Augustus Pablo - Message Music

A Java Instrumental (Version) – Augustus Pablo
Butter Pon Dem Mouth Version – Augustus Pablo
Ammagiddeon Dub – Augustus Pablo
Missing Link – Augustus Pablo
Missing Link Dub – Augustus Pablo
Credential Instrumental – Augustus Pablo
Culture Rule Dub – Rockers International Band
War Dub – Pablo All Stars
Run Come Yah Version – Augustus Pablo
Kidd Lane Specially – Augustus Pablo & Benbow
Anzania - Blacka Black – Augustus Pablo
Blacka Black Dub – Pablo All Stars
Revolution Dub – Pablo All Stars
Seven Winds From Zion – Augustus Pablo
Isis - Addis Rock Dub – Rockers All Stars
Poor Mans Cry Dub – Rockers All Stars

In the 70s Augustus Pablo seemed to appear, like a vision from another world. His music was ethereal, evocative, and unique. There has not really been anyone like him, before or since. His music was deeply meditative, conjuring up all sorts of mystical and exotic images, but imbued with the dignity inherent in his Rastafarian faith. Ho now stands recognised as Jamaica's best-known lead instrumentalist.

The very name Augustus Pablo was perfect. originally the name had been used by producer Herman Chin-Loy as a common front for a series of keyboard players; so although not strictly his name in the beginning, he fitted so perfectly onto the role that he came to occupy it permanently. The more mysterious his image, the more evocative and powerful his music seemed to become. A normally taciturn man. Pablo could never be described as talkative at the best of times but preferred to let his music speak for him. In the November of 1987 I saw him play live with the Rockers band in London at the Astoria venue where the concert took the form of a review; appearing with vocalist Yami Bolo, White Mice and Junior Delgado, as well as fronting the band to perform an instrumental set, he was reluctant to assume the limelight appearing more comfortable to allow his chosen vocalists step forward.

By the mid 1980s Pablo had become a lot more 'visible', a lot less fashionable and a little of his 'mystique' had rubbed off. In the 1970s his own music sold in vast quantities for reggae product and he became a mainstay as an instrumentalist session player on many Jamaican recordings. In tandem with this session work he built a unique catalogue of music for a variety of his own labels such as Rockers, Rockers International, Message and Yard. This album deals with Pablo's instrumentals and dubs from around the mid-80s to the 90s as we think it is time to present a re-examination of this slightly overlooked period of his musical output. Clearly things had changed for Pablo and many others in the Jamaican music scene in the post-digital era. There was far more of a reliance on technology than there had been in the recent past. Pretty much everything that came after the runaway success of 'Sleng Teng' and its progeny meant playing by a different set of rules. Although Pablo was comfortable with many of the innovations introduced by digital recording methods, like many artists from the reggae scene in the 70s he still preferred, where possible, to record instruments and musicians in a 'live' setting.

The Simmons electronic drum kit, developed in the UK by Dave Simmons, was a useful addition to the kits of the more adventurous Jamaican drummers; Sly Dunbar in particular used it to great effect on live shows as well as in the recording studio. Style Scott from the Roots Radics band occasionally used a Simmons kit, but for the most part he still tended to prefer the analogue drum kit to create his signature 'dry' drum sound that had rocked dancehalls in the early part of the eighties. Pablo used the 'Simmons' sound on his productions with Junior Delgado and Delroy Williams. You can detect the Simmons on 'Forward Revolution' and 'War Version' both included on this set. Pablo moved on to integrate drum machines, such as the Linn drum and the Oberheim DX into an extended choice of studio percussion.

The Linn and Oberheim DX drum machines were both very popular in Jamaica and had started to revolutionise drum sounds almost as soon as they appeared in the marketplace. It was ironic that although many musicians loved this new technology their arrival virtually ended the long and proud tradition of 'live' group recording sessions in Jamaica. The recording process became an activity with less interplay between musicians and more of a 'layering' job crafted by one or two individuals at a time with the 'producer' in the background directing the music. It became far less about getting the perfect 'take' of a track and more about constructing the music little by little to achieve the desired end product - the sometime serendipitous effects of trial and error were all but eliminated.

Something was lost for sure and the days of spending endless hours positioning microphones around the drum kit has become a lost art. however much was also gained as the means of production became more accessible and the door was now open for new waves of artists and producers to revitalise the Jamaican recording scene in unexpected ways.

So where was Pablo in all of this and how did he embrace the available technology at the time? he was fortunate in that he was now in a position where he could afford the necessary equipment he needed to make music. But as a creator of instrumental music he was often at odds with the spirit of the times, which was for the most part dominated by the sound and agenda of the Jamaican dancehall. That scene did not really suit ethereal instrumentals. Pablo, ever the individual, kept his own productions alive by producing roots vocalists and getting to grips with the new sounds at his disposal.

He did not abandon the idea of the melodica as a lead instrument and now and again, when the mood and time suited, he could still cut the occasional killer instrumental. 'Missing Link' is a powerful example of this. It has all the trademark Pablo characteristics but is most definitely powered along by an 'electronic' drum sound. The acoustic percussion is most likely 'Scully' or Benbow Creary. Though it is clear that the melodica had now become only part of his creative input, the keyboard synthesizer now offered Pablo many sound options and he was keen to explore them all.

On the instrumental cut to 'Credential'. which started life as the b-side to Willie Williams vocal cut by the same name, his playing is sensitive and full of 'feel'. It's an electronic drum sound mixed with 'live' analogue playing and the melodica he chooses as lead instrument. It works nicely and is one of his last great melodica instrumentals, recorded around 1994 and released on his Rockers label.

One other idea that Pablo used frequently during his 'electronic' period of recording was varying his use of percussion, in particular the hand drums and 'funde' drum. This move tended to give his music a more organic feel, by softening the barrage of the electronic drums and keeping the music on the roots side of the musical spectrum. An intuitive move on his part to stay in touch with his past and yet keeping the music contemporary.

Pablo returned to 'Java', his first and most famous instrumental, on various occasions and although it's difficult to compare the earlier 70s cut with what we have on this album Pablo clearly had enough enthusiasm and 'vibe' to want to return to this treasure of a tune. The Pablo re-cuts included here are 'Butter Pon Dem Mouth' which is the version of Junior Delgado's militant vocal by the same name. there is also the more stripped down 'A Java Instrumental' which is the version to Blaka T's vocal 'Run Come Yah'. This last version has the more familiar lead melodica back in place. It's a radical departure from the original Pablo cut with Clive Chin in the 70s but it has its merits. It's dynamic enough to have become an in demand tune in more recent times and is popular with a younger more 'electronically' orientated audience once again.

In essence this album is about an artist coming to terms with the digital or electronic age and still managing to maintain the main ingredient of what his music was all about. With the passing of time it's time to re-check Pablo's digital output and learn how he kept alive the inherent 'message' in his music. His musical spirit was second to none. A mighty artist and one of the few genuinely original instrumentalists to have emerged since the last golden age of jazz; he kept his musical legacy intact without resorting to gimmicks or becoming lost in what was undoubtedly a difficult time for him as an artist. his enthusiasm for his chosen art was kept alive by a brightly burning inner guiding light that never dimmed, drawn from a higher force in which he held a passionate belief. No one who ever met this humble yet diffident character could ever doubt he was the 'real thing'. He passed in May of 1999 but his music lives on.

Pete Holdsworth

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