25 October 2007

Won't You Take Me Down To Kobo Town? (CD Review)

Kobo Town: Independence
buy CD/hear samples

Kobo Town is the result, to some extent, of a revelation by founder and bandleader Drew Gonsalves (left). Growing up in Dieto Martin, Trinidad, he hungered for foreign status symbols like running shoes, and was ashamed when his father brought home a new pair of shoes with the label "Made in Trinidad and Tobago."

In the liner notes to Independence, Gonsalves writes about the widespread dismissal of the homegrown in favor of the foreign, and how this music has turned him back to his roots. "Written out of a love for old-time calypso, roots reggae and dub poetry, this record is also driven by a desire to join the effort of those West Indian artists, activists and musicians who have recognized that the wounds in our society run deep into our past, and that recovering a sense of cultural national and spiritual self-worth is a crucial first step in the path toward healing and renewal."

Right. So it's got roots and good motivation. But, I hear you ask, what of the music?
Kobo Town - Independence
Good news on this front, also. Chock full of positive messages, Kobo Town also knows how to lay down a groove, with strong vocals and tight arrangements. Highlights (and there are many) include the domestic violence song "Abatina," with its dark storyline and compelling; "Higher than Mercy," which delivers an anti-war message in lyrics with near-haiku beauty and simplicity; and the anti-tyranny reggae anthem "Blood and Fire." And Gonsalves' shoe story rings loudly in the lyrics of the bright, positive "Beautiful Soul": "All the time, They tellin' the lie, we are what we buy / in the paper, on the poster, in the magazine."

Lovers of old calypso, new ska (like Ska Cubano), and positive vibrations will love the righteous balm of the Caribbean poured through the sounds of Kobo Town.

[mp3] Kobo Town: Beautiful Soul
from the album Independence
band website: www.kobotown.com

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