Here in Canada it seems like the back-and-forth weather
game that is early spring has tipped in favour of summer, so it’s time to break out some sunny music! This week’s Wanderings brought me around the world a bit, with the Toronto-based calypso band known as Kobo Town, who are about to release their second album, Jumbie in the Jukebox. The band is busy reviving calypso styles, something we don’t hear nearly enough of, but also blends various musical influences, including reggae, ska, and big band Latin jazz. Jumbie in the Jukebox is light, very danceable, and really just a whole lot of fun.
Kobo Town is a band that is bursting with energy. It starts with the backbone of all Latin-based music, a bunch of percussion layers that weave together with a precision not seen in many other genres. The horns that punctuate the entire album provide shots and riffs that give the music a really full sound, and give it a rich and colourful texture. Mix this in with some steady bass groove, and little guitar licks that seem to float around every corner. Last but not least, the album provides wonderfully rhythmic and harmonic vocals, which are the definite focus of the music. The singing really leaves no doubt as to how the calypsonian style has worked its way steadily into reggae and hip-hop. One of Kobo Town’s biggest strengths is the heavy layering and orchestration, all of which is done in a way that gives the audience plenty to listen to, but also never gives the impression of being too busy or crowded. Part of what makes Jumbie in the Jukebox so much fun is that exciting groove that makes listeners feel alive and ready to move!
You lyric junkies out there might find more than a few of these songs satisfying. Singer/songwriter Drew Gonsalves brings up important personal and social issues, but gives his lyrics a healthy amount of calypso humour to spice things up a bit. He’s tackling topics like the contrast between those in poverty and the tourists they encounter, and a man with paranoia psychoses brought on by constant exposure to news media.
Picking favourites on Kobo Town’s new album has been very tough so far, as there are really no weak tracks. Right now I am really into the last tune, Tick Tock Goes The Clock. This song travels a little more than the others on the album, which is really my only complaint about the whole thing. Each tune is short and sweet, but I would like to hear it explore the musical space a bit. The last track is a little more eclectic than the others, with various parts weaving in and out around the vocal rhythms to give the song some real progression and a sense of build.
Overall, Jumbie in the Jukebox is a purely enjoyable album. There really isn’t anything in the album that will set listeners on edge, and it provides a warm groove that anyone could find themselves getting into. Check this stuff out! The new album is due for release on April 23rd, and they also happen to be playing in Ottawa on the 27th, as well as Toronto on May 1st. Personally, I know the next time I fire up the barbecue I’ll be throwing on some Kobo Town to do some dancecooking.