Musical Road to Womex 2021 – Kobo Town

We’re almost there! In just two days’ time Womex will raise the curtain on its 2021 edition bringing welcoming the world-music world to Porto. All the programmes have been defined (you can find all of them HERE) and showcases announced… So, it was time to reach the end of our Musical Road to Womex as well.

And there was no better way to cover the last miles of a journey spicing them up with some Caribbean upbeats and sunlit mood. That’s why we thought to invite on board some genuine and heartening calypsonians. We are talking about Kobo Town, a band based between Port of Spain and Toronto, which was founded in 2004 by a good old friend of Rhythm Passport, “émigré Trinidadian songwriter” Drew Gonsalves.

The band members are almost ready to release their brand-new album (out in January 2022), so we seized the opportunity to introduce (or re-introduce) them to you with a Q&A and a playlist featuring their calypso-meet-the world sound.

Can you briefly introduce your music to someone who is going to listen to it for the first time at Womex?

Our music is a curious concoction – a veritable everything-soup – of Caribbean sounds….where calypso melodies and ska-driven trombone hooks collide over heavy reggae and soca bass grooves, all amid an interplay of dirty electric guitars with hints of zouk and son montuno.

Who and what are your music influences and where does your sound come from?

Old time calypsonians like the Lord Kitchener and the Mighty Spoiler, 80s dancehall DJs like Yellowman and Eek-a-Mouse, some British ska groups like The Specials, dub poets like Linton Kwesi Johnson, Cuban tresero Arsenio Rodriguez…. to name a few.   Many of us in the band are from the Caribbean, but from very different musical backgrounds – soca, reggae, jazz, metal – and this often lends a fresh intensity and unexpected element to our sound.   

As well as a Worldwide Music Expo, Womex is a good and proper global music fun fair. Is there anything you are looking forward to attending/enjoying during those five days?

I look forward to being reunited with those we have met on our tours – fellow artists, presenters, and especially British music journalists (haha) – it is the only time they are all gathered in one place.  It is an amazing place to discover new sounds and exchange ideas with fellow makers and lovers of music.

This Womex edition will happen in Porto. Have you ever been there and is there anything you are looking forward to doing/visiting/eating or drinking in the Portuguese city?

I have been to Portugal once but never to Porto and this will be our first show there.  My family came to the Caribbean from Madeira in the early 20th century, so I am looking forward to playing music in the land of my ancestors.  I am looking forward to discovering the city but am also hoping along the way to eat some massa sovada (sweetbread) and some bacalau (codfish fritters) – which were the humble contributions of our small ethnic group to the cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago.

It goes without saying that Covid-19, lockdowns and regulations have deeply affected the music world in the last 20 months. How do you think the “post-pandemic” music world is going to unfold and what will be the “new normal” in the world music scene?

I wish I had a crystal ball to see around the corner of the future.  All I can say is that – musically and otherwise – the new will not be normal and that I am curious to see which of the emergency measures adopted in the past two years become a permanent feature of people’s lives.  Nevertheless, I am very happy to be playing live, for physically-present human beings again and hope that our musical future is spent in the company of others with as few digital intermediaries as possible.  

Womex is a unique opportunity to share and showcase your music with new people and let them know about your upcoming projects. Can you reveal to us some of your plans for the future?

We have just finished up a new album called Carnival of the Ghosts which will be released in the early new year.   We also recently wrapped up another record with Calypso Rose – which will feature Carlos Santana, Manu Chao, Mr. Vegas and Patrice – and are looking forward to that release as well.  Another plan is a project bringing together some older and younger calypsonians from Trinidad and the diaspora for an album/tour paying tribute to the great classic calypsos and to present new ones that apply the satirical lens of calypso to the odd and tumultuous happenings of our own strange time. 

Let’s say that you have to draft an invitation card for our readers to join you at Womex and enjoy your showcase. What would you write in it?

Dear holders of the Rhythm Passport,

You are cordially invited to join us at the Praca de Dom Joao at Midnight on Saturday, Oct. 30th to close off an evening and a week of music from around the world, with songs and rhythms from our small part of it.  We are excited to debut new tunes, perform old favourites, and to enjoy the fellowship of our audience and fellow artists after such a long time apart.


Photo ©: Paul Wright



– Check out the previous Musical Road to Womex episodes HERE –