Kobo Town – Jumbie in the Jukebox

Kobo Town - Jumbie in the Jukebox

Kobo Town – “The Call”
Jumbie in the Jukebox

We last featured Kobo Town in January when they were gearing up for their APAP Conference showcase in New York. Since then the band led by Trinidadian-Canadian Drew Gonsalves have released a new record, Jumbie in the Jukebox, on Cumbancha. While Kobo Town took several years off after their debut album, the wait has been well worth it. Gonsalves and company have come back stronger than ever with a batch of songs that will create a lot of new calypso fans.

The title explains the direction of Jumbie in the Jukebox. A jumbie is a spirit in Trinidadian folklore. A sort of bogeyman which steers children away from danger, the jumbie also represents the unknown and metaphysical aspects of the world. Gonsalves asks listeners to imagine that one of these spirits has inhabited a jukebox and is playing songs from various golden eras of West Indian music. This is a clever approach which allows the band to expand the boundaries of calypso music to include Caribbean influences from the past and the present. While Gonsalves’ talented songwriting is at the center of Jumbie in the Jukebox, Ivan Duran’s production ties everything together and adds a lot of depth to the recording.

“The recording was like a songwriting session. Some things came in a flash of inspiration, some came drip by drip, with a lot of crafting and rethinking before the final result. Ivan has a lot of old equipment. Guitars with that twangy 1930s sound, horns with a monophonic quality, stuff that matched the sounds of the calypso albums of the 50s and 60s. It made me think of a jukebox haunted by a jumbie that spits forth various sounds from different eras of Trinidadian music.” – Drew Gonsalves

Calypso is like a musical newspaper delivering commentary, news, gossip and innuendo in a humorous and controversial tone. In the past, policemen were sent out to calypso tents to make sure only government-approved songs were being sung, such was the power of persuasion that calypso had over the public. While Kobo Town’s sound is clearly influenced by calypso, it’s unfair to categorize them as a strictly calypso group. Mixing roots reggae, dancehall and dub with vintage jazz, funk and R&B, this music is the evolution of calypso, adapting and changing with the times. Through Gonsalves’ dynamic arrangements and tongue-in-cheek lyrics, the diverse sounds of the Caribbean come to life in this thought-provoking set of music.

Listen to “The Call” above, which draws its inspiration and theme from the classic Juan de la Cruz poem The Dark Night of the Soul. Also check out the EPK video for Jumbie in the Jukebox below. Kobo Town hit SOB’s on July 10th. Don’t miss them.

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