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Augustus Pablo

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St. Andrew, Jamaica (June 21, 1954 – May 18, 1999)

Horace Swaby (June 21, 1954 – May 18, 1999), better known as Augustus Pablo, the melodica king, was a Jamaican and record producer and keyboardist, active from the 1970s onwards. He was perhaps the first person to use the melodica as a viable musical instrument.

He was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica and learned to play the organ in Kingston College School. It was at that point an unnamed girl lent him the melodica. Fascinated by the instrument, Pablo rarely put it down. He also met Herman Chin Loy; 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 (an instrument used primarily to teach children music in the Jamaican public schools) 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” (1972) together, as soon as Pablo quit Now Generation and Clive was able to get the studio time, the instrumental was a massive hit, and launched Pablo’s solo career. He recorded with Chin and various others, including Leonard Chin, his uncle, and Lee Perry. He scored another smash hit with “My Desire” (John Holt).

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