In Dub We Trust
ISIS AND ADDIS REMEMBER THEIR FATHER, LEGENDARY DUB MUSICIAN AUGUSTUS PABLO
STORY: ANICÉE GADDIS PHOTO: PROVIDED
Jamaican melodica player Augustus Pablo is one of dub’s founding fathers whose 1976 album King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown is often considered to be one of the most important illustrations of the genre. He also started the legendary record label and record shop Rockers International in downtown Kingston on Orange Street, commonly known as "beat street," during the ‘60s when Jamaican music like Ska, Rock Steady, and Rockers was king. His children Addis and Isis are not only keeping his legacy alive but continuing in his footsteps through their own musical expressions. In celebration of Augustus’s 62nd birthday, we spoke with Isis and Addis about the musical synergy, cultural birthright, and spiritual inheritance of the man who guided and nurtured their early love of dub.
Your father, Augustus Pablo, is one of dub’s founding members. How do you help keep that important legacy alive?
Isis: My father as Augustus Pablo is enough to help me keep pushing for my artistic, musical, and entrepreneurial goals. So it isn’t a struggle to keep his legacy alive because his legacy is amongst us in conversations; his message and music dictates his longevity. I manage his Facebook account with Addis and recently launched www.rockersinternational.com. Rockers International is my father’s famed label and record shop based out of Kingston, Jamaica. So his legacy lives on in Jamaica and throughout the world. In addition, I am a DJ and producer, so that's another outlet for me to push my father’s legacy and learn more about what I want to create as a performer. Honestly, I feel like he travels with me everywhere I go, meaning his spirit. In 2014, I toured in Japan on behalf of his Rockers International productions and it led the way to my monthly Japanese tour. I felt his influence and love strongly during that time in my life.
Addis: I have been doing music for at least 10 years, learning and researching the music my dad created called ‘rockers’ which created the foundation for dub because of the musicianship which he and fellow musicians and engineers like King Tubby, Prince Jammy, etc. made. So learning all of this is in all of my efforts. I try to make the same effort in creativity and livity which can be nostalgic for myself and for others so my main way is by being alive to represent my father and his legacy in this modern time.
What are the plans for his 62nd birthday tribute in Kingston this June?
Addis: We have a 3 day weekend planned starting from the 16th of June at EDB Vinyl Thursday’s following with a Record Shop pre-opening at our Rockers International Record shop on Orange Street, the Mecca of record shops in the founding years of Ska, Rocksteady, and Rockers. Finally, we will host a live stage show with performances by Original Rockers International singers like Spliffy Dan and White Mice and the new generation Rockers artists Kelissa, Keida, Exile Di Brave as well as myself alongside the Inna Di Yard Band and more guests.
What are some of your best childhood memories of seeing your father play live?
Addis: I saw my dad perform many times. Some of the moments were on long journeys to places like St. Thomas in Jamaica by the bath fountain and having good food from the community and of course seeing my dad mash up the show. But, honestly it’s a blur the amount of events and shows he did. I did always want to go on tour with him but never got to do that. Overall, every moment we shared as a family at home or on the beach at Hellshire was a blessing.
Isis: Since I lived in the U.S. with my mother, I would only visit my father on holidays and some summers. One time, when I visited my father in Jamaica, it was around my birthday or just after my birthday, and he wanted to throw a party for me and my brother. I didn’t have many friends in Jamaica at the time. I was an only a child. So the party ended up being for the adults with live music, ital food, and his friends. I had to go to sleep at 9 p.m. But I remember seeing my father commit himself fully to music and bring joy to me and his friends. My father was a very kind and giving person. I always remember him sending me gifts from his travels and being thoughtful by writing me letters and cards.
He played a rare and unique instrument, the melodica, and you chose to play the same Addis. Tell me about that decision.
Addis: This decision for me was very organic in that I didn’t plan on playing it. I always loved the sound because it’s my father's sound that I knew before I was even born. It’s like the soundtrack to my life so at the age of 15 I started to play with the encouragement of my dad’s close friends like Binghi Kojo. For me, it’s a form of healing and meditating as well as a way to express a message.
It’s been said that as a performer, Augustus was sometimes shy in the studio, but that he would come alive on stage.
Addis: I could say my dad was quiet and kept to himself but he could also be loud and excessive vocally as well having a good sense of humour when he was with his bredrens.
Isis: I think my father and I are similar. Maybe we are both shy in moments but have our bold moments when we perform. I would say on stage for him, he would be focused and come to life even more because he was serious about his music.
Can you talk about your father’s commitment to the Rasta faith and how that impacted his lifestyle and music?
Addis: My dad’s livity was totally Rastafari. His music, his sound, his life were all based around the movements of Rastafari. He was devoted to his livity totally. He would always give all credit and praise to the Most High H.I.M. (Haile Selassie) crediting H.I.M. as the producer and composer of all his albums and works. He was a kindhearted person, hard-working, and strong-willed, all of which was part of his character and livity as a Rastafarian.
Isis: My father lived fully in Rastafari and deep in his music. It was his embodiment and his way. He knew this was his mission for his life. I would see him work on his music and smoke herb daily and spend time in meditation.
He was there, right in the mix, during the rise of Rasta culture, and then when Jamaica became independent in 1962. Did he ever talk about those early days?
Addis: He may have spoken about it during reasoning with bredrens, however, as I said, my dad was quiet in terms of talking about things he may have witnessed or done. He was more meditative and would reason on current issues and even possible future events.
Tell me about the continuation of the reggae movement that was birthed in the 1960s and how it has evolved through to the present day.
Addis: The continuation of the reggae movement is in harmony with the movement of Rastafari which can be seen throughout the world with the emergence of many reggae artist groups and Rastafarians who have been influenced by the works birthed in the 1960s in some way or another. The Eco-friendly, organic food, and medical marijuana movements, which are growing across the world, are a reflection of the evolution of the works of Rastafari and its musical message in the form of reggae through the people which have been influenced by these works.
Isis: I grew up with my mother and father as Rastas. I feel like in the ‘90s it was very community based in DC and Baltimore where I was. It was a memorable time in my life being around my godmothers and godfathers and that community of like-minded, strong-minded, and spiritual individuals. They had a sense of community and values to build each other up through supporting each other with raising kids and helping with daily activities. In the modern day 2000s, it's kind’ve trendy for some to join the Rastafarian culture but if it connects to a person’s soul and it's genuine, that's a beautiful thing. I grew up Ethiopian Orthodox and spent a lot of time following that path as a child under my mother’s supervision. I relished the spiritual values which is what Rastas are a part of as well.
How do you, as young creatives, borrow from and evolve the teachings of your father?
Addis:I am greatly influenced by my father’s works and the works from his time in the approach they took to creating and composing and sharing the message and sounds inspired by the Most High. So what I borrow is the organic selfless approach to playing my father’s music and creating my own.
Isis: I honestly used his motivation, spirituality, and determination to keep doing my music. When I was attending Dubspot, a private music school which was my first time ever getting a hands on experience with music production, I felt discouraged. But I thought of my father and his work ethic and love for what he did and that pushed me to follow through on my musical commitments. As well, I had some gigs, and it was very trying times where I felt like giving up, but the spirit from my mother and father really empowered me to stick to this path of creation and believing in the beauty of it even during the most trying times.
Isis, you mentioned that you are currently working on a film related project. What is the subject and when can we expect to see it?
Isis: Currently, I'm planning on developing a documentary on my father's life but more from fans’ perspectives and the core of the love that comes from Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia. So it will be interesting to document his influence throughout the world. This man and our father called Augustus Pablo who was able to add so much joy and peace to other’s lives whom he has never met. I have met some of his fans and they cried telling me stories about his meaning in their life. And there's great value in that story and I want to go further to do more in the namesake of my father's legacy. But I want to do it the right way, with appropriate backing and planning because it's his legacy that will live on through conversation and sound.
Isis and Addis, what is the latest music you are working on and are there upcoming tour plans?
Addis: I am currently working on my sophomore LP Creation Sounds which is set to be released on VP/Greensleeves Records featuring original music as well as covers of some of my favorite compositions from my dad like "Java," "East of the River Nile," and "The Day Before the Riot."
Isis: I'm doing a mini tour in August 2016 to promote my EP Naked Lunch and doing selective DJ sets along the East Coast that will be managed by my label/agency Someguysenterprise. Naked Lunch has an experimental trip-hop influence and is named after William Burrough’s novel. I'm working on new music with other artists in reggae and alternative/experimental music and re-releasing Naked Lunch with a few new songs on a limited vinyl run.
How do you both feel about the increasing international embrace of reggae and the culture surrounding it?
Addis: It’s very good to know that the works of Rastafari can be seen and felt throughout the world. Its growth can only have a positive effect on the minds and lives of the people who listen to it as it has been doing since its early development.
What do you think is the most important thing your father contributed to Jamaican culture?
Addis: I think my dad’s use of such a unique instrument and sound contributed a different way of approaching music and life – to take something people might have never considered as a serious musical instrument and to have created some of the most serious instrumental music to ever be created with his mystical sound. He helped to expose a style of music which would go on to influence hip-hop, drum and bass, EDM as well as the music of artists he worked with like Jacob Miller, Hugh Mundell, and Yami Bolo. He was one of the first if not the first producer of these and many more artists, engineers, and musicians.
Isis: The most important thing my father contributed has been a work ethic that truly led the way for other artists to use as a model; his vision was clear which is needed as an artist. He was a visionary and like most visionaries, they are misunderstood and underlooked sometimes. I know he felt he didn't get his rightful credit or monetary compensation, but his work is priceless to the world. As for Jamaica, it was his home. It shaped my father but the beauty of my father wasn't limited by an island. He had a big vision to travel and see more and expand his experiences and his mind; that's the contribution right there, to inspire others to do more. If it is to learn an instrument such as the melodica or to learn how to sing, my father encouraged a lot of new artists to work on their craft, some of whom didn't always know they had the ability, but he believed in their abilities.