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Nov 6, 2018

Kobo Town Plays Politically Charged Infectious Caribbean Fusion

Kobo Town is yet another awesome world music band from this year's (aptly named) Blissfest.  I'm really don't know how to describe their unique sound, other than to just to call it an infectious, sometimes political, danceable blend of Calypso, Reggae and Rock Steady.  But that really doesn't do it justice.  So I'm going to borrow from their website.

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!)
Ok, well I l'm not really sure if that really helps.  So I'll link some songs later on.  
Kobo Town was founded by and is fronted by Trinidian emigre Drew Gonsalves.  Drew moved to Ottawa when he was thirteen years old.  While living in Canada, he maintained a fascination with Trinidad and Tobago culture.  At the age of eighteen he was exposed to calypso when he returned to visit his father for the summer. 
“I was blown away by the cleverness and the wit of these calypsonians and also their engaging interplay with the audience. I had never experienced anything like it and,
from that point on, calypso was always on my mind.”
Fast forward several years and that brings us to Kobo Town, which currently has three albums.  Two of those have really caught my attention. I can't decide which one I prefer.  The 2006 release, Independence, might be a tad more accessible. I think the song structures tend more toward Reggae which is of course the more familiar sound.  The more recent release, 2017's Where The Galleon Sank, has more complex rhythms that tend more towards Calypso, with a fair amount of political history for good measure.  Both albums though are genre bending and difficult to describe.  
One of my favorite songs on Independence is Abatina.  It's a dark tale of a beautiful woman who ended up dead at the hands of the her rich husband Mister Harry.  Despite the dark the theme, the gypsy rhythms, sexy violins and great vocals make for a wonderfully danceable song. 
Tina was young and should have outlived us
now we pray that she could forgive us.
We knew Tina was no deceiver
but we weren't inclined to believe her
Another of my favorites is At The Edge Of The CityA rock steady/reggae rhythm about spiritual awakening.  
Remove the mist that covers me
So I can see, So I can see
Shatter the glass that bottles me
So I can be, So I can be
Where the Galleon Sank, as mentioned, might be a little less accessible as it's rthyms are less familiar (ie less Reggae).  But the songwriting is great, and that's what really matter.  Check out the ska infused When Jonas Saw The Light, and the calypso steeped Karachi Burning.  Other favorites are the lovely Before The Day Star and What The Sea Remembers.
-Alan Likes Music