Tales of Pablo

Ian McCann meets Rockers uptown.

WHERE do you begin to write a piece about Augustus Pablo? You can start with a quote and try to hinge the whole piece around it; you can blather on and on about his career, his influence on the music, or you can just point out that his first LP was called 'This Is Augustus Pablo' and start there. That's what I'm going to do:

This is Augustus Pablo. 1987 saw the first live dates played by the Rockers Band, Pablo's first appearance on the UK stage. Was it just a trial run for something bigger?

"Yeah well, it's better that you just do that first before you jump into something big and just fall down. We do it a small way first and try it out. That's the way I want to go still, go a small way and then come big, that's the way we a fe do it."

Why did it take this long for Pablo to play here?

"It was more than one thing you know whole heap a different things. I work still in Jamaica differently, and everyone is always going over and coming over, so some people have to stay over. You can't have everyone leaving Jamaica and not keeping the fort. You see, when a lot of musicians leave Jamaica and come to England or America they just forget about Jamaica and their mind gets soft and their work gets soft and everything.

"So what happens to the foundation people? You have to have someone holding the vibes. You can't have everyone going out and then coming back with funny influences. You have to have some people holding the vibes. I'm just one of those people; Jah chose me to do that. You can't explain everything as to why it happen that way; everyone expect everyone to come one time but it can't work. Because the time is very long; no man know the limitation of the time, so who is any man to come and say: 'He must come now'? You might come now, you might come next 10 years; we don't really control that part, because I don't see no-one have the power to control music: must be the Creator. So he is the one who is working it out. I couldn't really explain it no other way."

It was a great idea to have Yammy and Mice on the tour, just to emphasise that the serious youth are still coming up and that they can really do it live ...

"First of all Bolo was just supposed to come, Mice was just going to come with us as ... (for experience) but Junior (Delgado) suggested we could just give him a little bly still, so I say 'alright'. True, I love to work with the youths, I don't like to be the one to hold back any youths, I love to give them a chance, that they can see the world and know how it is.

"Most of the youths in Jamaica don't have any guidance, no-one shows them nothing about the music or anything. There's been a lot of breakdown in the music over the past few years, the music has been broken down a lot because you don't have no-one guiding no-one, it's just like left alone and dismantled. Someone have to bring it back, someone has to try. Everybody waiting on the next man to make his move, and nobody's making any move."

Pablo is one of the few producers in JA to consistently work with female singers, and it has been his intention to put out an album with the Rockers women. Has he been able to make any progress with it?

"Oh yeah, I still have it on the way but I kinda put it on hold; true I was working on some bigger projects than that. I'd like to but I can't get it finished up yet, because with Lorna Gee I really wanted to put out some more music with her but I can't really work with her again yet because she'll be in America and I'll be back in Jamaica soon."

Is it lack of time or lack of money that prevents Pablo from getting more projects finished quickly?

"It's more time. It's not really money, because if you have money you can't really get a lot of things done still. If you have money you can't rent a house in Jamaica now, so it's not money. We have to set a foundation first, if we don't set a foundation, me and Junior, how can we help anyone, how can the plan go through? So we have to do our things first. If we try to help them first, it might end up worse, all of us broke and can't no-one help no-one."

Tell us about Icho Candy; the 'Babylon' single on Rockers is incredible ...

"I know him a coupla years still, even before he started recording for anyone else, I know him from when I used to live in the hills, when I used to be in Mo'Bay and those places. Over those years I was producing but at that time I didn't have the full strength of the money, to deal with him or certain things. But I usually listen him, hear him sound and all those things, but I couldn't put it out.

"Couple of years after I saw him do a tune and it was a hit in Jamaica, not a number one but it sold and the people recognise him. 'Captain Selassie I', that song. I love him style still because him sing original songs, him not really come with too much of an imitation thing, and him voice sound very good. I working on an album with him right now slowly but surely. I'm working on him and Ruffy and Tuffy, two twin youths. I'm taking them stage by stage. Everything get more expensive day by day, so you have to know how you're dealing with it."

Ruffy and Tufty have been working the sounds in Jamaica for a long time, like Gemini. But they didn't have anything released on record until 'Take One Step' on Rockers?

"No, no, they did recording for themselves, it was released on a label in America, they do a production for a man in Texas I think, they released a disco with them called 'Third World War', something like that. I've known them over the years, but it's just since the past two I start meditating and I work wit them still."

You're still working with Tetrack, you've had that single 'You're Gonna Lose' ...

"Well, the group together right now but one of them is in Jamaica and two of them is in America. They're not separated but they migrate to America with their families. So I don't know how they're gonna work out their things right now, but they're still together in that sense of unity, but they're just apart. The lead singer is in Jamaica, and I'm trying to work out something with him but I don't know if it can work much that way because I prefer us work with the group."

Is he just as happy producing a 'lovers' record as he is a 'roots' one?

"If you listen good the lovers rock that I produce are a little bit different to most of the lovers rock I hear people singing. Is more towards the reality side of it, not just singing towards a woman and saying 'I love you' and these thing, it's more coming from the heart in a different way. 'Cause most of the songs you hear them sing about lovers rock ... well, I don't know if I should go into it here but ... the girls say to me in London 'You like Maxi Priest?' and I say 'Yeah, I like how him sing still', but the people here, the public kinda like the cultural or revolutionary type of music more, it like it reach them more ... because lovers rock, it only goes so far, the girls feel good, but what about the man? So all the girls say 'Yeah', but that means he's just singing for the girls. He's forgetting about himself.

"The woman now, they don't like too much of the harsh music because like a woman say to me, 'Junior sing too much harsh music', and I say 'what do you mean by harsh?' and she say 'Maybe he should mix up more lovers rock y'know' (laughs).

"So I say 'Well, everyone have their own opinion', because when people tell you different things then you know how to set it even better, to please everyone then.

"But we don't come fe really change to please everyone, because if you do that, you're gonna be listening to everything that they are saying and forget about the direction that you get from the Father so we don't really want to deal with that, because sometimes the Father send people to really direct the people and lead them in that direction, because a lot of people are just dizzy, they're not really together in any way now. So sometimes the Father direct people to just sing out that way, not in the sense of a leader, but to set an example through the music."

It is Pablo's singular direction that has enabled him to survive the fashions and vagaries of the music business, and still be strong and unmistakeably his own man. With Pablo, the direction is always forward. Maybe it's about time a few more people recognised that.


This article originally appeared in the 2 January issue of Black Echoes, 1988.