Kobo Town is a Toronto-based group whose music draws its inspiration from traditional calypso, roots reggae and dub poetry. Named after the vibrant and turbulent neighbourhood in old Port-of-Spain where Calypso was born, the group strives to recover the social conscience, satirical storytelling and strong acoustic/organic rhythms that characterized Trinidadian music in the past.
Founded by bandleader Drew Gonsalves, 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.
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. While rooted in old time calypso and various West Indian folk musics, their music also draws heavily on dub poetry, roots reggae, zouk, son montuno, funk and jazz.
Drew Gonsalves is a singer and songwriter whose music blends traditional calypso, dub and reggae. Born and raised in Diego Martin, Trinidad, Gonsalves was keenly interested in music from an early age. As a child he joined the folk choir of his school, which performed Afro-Trinidadian Creole songs and dances such as the jhuba and the belay. Gonsalves' later songs would draw much of their influence from the folkloric music of the West Indies.
As a teenager, Drew emigrated to Canada, and began studying the classical and flamenco guitar, as well as the cuatro, a small four stringed guitar native to Venezuela and Trinidad. While in school, Gonsalves began to write songs dealing with many of the political and social struggles facing the Caribbean. In 1992, he formed a reggae/calypso/funk fusion group called Outcry along with bassist Stuart Watkins and drummer Robert Milicevic. Drawing inspiration from reggae artists such as Steel Pulse, Lintown Kwesi Johnson, Mutabaruka, Yellowman and Peter Tosh,as well as from traditional Calypsonians such as the Roaring Lion, Lord Beginner and the Mighty Terror, Outcry sought to achieve a sound that expressed both the deep roots and vibrant innovations of West Indian protest music.
In 1999, Outcry released the album New World Raging which was received with great enthusiasm in both his native Trinidad and among world music fans throughout Canada. During the same year, Outcry performed at the Blue Skies Folk Festival. Other festival appearances include the Ottawa Urban Music Festival (1998) and the National Capital Tulip Festival (2001). With Outcry, Drew had the privilege of sharing the stage with many distinguished artists including Jamaican reggae giants Third World, Toronto-born soul diva Ivana Santilli, Sudanese Afro-Beat ambassadors Tarik Abubakr and the Afro-Nubians, Cabo Verdese morna singer Fantcha, Cuban rhumberos Klave y Kongo, and Brazilian samba troubadours Cascabulho.