Founded by emigré Trinidadian songwriter Drew Gonsalves, 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.
Gonsalves was raised in a middle class suburban town outside Port-of-Spain but his family relocated to Canada when he was 13 years old. Even though he was exposed to a lot of music growing up on the island, the local folklore tradition of calypso music wasn’t his main interest back then. Like most of his peers, he was mostly influenced by American and British rock music...and even admits to a passion for heavy metal in his early teens.
It wasn’t until he relocated to Canada that the prism of nostalgia and a deepening interest in his country’s history led him to explore the rich traditions of calypso music, mostly by digging through bins of old records in second-hand stores. “Calypso is the folk music of urban Trinidad,” explains Gonsalves, “it was the music that spoke, not only to us, but like us. It was full of gossip and innuendo and addressed every topic under the sun from every possible angle. And it delivered its ideas with wit and humor. Political song-writing can get so self-righteous and dour, and it was always refreshing to hear it done with a laugh and a smile.”
With that in mind, Gonsalves formed Kobo Town (the name references the neighborhood where calypso is said to have been born) who released an acclaimed debut album in 2007. Their 2013 release, Jumbie in the Jukebox, refers to the jumbie, a spirit in Trinidadian folklore. According to Gonsalves, “A jumbie fulfills many roles. Its used to frighten children, sort of like boogie man. It evokes a sense of mystery about the world and all of the strange forces that influence its course.”
For Jumbie in the Jukebox, Kobo Town teamed up with producer Ivan Duran who brought to the recording a new perspective and inspiration. “I brought the words and tunes, Ivan brought the dirt and the depth,” remembers Gonsalves, “and during our first session at his studio, he placed an old barely-playable electric guitar in my hands and it changed our sound completely. In the sessions, he was always pushing for us to find the right intent for the songs, to create the right mood and to veer off in unintended musical directions.” Ivan Duran is well known for his masterful work on the now classic album Wátina from Andy Palacio & the Garifuna Collective that earned a 2007 WOMEX Award and was selected by Amazon as “The Greatest World Music Album of All Time.” The result of his collaboration with Kobo Town is a striking recording that reflects their mutual commitment to “stick to the roots and do the unexpected at the same time.” The album was recorded between Montreal, Trinidad, Belize and the band's home base in Toronto.
Jumbie in the Jukebox strikes the perfect balance between tradition and innovation, with a sound that is both timely and timeless. The band’s sizzling musicianship compliments Gonsalves’ remarkable lyrics, arch observations of the best and worst aspects of human nature.
“Kobo Town brings Neil Young's angst and Jerry Dammers's instincts to traditional calypso themes.” -- The Village Voice
"Merging calypso, roots reggae, acoustic performance, dub studio techniques and Trinidadian/Jamaican cultures, Kobo Town is a unique, stylistic, trans-national composite of rhythm, poetry and activist journalism. Kobo Town resurrects, reinvigorates and redefines calypso for the new millennium.” -- Exclaim!