“Jumbie in the Jukebox” generally isn’t the kind of album I’d pick up on my own. I rarely browse through music sections outside of my mainstays; rock, heavy metal, punk. But every once in a while I listen to something, usually on a recommendation (or threat) from a friend, that makes me re-think my listening strategy. Kobo Town’s new album definitely falls into this category… and no, I wasn’t threatened.
A quick history lesson: Kobo Town is fronted by Drew Gonsalves, a Trinidadian-Canadian who came to Canada when he was 13 years old. A sudden move and slight culture shock precipitated a feeling of nostalgia and homesickness that caused Gonsalves to read and learn about his Trinidadian heritage. Specifically, Gonsalves spent a lot of time enjoying calypso music. Fast forward to 2004, Kobo Town is formed in Toronto by Gonsalves with some fellow ex-Trinidadians and in 2007 they released their debut album “Independence”.
Admittedly, I don’t know much about calypso. Brief research tells me that calypso is the traditional folk music of Trinidad. Every track on this album would definitely strike me as “island flavored” although I’m not sure how authentic the music fits the style. Gonsalves has said about his music, “I’m not sure I should call it calypso,” he says. “It is calypso inspired and derived, but it’s a conscious departure from the way it developed back home.” I know even less about what a jumbie might be, but luckily Gonsalves explains that too. “A jumbie fulfills many roles. Its used to frighten children, sort of like boogie man. It evokes a sense of mystery about the world and all of the strange forces that influence its course.”
Now, ignorance aside, when I listen to something that is not within my usual scope of music I can only judge it purely on how it makes me feel. I can’t extol or denounce any of the topics of the songs on the album, nor criticize the way the instruments are played but overall, “Jumbie in the Jukebox” makes me dance in my seat. When listening to this album for the first time, I found my feet tapping on the floor along with the beat. Upon second listen, I was humming and whistling along with the songs and when I stopped the music I would continue to sing through to completion. A couple of my favorite tracks from the album include “Mr. Monday” as the song slowly builds with percussive instruments and a swaggering guitar riff until the whole band joins in, singing together. “Half of the Houses” reminds me strongly of reggae music with a little trombone part that consistently gets stuck in my head. “Road to Fyzabad” conjures images of conga-line dancers and is the song that urges me to get up and dance more than any other. Truthfully, there’s no song I found myself wanting to skip. The album is energetic and flows together incredibly well.
“Jumbie in the Jukebox” comes out this Tuesday, April 23 hopefully with tours across Canada to follow. Listen in to Operation Manatee this Tuesday as well and I’ll be playing one of these tracks.