NXNE Review: Jaffa Road, Kobo Town, June 17, Bread & Circus

Toronto – Now in its 16th year, it’s clear that NXNE has become an increasingly important landmark on the musical calendar. Just trying to decide what shows to go to on any given night is a daunting task. This year it was important for me to make sure that I not only checked out bands I had never heard before, but preferably at venues I had never seen before. As great as the old stomping grounds are, it’s nice to check out what the other Toronto spots have to offer.

This made it a natural fit for me to check out a bit of the world music line-up at Bread & Circus. As someone who regularly frequents Kensington Market, I’m sadly unfamiliar with many of their night spots. The Bread & Circus is the kind of cozy place that immediately resonates with me. There’s a small but well put together bar in the front, and at the back there is a separate room with a stage. The seating at the back allows people to get their dance-in-the-chair groove on, and there’s enough standing room in front of the stage for others to get their dance-in-their-shoes groove on.

Jaffa Road is world music that fuses poetry in Hebrew, Spanish, and English. They’re sound is an eclectic one that draws upon Indian, Arabic, and Jewish themes. The band has been garnering a lot of attention lately with the release of their debut album Sunplace receiving a Juno nomination for world music album of the year. It certainly felt like lead singer Aviva Chernick was letting her hair down after these recent successes and just enjoying playing a low-key community venue. As eclectic as their musical influences are, it all just seemed to work. The blend of instruments like the stringed Middle-Eastern Ud combined with some Indian-inspired flute made for a fun and exploratory set of music.

Jaffa Road will be playing a free concert at Nathan Phillips Square at 5 pm on Sunday June 27 as part of the Toronto Jazz Festival.

The next band was Kobo Town, fronted by Trinidadian-Canadian Drew Gonsalves. This band draws its influences from traditional calypso, roots reggae, and dub poetry. As a Canadian with Trini roots myself, it was absolutely essential that I check this show out. I love calypso music, and am still figuring out how exactly I’m going to get plugged into the West Indian community in Toronto. Checking out this show seemed like a pretty good start.

The music that Kobo Town creates is both fun and dance-friendly. It’s got the syncopated beats of Caribbean music, combined with some tasteful brass that warms up the sound. The lead singer is an easily likeable musician with a good sense of ukulele rhythm. After dancing for the entire set, the crowd was more than a little disappointed with the strict 40 minute time limit imposed by these types of showcases. Like the rest of the crowd, I was hoping for some more of this Island music. I look forward to seeing Kobo Town play a proper set where they can stretch their legs.

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, North By Northeast