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Kobo Town - A Caribbean-Candian Fusion Of The Diaspora
By Eric de Fontenay (Founder & Publisher)
(more articles from this author)
2005-09-30
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Eight piece Toronto-based group Kobo Town is named after the historic neighborhood in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, where traditional calypso (kaiso) was born amid the boastful, humourous and militant chants of the roaming stickfighters. 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. For the members of the eight-piece outfit, the name suggests an origin as well as a destination.

Exploring the rich lyrical tradition and compelling rhythms of calypso's formative years - the age of the Roaring Lion, Mighty Spoiler, Lord Invader, King Radio and Attila the Hun - Kobo Town strives to demonstrate the contemporary relevance of their art by engaging the pressing concerns of our time. Domestic violence,the US war on Iraq,the paradoxes of globalization, the ongoing state of Caribbean dependency, and the bittersweet experience of immigration are all treated within their wide and varied repertory.

Founded by bandleader Drew Gonsalves, a Trinidadian-born singer-songwriter who previously founded and fronted the Ottawa-based reggae/calypso/funk fusion group Outcry in 1992. During their ten years together, Outcry released their album New World Raging and appeared at several festivals including the Ottawa Urban Music Festival, Blues Skies Folk Festival and the National Capital Tulip Festival, and shared the stage with Third World, Ivana Santilli, Tarik Abubakr and the Afro-Nubians, Bob Wiseman, Fantcha, Klave y Kongo, and Cascabulho.

Since Kobo Town's formation in 2004, the group has been in the studio recording its debut album between Toronto (August 2004) and Port-of-Spain with Trinidadian (Oct 2004 & March 2005) with producer Lyndon Livingstone, where they performed with Orange Sky and the Gayelle TV network. The band has also performed several clubs in Ontario, including Kaiso Breakfast Lime (Scarborough), The Studio Theatre (Perth), Clinton's Tavern (Toronto), Mercury Lounge (Ottawa) and has been scheduled to headline the University of Toronto "Hurricane Relief Concert" in December.

Calypso is an art that developed in dialogue with other musical forms. The members of Kobo Town, who come to calypso from all over the musical map, hope to continue and extend this tradition of rhythmic and melodic cross-pollination.


Violinist Osvaldo Rodriguez taught at the National School of Art and the Alejandro Garcia Caturla Music School in Havana, Cuba. He performed with Neno Gonzales' salsa band La Calle, ZLP band, and was musical director of the group Orquestra Rojitas, touring South America and Japan. In 1994, he moved to Toronto and currently plays with Conjunto Charanguero and Johannes Linstead.


Bassist Roger Williams has recorded on Ivana's album Brown which received a Juno nomination in 1999. He has performed with Ivana Santilli, The Arsenals, Glenn Lewis, Jully Black, Ray Robinson, Toya Alexis and Devine Brown, while sharing the stage with The Roots, Tito Puente and Toots and the Maytals.


Percussionist Derek Thorne was a founding member of Dominic Donkor's Ghanaian group Keteke and has performed with dance company Ballet Creole since 1999. More recently he has appeared in Toronto with Moka, Radio Nomad, and Nick "Brownman" Ali's Trinidad Bacchanal All Stars.


Drummer Stich Wynston is a co-founder of the Shuffle Demons, with whom he received several CASBY Awards and Toronto Music Awards as well as appearing on two Juno Award nominated recordings. He was also a member of Big Sugar in 1995 when the blues/rock outfit was nominated in the Juno category for Best New Group.


A pioneer of Trinidad's alternative rock underground, guitarist Cesco Emmanuel formed the bands Brothers Grimm and Big Eyed Grieve. In 2003, he immigrated to Canada where he currently plays with Toronto-based group Bound.


Percussionist Ravi Jadoonanan, who studied with Trinidadian sitar master Mungal Patasar, has performed with Ed Hanley and Toronto-based steelpan orchestra the Steel Bandits.

Flutist Linsey Wellman has recorded and performed with Indo-Jazz fusion act Galitcha, Julie Larocque, Colores Andinos, Ravi Naimpally, Ian Tamblyn, Yves Lambert and Toumani Diabate. With Galitcha, he has appeared at the Toronto's Distillery Jazz Festival, London's Sunfest, the Blue Skies Folk Festival, the Ottawa Folk Festival and National Capital Tulip Festival, and the Festival de Rabat in Morocco and the Festival au Desert in Timbuktou, Mali.

For Kobo Town, Trinidad's musical heritage is a living, growing body of work, with a continuing importance in their lives, the West Indies and the world. While exploring new sounds and arrangements, their songs resonate with the satire, storytelling and social concern that lie at the center of Trinidad's national art.


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