instincts to traditional calypso themes. His upcoming Cumbancha release is a pithy combination of social commentary, dubwise soca, and calypsonian wit. — The Village Voice
◊ He's a powerful singer and an impressive multi-instrumentalist, playing guitars, bass and percussion, and he's helped by producer Ivan Duran, best known for his work with Garifuna singer Andy Palacio. There are echoes of soca, dancehall, ska and reggae here, along with sturdy brass work, and the lyrics are suitably intriguing. He praises calypso as a news medium, covers topics ranging from the death penalty to tourists who take photos of Caribbean poverty, and ends with an apocalyptic calypso with echoes of TS Eliot. Impressively original. — The Guardian (UK)
◊ Founded by Trinidadian-Canadian songwriter Drew Gonsalves, Kobo Town is named after the historic neighborhood in Port-of-Spain where calypso was born. Kobo Town takes the intricate wordplay of classic Caribbean music and runs it through a 21st Century filter. In the world of Kobo Town calypso, roots reggae, and acoustic instrumentation meet innovative production techniques, social commentary and indie rock attitude.
Robin Denselow; Score: ****
◊ The Guardian, Thursday 2 May 2013 22.15 BST
◊ Calypso has been in decline since the glory days of Lord Kitchener and Mighty Sparrow, but Drew Gonsalves is determined to put that right. An émigré Trinidadian who moved to Canada as a teenager, he became fascinated by the musical heritage he left behind, and set out to write new songs echoing the wit and storytelling of classic calypso, but in a contemporary setting. He's a powerful singer and an impressive multi-instrumentalist, playing guitars, bass and percussion, and he's helped by producer Ivan Duran, best known for his work with Garifuna singer Andy Palacio. There are echoes of soca, dancehall, ska and reggae here, along with sturdy brass work, and the lyrics are suitably intriguing. He praises calypso as a news medium, covers topics ranging from the death penalty to tourists who take photos of Caribbean poverty, and ends with an apocalyptic calypso with echoes of TS Eliot. Impressively original.
Dana Smart; LA Reggae Music Examiner
◊ Call it the Burnett Effect: since the release of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, the 2000 Album of the Year Grammy winner produced by T-Bone Burnett, there’s been a steady swell in ‘roots music’ in the past decade-plus. Beyond the O Brother franchise (the original soundtrack, Down from the Mountain, etc.), witness the Robert Plant / Alison Krauss duet Raising Sand (another Burnett production, which nabbed both the Album and Record of the Year Grammys in 2009), Carolina Chocolate Drops and The Lumineers, among others. Contributing his own section to the modern roots tale is calypsonian Drew Gonsalves.
◊ The Trinidadian singer-songwriter grew up in the Port-of-Spain suburb Diego Martin before moving to Toronto, Canada, at age thirteen. Feeling displaced, Mr. Gonsalves’ nostalgia for his homeland grew through his teens, but a summer trip to his West Indian birthplace at eighteen offered clarity. “My curiosity about Trinidad led me to read a lot about the Caribbean,” Mr. Gonsalves explains. “Going back with older eyes, I was more able to place in context all of the things I took for granted when I was growing up.”
◊ With new resolve, Mr. Gonsalves returned to Toronto and formed Kobo Town. Drawing its name from the Port-of-Spain neighborhood where calypso was born, Kobo Town’s sophomore effort, Jumbie in the Jukebox, issued in April on Stonetree / Cumbancha Records, is an album that faithfully knows its past and exuberantly sees it future.
◊ Throughout Jumbie in the Jukebox — musically, visually, textually — Mr. Gonsalves explains calypso with passion, not pedantics. The album opens with “Kaiso Newscast,” an infectious street parade of a song propelled by modern, vintage and potentially barely-usable instruments. Lyrically, Mr. Gonsalves swerves from explicating calypso’s cultural significance to swiping at the pervasive 24 hour news cycle to ultimately poking fun at itself: “Kaiso better than Fox News or CNN / Because calypso don’t pretend / It don’t hide behind stats and figures / And admits its sources are gossip and rumor.”
◊ Kobo Town tackles other front-page topics, including homelessness of the mentally ill (“Mr. Monday”) and the uncertainty and instability of the modern world (“Joe the Paranoiac”). “Postcard Poverty,” where Mr. Gonsalves’ voice assumes some of Jamaican dancehall chatter Sean Paul’s timbre, addresses the extreme poverty that continues to grip much of the Caribbean in a way that both echoes and answers The Clash’s “Safe European Home.” In the deftly performed “Half of the Houses,” with its molten bassline and distinct syncopation, one wonders if Mr. Gonsalves strove to make a reggae song, or if reggae’s pedigree in calypso (and its Jamaican variant mento) blossomed organically in the performance.
◊ The only tune that fails to live up to the collection’s promise is the song probably closest to Mr. Gonsalves’ heart, “Diego Martin,” the ballad of his hometown. But Jumbie in the Jukebox’s tales of love, Trinidadian history and folklore, all performed with a style that evokes the ebullience of the Rebirth Brass Band and the funky quirkiness of Tom Waits’ Swordfish Trombones, poises Kobo Town to emerge as one of the powerful voices in modern calypso. (http://www.examiner.com/)
◊ To discover a band of Trinidadian-Canadian origin at a summer music festival in Germany is no doubt emblematic of the promiscuous, now-global circulation of popular culture, ideas, commodities, capital and labor. Nuremberg's 2007 Bardentreffen Festival was my first introduction to Kobo Town, a clever, energetic, razor-edged ensemble whose first CD, Independence, dragged kaiso (aka calypso), kicking and screaming, into the global 21st century.
◊ Folk roots run deep in the music of the English-speaking Caribbean, where jumbies (an elusive category of tricksters, jokers and malevolent spirits) still animate oral lore. ◊ For Kobo Town, kaiso embodies the “jumbie in the jukebox,” penetrating no-nonsense popular sensibility that zeroes in on human foibles and the boundless human capacity for pretense, megalomania and self-deception. Take “Joe the Paranoiac,” whose Chicken-Little subject runs for cover as “the walls are tumbling, the ground is shaking and the sky is falling down,” certain that his neighbor belongs to a sleeper cell, the local Sunday school is a terrorist training camp, and his moldy cheese an anthrax vector. More darkly:
If you hesitate to believe
He will declare you and them to be in league
And from then on watch your tail
Or you might be going to Guantanamo on a holiday.”
◊ Other songs reflect upon the history of labor organizing in Trinidad, the economic forces that have sent so many islanders abroad, homelessness, the patent injustice of local judicial process, “poverty tourism” and nostalgic longing for a kinder, gentler time and place that exist, perhaps, only in popular memory.
◊ It was little surprise to hear from Belizean producer Ivan Duran that over the past few years he's been working on a new CD with Kobo Town's musical director and composer, Drew Gonsalves (lead vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, cuatro, percussion), born in Trinidad and raised in Toronto. Duran has a history of producing first-class Caribbean Central American artists including Andy Palacio, Aurelio Martínez, the Garifuna Women's Collective, Leroy Young “The Grandmaster” and Belizean brukdown tradition-bearer Mr. Peters. Jumbie in the Jukebox opens new and revealing territory for Duran, whose penchant for identifying truly unique regional roots talent deserves far wider recognition.
◊ Gonsalves observes that the calypsonian “is a singing newspaperman commenting on the events of the day, with an attitude halfway between court jester and griot.” ◊ Indeed, as “Kaiso Newscast” declares
Kaiso better than Fox News or CNN
Because calypso don't pretend
To inform without comment
Or separate fact from argument
It don't hide behind stats and figures
And admits its sources are gossip and rumour.
◊ With a top-notch ensemble (guitar, trumpet, trombone, bass clarinet, keyboard, bass, drums, congas, percussion, backing vocals, sound treatments), Gonsalves' voice and material — plaintive, pensive, provocative, witty, world weary — project a potent vision and social critique.
◊ Wry wisdom interweaves the sonic threads of Jumbie in the Jukebox, a deft poetic chariot, swinging low and wide from start to finish, conveying a popular moral sentiment of social justice. In any case, time is relentless, “Tick Tock Goes the Clock” reminds us rhythmically, as (per Gonsalves) “every album needs to finish off with a long-winded apocalyptic diatribe peppered with muted trombones and allusions to dead English poets... [along with] Derek Walcott, Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Book of Revelations… crashing together in the lines of this song, which is as much about the present as it is about the end of history and the final consummation of all things.” ◊ Behold a good-humored, thoroughly cosmopolitan kaiso-mento-reggae-dub poetry mashup, danceable too, uncompromising music for compromised times.
Listener, consider yourself forewarned. — Michael Stone
— Door Robert Schuurman op 11 juli 2013; Score: ***½
— By Ryan B. Patrick
|Kobo Town — Jumbie In The Jukebox (2013)|
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