CD REVIEW – Jumbie in the Jukebox


Jumbie in the Jukebox


Drew Gonsalves gives much respect to the music of the Caribbean while never overshadowing the brilliance of that in his native Trinidad in this second release by Toronto-based Kobo Town.  Kobo Town, in fact, is the name of the birthplace of calypso, a community in Port of Spain and its choice as his band name is proof positive of  Gonsalves’ veneration.

Gonsalves grew up in nearby Diego Martin and moved to Toronto when he was a teenager.  As with many new immigrants, it wasn’t long before he was remembering and drawing strength from his cultural heritage, and putting his own spin on the music of his soul. He formed Kobo Town in 2004 and for the past few years has been gaining more and more exposure, going on tour to Europe this past summer.

A part of Caribbean folklore, jumbies are spirits that Gonsalves compares to the ‘boogie man’ and remembers fearing in his childhood.   The concept of the title is brilliant as this recording is a delightful mix of Caribbean musical styles, predominantly calypso and reggae.  You really gotta love calypso, it just can’t help itself, it sounds upbeat and happy no matter what, of course, lending itself to some terrific satire.   Joe the Paranoiac is a humourous and clever metaphor for the power of fear after the events of 9-11.  Joe is forever cowering at home and calling “ring-a-ling, hear the sirens sing, run for cover, the walls are tumbling,” once mistaking a toilet plunger for a bomb.

The social commentary and storyteller roles of the calypsonian are honoured and encouraged, with social and political consciousness being raised within both historical and present contexts.  For instance, Road to Fyazabad is a story that reminds those who are in the know and enlightens those of us who are not, about the important labour uprising the town of Fyazabad in 1937.  In Postcard Poverty we get a scathing indictment of tourists in Jamaica who leave their resorts, cameras at the ready, in search of  squalor.  The moodiness of reggae is the perfect medium for this tune,  “He’s looking for postcard poverty, he did not pay so much for the same thing he can see away”

The pinnacle of Drew’s sentimental journey comes with the lovely Diego Martin, an homage to the hometown he left behind about which he has mixed feelings.  “Diego Martin, I remember, how the years go by and you grow smaller and smaller.”

The cover design by Timothy O’Malley and Jacob Edgar is beautiful, and the liners notes are excellent.

There is a great deal to Jumbie in the Jukebox, inspired lyrics, exciting rhythms and big horns. But mostly, it’s just great music.

Band members include Drew Gonsalves (lead vocals, cuatro, guitar), Robert Milicevic (drums), Derek Thorne (percussions), Linsey Wellman (flute, saxophone), Roger Williams (bass), Patrick Guinta (guitar), Cesco Emmanuel (lead guitar) and Jan Morgan (trumpet).

Lise Watson



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