World Music
4:38 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

A Calypso Revival... From Canada

Drew Gonsalves is the musical voice behind the Canadian group Kobo Town. Born in Trinidad, Gonsalves believes that Kobo Town, Trinidad is the exact location, where the musical style known as calypso was created. Gonsalves’ latest release is “Jumbie in The Jukebox.” (a “jumbie” is a Trinidadian spirit which can be frightening or mysterious).

When Gonsalves was 13 years old, his family relocated to Ottawa, Canada. In his song “Diego Martin,” he recalls that journey by fishing boat, initially to Venezuela, en route to Canada. He sings of the pain of seeing his home town vanishing on the horizon, a “sinking Atlantis.”

Although Calypso music was always popular in the Caribbean, it became a world wide sensation in the late 1950s and 1960s. Gonsalves, however, didn’t become involved in the genre until he was overwhelmed by homesickness and began exploring the traditions of his island home. Calypso is like a singing news report, delivered in a very witty, tongue in cheek, and sometimes barbed fashion, and “Jumbie in the Jukebox” doesn’t disappoint. “Mr. Monday” addresses the issue of a homeless man, who is abandoned by all, due to his mental instability. “Joe the Paranoiac” describes a man overwhelmed by fear, prompted by the constant news reports of impending disasters. “Road to Fyzabad” refers to an actual historical event in 1937, when an uprising of peasants against labor injustices spread throughout the British West Indies. It was eventually stopped by the Royal Marines. And the final track, “Tick Tock Goes the Clock,” despite its jaunty rhythm, is quite a literary comment, invoking everything from the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins to the Book of Revelations, and reminding us that all will come to an end.

Essential to the enjoyment of Calypso music are the lyrics, but the music is just as important, with its pulsating percussion, hooting horns and twanging guitars. With young musicians such as Gonsalves bringing this musical style to the forefront again, could we see another Calypso revival? “Jumbie in the Jukebox” topped the World Music charts in July and is now resting very comfortably at number five.

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