Calypso lives on in Kobo Town
Written by David Dupont   
Monday, 02 September 2013 17:46
Drew Gonsalves grew up in Port of Spain, Trinidad surrounded by calypso.
The greatest calypso performer Lord Kitchener lived down the street. “Calypso was everywhere,” Gonsalves said in a recent telephone interview. And while Gonsalves didn’t turn a deaf ear to the music, he like many of his peers found themselves drawn to rock and heavy metal. “I really didn’t appreciate it,” Gonsalves.
Still calypso had planted its seed.
When he was 13, he mother brought him and his siblings back to her native Canada.
Then he heard the music in a new, strange and cold environment, and the warmth of nostalgia led to him to consider his homeland’s signature song with a new ear.
At 18 he traveled back for a visit to Trinidad. On the Kobo Town website he recalls: “I was blown away by the cleverness and the wit of these calypsonians and also their engaging interplay with the audience. I had never experienced anything like it and, from that point on, calypso was always on my mind.”
His first band though was more a reggae band. It wasn’t until he moved to Toronto, and fell in with some fellow ex-patriots that calypso took center stage, and Kobo Town was born.
The band came together first in the studio and began touring in 2006.
Performing in Canada he had no choice but to reach out to a general audience, finding fans at festivals and among students.
Gonsalves is no calypso purist. There is no such thing as pure calypso, he maintains. It’s always pulled in popular styles to help get its message across.
That message has a political edge. Gonsalves said he never writes with a message in mind, rather lets the songs spin themselves out.
The song “Trial of Henry Marshall” tells of an innocent man sentenced to die on the gallows. The story revealed itself to him, Gonsalves said.
“That’s generally how songs will come to me in the form of a story and a melody.”
He uses a large musical contingent to tell those tales, usually six, sometimes swelling to eight pieces.
The sextet he’s bringing to Bowling Green includes a trumpet and trombone. “I find it adds a connection to older calypso,” he said. “Brass has an ability to punch out the melodies in a forceful way that would be hard to imitate on another instrument.”
Last Updated on Monday, 02 September 2013 17:51

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