Music Reviews
8:44 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Kobo Town: A Haunted 'Jukebox' Filled With Caribbean Sounds

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 3:03 pm

Throughout Kobo Town's new album Jumbie in the Jukebox, frontman Drew Gonsalves declares his love for the past even as his feet are firmly planted in the present. 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. The song "Postcard Poverty," for example, ribs tourists for whom tropical slums become an exotic backdrop to fun-in-the-sun adventures.

For all the laid-back retro sounds on Jumbie in the Jukebox, the lyrics come at you with the relentlessness of pent-up urban rap. The observations can be philosophical, edgy and humorous, but never harsh. The song "Joe the Paranoiac" pokes fun at a man who sits by his radio eagerly waiting for the world to end.

Gonsalves' Trinidadian roots are clear in his vocal delivery, but the singer actually grew up in Canada. That distance from the music that most inspires him lets Kobo Town pick and choose among West Indian musical styles to create a unique and personal hybrid.

The "jumbie" in the album's title is a ghost from Caribbean folklore. By placing a ghost in the West Indian jukebox, Gonsalves and Kobo Town recombine old sounds to conjure a new one. In fact, Jumbie in the Jukebox is a seductive invitation to musical time travel — and one that's hard to resist.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Kobo Town is a Toronto-based band that plays a hybrid of old-school calypso and ska. Music reviewer Banning Eyre says the band's new CD, "Jumbie in the Jukebox," doesn't so much revive those classic genres as reinvent them for a new time.

BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: Right from the start, Kobo Town's leader, Drew Gonsalves, declares his love for the past, even as his feet are firmly planted in the present.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KAISO NEWSCAST")

KOBO TOWN: (Singing) If I had the choice, I would choose to live right back when Calypso brought the news. No more reporters, no anchormen, no recorder, no (unintelligible) to point and shoot, no (unintelligible) truth. (Unintelligible).

EYRE: On the CD "Jumbie in the Jukebox," Calypso does deliver the news. Kobo Town's music can drift among classic Caribbean pop styles and even verge on hip-hop, but the singer's perspective remains sharply focused, wry and witty. The song "Postcard Poverty" ribs tourists for whom tropical slums become an exotic backdrop to their fun-in-the-sun adventures.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "POSTCARD POVERTY")

EYRE: For all the laid-back retro sounds on this CD, the lyrics come at you with the relentlessness of pent-up urban rap. The observations can be philosophical or edgy, humorous, but never harsh. The song "Joe the Paranoiac" pokes fun at a man who sits by his radio eagerly waiting for the world to end.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JOE THE PARANOIAC")

EYRE: Gonsalves' Trinidadian roots are clear in his vocal delivery, but he grew up in Canada. And that distance from the music that most inspires him lets Kobo Town pick and choose among West Indian musical styles to create a uniquely personal hybrid.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAITING BY THE SEA")

EYRE: The Jumbie in the CD title is a ghost from Caribbean folklore. By placing a ghost in the West Indian jukebox, Gonsalves and Kobo Town recombine old sounds to conjure a new one. In fact, "Jumbie in the Jukebox" is a seductive invitation to musical time travel, an invitation that's hard to resist.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAITING BY THE SEA")

SIEGEL: Banning Eyre is senior editor at afropop.org. He reviewed "Jumbie in the Jukebox" by Kobo Town.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAITING BY THE SEA")

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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