Jumbie In The Jukebox - Kobo Town

Cumbancha

You don’t have to believe in ghosts to enjoy a good ghost story. In the Caribbean, malevolent or simply mischievous spirits are known as ‘Jumbies’. So, Kobo Town’s new release ‘Jumbie In The Jukebox’ could reasonably be translated in this day to ‘Ghost In The iPod Shuffle’. But, there’s a lot of history behind the new album and its inspiration comes from the early life experiences in Trinidad of  Kobo Town’s Drew Gonsalves. The Toronto transplant spent his youth swimming in Trinnie Calypsonian culture and returned for a visit as a teen, coming to more fully appreciate the music in its natural setting. Calypso, born out of the griot caste of West Africa, like so much else, was brought to the West Indies through the slave trade. The oral traditions of the griot documented the news of people and politics in the community and so too, the Calpysonians through song, in a vibrant call and response style, would entertain and inform their audience. Sometimes, like the mischievous jumbie, the intent of the singer/story teller was to simply elicit a laugh with a sly wink and a nod. Gonsalves, the youthful student becomes wizened master on Jumbie In The Jukebox; musically expanding on Calypso’s joyous bounce to include roots, reggae and contemporary studio techniques. The disc is a delight that can be enjoyed on the surface and to much greater depths. Gonsalves is a skilled and intellectual poet, a griot for these complex times, deftly shifting between and combining themes of social conscience, activism, irony and smart, humorous satire. And, like the Calypso monarchs of his day in Port-of-Spain (Lord Kitchener, The Might Sparrow and the recently passed Lord Pretender) Gonsalves sings out with a spirit larger than life; a Jumbie In The Jukebox teasing the listener with power and panache. On first listen, I picked off six tracks that resonated instantly. Among them: ‘Postcard Poverty’ – a comment on the ‘all-inclusive’ crowd who shut out the crumbling squalour, the apocalyptic closer, ‘Tick Tock Goes The Clock’ and, an immediate favorite, ‘Joe the Paranoiac’, a hilarious piece of fiction, ingeniously underpinned by the dark anxiety that prevailed following 911. Enjoy the sunny rhythms, but listen for more. Kobo Town is songcraft at its very best.