Augustus Pablo

Horace Swaby (June 21, 1954 – May 18, 1999), better known as Augustus Pablo, was a Jamaican reggae singer and keyboardist, popular during the last half of the 20th century. He was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica and learned to play the organ in high school. He also met Clive Chin; the Chin family owned an influential record store in Kingston. Swaby recorded “Iggy Iggy” in Clive’s father’s studio, Aquarius Records. He took the name Augustus Pablo for this recording.

After releasing a few more singles, Pablo came out with “East of the River Nile”, a unique blend of East Asian and Jamaican sounds, and the song became a moderate hit. Augustus Pablo popularized the use of the melodica in Reggae music. He soon joined Now Generation (Mikey Chung’s band) and played the keyboard with them while his friend, Clive, began his own career as a record producer. Pablo and Chin recorded “Java” together, as soon as Pablo quit Now Generation and Clive was able to get the studio time. The song was a massive hit, and launched Pablo’s solo career. He recorded with Chin and arous others, including Leonard Chin, his uncle, and Lee Perry. He scored another smash hit with “My Desire” (John Holt).

Fed up with his lack of income, Pablo formed a label with his brother, Rockers, and released a steady stream of well-received songs, mostly instrumental versions of older hits from Studio One. In spite of his success with Rockers, Pablo’s seminal 1974 album, Rebel Rock Reggae – This Is Augustus Pablo was recorded with Clive and Pat Chin. This was followed by a collaboration with the legendary reggae singer King Tubby to great acclaim, releasing 1975’s Ital Dub.

In the later 1970s, Pablo turned to producing, including the hit “Black Star Liner” (Fred Locks). He also worked with I-Roy, Jacob Miller, Horace Andy and Freddy McKay; this period was eventually commemorated with the critically acclaimed compilation King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown. This was followed by East of the River Nile (1978, Black Ark), another acclaimed hit album.

In the 1980s, Pablo’s career slowed significantly. He had begun to establish an American audience, and released Risin Sun in 1986 to good reviews and sales. He also produced several hit’s, including “Ragamuffin Year” (Junior Delgado). In addition, Pablo toured extensively throughout the world, making a memorable live album in Tokyo in 1987. That same year, Rockers Come East re-established his career, and he began to release a series of critically acclaimed though somewhat inacessible albums in the 1990s, including Blowing With the Wind and also producing several, such as Night and Day (Dawn Penn) and Jah Made Them All (Yami Bolo). Pablo died of a nerve disorder on May 18, 1999.

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