Pablo Gonsales (30/11/1943 – 02/12/2020)
Dear Friends. Following the loss of our beloved brother and friend Trevor Audley White on 5th November 2020, it is with great sadness that we now advise the many fans of Cymande of the passing of another beloved brother, friend and original member of Cymande, Pablo Gonsales, on 2nd December 2020.
Pablo was born in the island of Jamaica on 30th June 1943. His formal name was “Stanford Tulloch” but to close friends and immediate family he was known as “Paul”. The use of names that differed from the name on a person’s birth certificate was a tradition of Caribbean families of the time. From an early stage in life Pablo became a member of the Rastafarian faith and from then adopted and became known as “Pablo”.
Like most members of Cymande, Pablo emigrated to the UK in the early sixties and lived in the Peckham area of South London. While living in Peckham he established a popular sound system called BATMAN and, not surprisingly, that became the name by which he was known to some people during his sound system days. Perhaps as a result of the influence of his Rasta faith and the predominant use of the congas and other percussion in the music of that faith, Pablo became a fluent and expert conga/bongo percussionist. It was in the context of the local Rastafarian community that prior to his involvement with Cymande, Pablo and Mike Rose met and played together with a Catford based Rastafarian band called Nyah Binghi. It was probably during his time with Nyah Binghi that Pablo developed his unique playing style, which was later to become a major characteristic of the Cymande sound. Cymande fans familiar with the band’s albums of the seventies would be aware of the relevance of the Rastafarian imagery to the presentation of Cymande’s music.
Pablo’s membership of Cymande began right at the point of formation of the band in 1971 when Mike Rose, who had met and worked with Patrick and Steve in Ginger Johnson’s African Drummers and had himself just joined Cymande, introduced Pablo to Patrick and Steve. They had made the decision to add percussion to the band’s developing sound and felt that sound would benefit greatly from having congas; but not just any common conga player. Needless to say, Pablo’s playing style merged perfectly with the Cymande’s evolving style and developing sound and was exactly what the band was looking for. Pablo’s unique playing style made the congas/bongos more than just an accompanying instrument; they became in themselves a feature of the Cymande sound.
Following the recording of the first album titled “Cymande”, and as a result of the fact that Pablo and Mike had contributed several tracks to the album based on the Rastafarian musical styles and sentiments, and also that the name “Pablo” had been cemented as part of his identity, it became necessary to find a surname for Pablo for the credits on the album. Mike then suggested the surname “Gonsales” which Pablo immediately adopted. That explains how a Caribbean man with no Spanish connection ended up with a Latin sounding name. The success of the first Cymande album resulted in a couple of US tours in the seventies during which Pablo was an instant hit with the fans. His playing style and visual image was dynamic and very important to the visual presentation of the band’s music and this was reflected by his position at the front of the stage. He was easily the favourite with the fans. It was during one of the US tours while visiting his family that his Afro-centric brother-in-law gave him the name “Seyoum Alemu Netfa“, which he continued to carry for the remainder of his life. He was truly a man of many names.
In 1973, for various reasons, including the walls put up by the British music industry at the time, and which were built with the bricks of racism, the band reluctantly made the decision to take a break from gigging and “come off the road” for a while. Unfortunately, that intended short break turned out to be some 40 years. However, it afforded Pablo the opportunity to explore further his Rastafarian beliefs in his beloved Jamaica and further explore his song writing. He penned a number of tracks and worked on the score on the film, Burning an Illusion, a well-received black film production of the day. Pablo spent several decades in Jamaica where he immersed himself in the Rastafarian faith and focused on the raising of his children and song writing. Also while in Jamaica, he participated in a number of music projects and worked with several Jamaican musicians and artists. Pablo later returned to the United Kingdom and slowly gravitated back to the music scene, including engaging in the revival and celebration of Cymande’s music in a project with Sam Kelly and Mike Rose with the Cymande All Stars and Cymande II.
Like all the other original Cymande band members, he was excited by the news that the band was, in 2012, contemplating returning to the recording studio for a new album and immediately made himself available. Little did anyone know that the recording in 2014 of Cymande’s “Simple Act of Faith” would turn out to be his final musical legacy. However the band members take much comfort from the joyful experience of having once again shared the stage with a beloved brother during the live promotional tours of 2016 to 2019.
Pablo was one of a kind; a man of strong of beliefs but loyal member of the Cymande brotherhood. His rigid and uncompromising lifestyle reflected those beliefs. Unfortunately, he started to experience medical issues in his later years. He was visiting his beloved Jamaica when it became necessary for him to visit the hospital on 2nd December. It was during that visit that he collapsed and fell into a coma from which he never recovered. Pablo will be greatly missed by his Cymande brothers, family and friends. Touring will no longer be the same without his presence on stage but we will take comfort in the knowledge that his spirit will forever be with us. He leaves to mourn, his wife, children and grandchildren.
Rest in peace brother.