Near North Music

Kobo Town

Kobo Town is named after the historic neighborhood in Port-of-Spain where calypso was born amid the boastful, humorous and militant chants of roaming stick-fighters. Situated near the fishermen’s wharf, the area was a site of constant defiance and conflict, a place where sticks and stones, songs and verses clashed with the bayonets and batons of colonial rule.

Founded and fronted by émigré Trinidadian songwriter Drew Gonsalves, Kobo Town’s music has been variously described as “an intoxicating blend of lilting calypsonian wit, dancehall reggae and trombone-heavy brass” (Guardian) and a “unique, transnational composite of rhythm, poetry and activist journalism.”(Exclaim!) From their home in Toronto, the JUNO-nominated group has brought their distinct calypso-inspired sound to audiences across the world, from Port-of-Spain to Paris and from Montreal to Malaysia.

At once brooding and joyous, intensely poetic and highly danceable, Gonsalves’ songs betray deep roots in Caribbean folk music, while the band delivers them with an indomitable energy that has earned them a considerable following far beyond the niche of world music enthusiasts and calypso fans.

On his new release, Where the Galleon Sank (2017), Gonsalves continues to explore 500 years of history through his post-colonial, Trinidadian lens, armed with his trademark wit and gift for melody. Maverick producer Ivan Duran is once again manning the console, creating a warm, percolating, richly layered sound. As on Kobo Town’s two previous outings, “Galleon” is filled with buoyant music that stimulates both body and mind; propulsive, infectious grooves are juxtaposed with incisive lyrics that expose human folly and our tendency to repeat our mistakes. Part poet, part correspondent, Gonsalves delivers compelling dispatches from events both real and imaginary.

The making of Galleon, recorded in Montreal, Toronto and Belize, was delayed when Gonsalves and Duran became involved in one of the biggest musical comeback stories of 2016. Along with Manu Chao, they co-wrote and produced one of their childhood musical heroes, Trinidadian legend Calypso Rose, whose new album has already gone platinum in Europe.

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