ABOUT KOBO TOWN
Toronto-based Kobo Town has rejuvenated the national music of Trinidad by injecting calypso with the enthusiasm of a new generation, and infusing it with other Anglo-Caribbean sounds like reggae and dub. Named after the historic neighbourhood in Port-of-Spain where calypso was born, the band’s music is solidly rooted in old-style calypso and West Indian folk music. Kobo Town also incorporates non-traditional elements and instruments and explores new sounds and arrangements, creating songs that “resonate with the satire, storytelling and social concern that lie at the center of Trinidad’s national art.” (Trinidad and Tobago Express)
Founded by Trinidadian songwriter Drew Gonsalves in 2004, Kobo Town has appeared at festivals and venues throughout Canada, the United States, and Europe. They have performed alongside old time calypso stalwarts like the Mighty Sparrow, Lord Superior, Singing Sandra and Black Stalin, and shared the stage with pop and reggae acts like Arrested Development, Burning Spear, Bedouin Soundclash, Suzanne Vega and the Wailers.
Early 2007 saw the release of Kobo Town's debut album Independence which was recorded between Port-of-Spain and Toronto with Trinidadian producer Lyndon Livingstone. Nominated for an Independent Music Award, a Canadian Folk Music Award, and an International Folk Alliance Award, the album is a collection of stories offering a running commentary on a wide variety of social and political themes, including domestic violence, homelessness, globalization, the war on Iraq, and the various frustrations and betrayals of the post-colonial era. The music magazine Exclaim! put the album on its Top 10 list for 2007, saying that, “Kobo Town resurrects, reinvigorates and redefines calypso for the new millennium.”
"Taking cues from Jamaican mento, reggae, and calypso, Independence is packed with traditional instrumentation and a joyous vibe." - Matt Schreiner, Global Rhythm
"Intoxicating calypso rhythms held straight with a reggae backbone is the best way to describe this Toronto based group's sound... One of the most beautifully intelligent releases...ever!" - Monk, IndependentsOnly
"Kobo Town has created something unique, a rarity in today's musical environment fraught with the cannibalism of music styles, little innovation or even creativity." - Mark Kirby, MusicDish eJournal
"Fans of Caribbean music, world music in general, and meaningful songwriting should grab this CD... It's a beauty." -Blogcritics
"Guitarist and singer-songwriter Drew Gonsalves has crafted cutting messages through thoughtful lyrics that beg to be absorbed." - Chris Page, XPress
Growing up in Diego Martin, Trinidad, my father finally gave in to my enending demands for some new running shoes and brought a pair home as a surprise gift. He decided to edit my request, however, and in a rare display of fiscal restraint purchased a local imitation instead of the expensive foreign brand that I had been agitating for. Although I would not openly spurn the generosity of a hot-tempered West Indian father, I was mortified. But the cause of my dismay was not merely the absence of the logo, which I unwittingly sought as a status-marker among my peers, but rather the presence of a tag which read: Made in Trinidad and Tobago. A quarter-century after Naipaul wrote btterly of the insatiable desire of Trinidadians for all things foreign, I sharted with everyone I knew the neccessary corollary to that desire -- the routine dismissal of all things produced by our own people in our own country. I thought my friends would laugh at my homegrown footwear and I was right. I shared with my friends and neighbours an insatiable appetite for all things foreign, and a routine dismissal of all things made by our people in our country. I thought my friends would laugh at me for my homegrown footwear, and I was right.
For us, nothing made in Trinidad could have any worth, especially our culture. Little had changed since Naipaul's observation on the eve of Independence, and now, at the turn of a new century, it remains painfully clear that the forty-four year long experience of nationhood has not succeeded in instilling a sense of cultural self-worth in our people.
The title of the album is intended to be hopeful and ironic at the same time: some of the songs on the album offer a critical look at the "independence experiment" (in T&T and abroad) and its various failures and betrayals, while all of the songs aim to celebrate the musical and artistic traditions formed over the long years of our turbulent history. Written out of an unconscious love for old time calypso and the nation and struggle that gave birth to it, this record is also driven by a desire to join those West Indian artists, activists and musicians who have recognized in their work that the wounds in our society run deep into our past, and that recovering a sense of cultural, national and spiritualal self-worth is a crucial first step in the path toward healing and renewal
- Drew Gonsalves