Jumbie In The Jukebox (Cumbancha, 2013)
Cumbancha’s latest world music find is Jumbie In The Jukebox , the band led by Trinidadian singer-songwriter Drew Gonsalves, who is now based in Canada. His album Jumbie In The Jukebox brings together rootsy Trinidadian calypso and soca, Jamaican reggae and modern dub with socially conscious lyrics.
Although Gonsalves grew up listening to rock, calypso was also in his blood and nostalgia sparked a renewed interest in the music of his homeland. “Calypso is the folk music of urban Trinidad,” describes Gonsalves, “it was the music that spoke, not only to us, but like us. It was full of gossip and innuendo and addressed every topic under the sun from every possible angle. And it delivered its ideas with wit and humor. Political song-writing can get so self-righteous and dour, and it was always refreshing to hear it done with a laugh and a smile.”
The band name, Kobo Town, is inspired by the neighborhood where calypso is said to have been born. Kobo Town released a well-received debut album in 2007. Jumbie In The Jukebox , released this year, refers to the jumbie, a spirit in Trinidadian folklore. “A jumbie fulfills many roles,” clarifies Gonsalves. “It’s 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.”
The album was produced by Ivan Duran, who is well known for his Garifuna productions. “I brought the words and tunes, Ivan brought the dirt and the depth,” recalls Gonsalves, “and during our first session at his studio, he placed an old barely-playable electric guitar in my hands and it changed our sound completely. In the sessions, he was always pushing for us to find the right intent for the songs, to create the right mood and to veer off in unintended musical directions.” Jumbie In The Jukebox was recorded between Montreal, Trinidad, Belize and Toronto, where the band is based.
“The recording was like a songwriting session,” Gonsalves says. “Some things came in a flash of inspiration; some came drip by drip, with a lot of crafting and rethinking before the final result. Ivan has a lot of old equipment. Guitars with that twangy 1930s sound, horns with a monophonic quality, stuff that matched the sounds of the calypso albums of the 50s and 60s. It made me think of a jukebox haunted by a jumbie that spits forth various sounds from different eras of Trinidadian music.”
“Ivan and I wanted this album to be a statement about our Caribbean musical heritage and its enduring relevance… and we wanted to find a new voice for our music which could draw and depart from tradition,” he continues. “We made a conscious effort, but one that was quite natural in its own way, to make the music different, a bit more intense. This album is a small, heartfelt tribute to the spirits – both remembered and forgotten – who have gone before us, whose songs and sounds have never lost their power to enchant.”
Jumbie In The Jukebox showcases a wide-ranging set of deeply rooted Caribbean songs.