Friday, June 11, 2010

Golden Seal

Here's a real find, some footage of two great departed reggae artists. Augustus Pablo, of course, was the genius who found the eerie heart of an unassuming little instrument called the melodica, and Hugh Mundell was the haunted-voiced teen prodigy who collaborated with Pablo on the ghostly Rasta protest album, Africa Must Be Free By 1983.

After cutting the album, Hugh ended up living in San Francisco for a time at a notorious punk rock house on Oak and Fillmore, along with some friends of ours, so we got to know him a little bit and caught a lot of his local gigs. He was still very young, but his voice was starting to deepen while retaining its childlike innocence. He seemed like a really nice kid.

Eventually, it was time for Hugh to go back to Jamaica. Maati and I had caught the news that Augustus Pablo was suffering from some sort of undiagnosed illness that wasn't being treated because he was a hardcore Rastafarian who had no use for Western medicine. We thought we ought to do something to help, so we bought a big bag of goldenseal at the health food store to give to Hugh with the instructions to make sure Pablo got it.

All too soon after that, we got the awful news that someone shot Hugh in his car in Kingston for reasons that have never been confirmed. We grieved for the boy we hardly knew who'd crossed our path, and we cursed the violence that robs us of so many who could give us all so much more. We wondered if he had ever had a chance to see Pablo before his senseless murder.

Many years later, a new Augustus Pablo album came out. One of the tracks was titled "Golden Seal". We were stunned. Thank you Hugh Mundell, and thank you Augustus Pablo. I hope we made some small difference in your all-too-short lives.


Davis Jones said...

Wow! Neo! You and Matti did some really cool things before she passed. Bless her soul.

How sad this young boy was killed. I think some people are just jealous and angry of one another, and unfortunately, mainline cultures give them weapons and violent movies to train a predictable response.

Americans are having this training now as well. How do we get rid of those who program us so hatefully?

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

An amazing story. I'm most familiar with Augustus Pablo through King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown.

The death of the young musician is horrible- The Harder they Come was just a movie, there was no need to make it a prophecy.

J Neo Marvin said...

People, particularly white American hippies, have a tendency to forget that the reason there are so many reggae songs preaching peace and love is because Jamaica is such a horrifically, brutally violent place. When Culture or the Wailers or Hugh Mundell sing about "fussing and fighting", it's the ultimate euphemism. Peace isn't just a lofty ideal, it's something they're desperate for, which is why the passion in the songs is as deep and moving as it is. We need to respect where that's coming from and not take it for granted.