May 2006

Kobo town
Presented by Small World Music
May 5, 2006Lula LoungeToronto
Poetry, Music and Motion
by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
The members of Kobotown snake their way through the audience to the stage, a parade of musicians such as you might hear in the historic neighbourhood of the same name in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. Derek Thorne leads the way beating a drum, followed by bandleader Drew Gonsalves playing cuatro and singing, Linsey Wellman playing saxophone, Cesco Emmanuel playing guitar and adding percussion, bassist Patrick Giunta along with drummer Robert Milicevic, striking steel to beer bottle.

Trouping onto the stage, they take their places while continuing to play. I am struck by how African the guitar sounds. They play a tune for all who have “come here from elsewhere to end up in this room in Toronto tonight.” They move on to another featuring the flute, great syncopated rhythms and a solo using all three congas. After this, flautist (and saxophonist) Linsey Wellman asks, “Do you not feel like dancing tonight?” Exactly what I was wondering, this was rousing music.

The swing jazz introduction to “Everybody Waited For Braxton” came as quite a surprise and turned out to be more than just an introduction as the tune continued to cycle seamlessly between reggae and swing.

“Maybe we could take away some of these chairs,” Drew Gonsalves said. “Get some dancing space.” Then, “ah, maybe you’re thinking, I’ve been waiting all night to sit, I’m so glad I have a chair, what a heartless band.” As they launched into an irresistible calypso piece with a skilful rhythmic soprano saxophone people finally did start dancing.

Drew Gonsalves introduced the next piece talking about the history of calypso, or kaiso as it used to be called. It’s main function was to tell the news. “Better than CNN”, he said. “What would you rather listen to?” It was a vehicle for expressing opinions, for satire and for social commentary and an art form in which a facility with words was at least as important as the music. With that, he launched into an eloquent piece about Bush and the war on Iraq.

Kellylee Evans, who had finished her own show earlier that night joined the band for Kobotown’s “Abatina” with its tragic narrative — “You see Harry was a charmer, no one believed that he could harm her” — “in the end Tina was buried in the yard by the church where she was married” — “now we pray that she will forgive us”. Music to dance to? You wouldn’t think so, but well, there was that hypnotic rhythm.

The evening continued with a pan-Caribbean mix of reggae, rock steady, calypso and funk whose vibrations dictated dance. In the end, very few people did not.

Drew Gonsalves

Derek Thorne
Kobotown’s aim is to carry on the tradition of kaiso, following in the steps of people like the Roaring Lion, Mighty Spoiler, Lord Invader, King Radio and Attila the Hun but speaking to the issues of our times and continuing to add to the musical mix. They are doing an excellent job.
The Band
Drew Gonsalves (Lead vocals, cuatro, guitar)
Derek Thorne (congas, percussions, backing vocals)
Cesco Emmanuel (lead guitar, backing vocals)
Linsey Wellman (flute, soprano sax)
Robert Milicevic (Drums)
Patrick Giunta (bass)

We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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