Tue | Apr 7, 2020

Rockers International revamps brand

Published:Tuesday | October 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMSade Gardner/Gleaner Writer
Rockers International
Ainsworth 'Mitchie' Williams, manager and curator at Rockers International.

Come next February, Orange Street will get a facelift when Rockers International Records rolls out its refurbished building under the name Rockers International Vinyls and Museum. The historical site, founded by veteran reggae singer Horace 'Augustus Pablo' Swaby more than two decades ago, recently underwent a name change from Rockers International Records.

"We want to make the Rockers brand similar to a GraceKennedy or Facey Commodity, so this is how we are choosing to market it," curator at the museum Ainsworth "Mitchie" Williams told The Gleaner. "We are looking at having the official launch in February next year so it falls in line with Reggae Month,"

The museum will feature artefacts from Pablo's life and career like his prized melodica (a keyboard harmonica), which he popularised in roots and dub music. "He was the first person to make melodica a lead instrument, and he was really well-known, especially outside Jamaica, as a dub pioneer," said Williams. He added, "Once you step inside the shop, you'll enter the museum, so everything will be in your eyesight. The records will be there, all of Pablo's songs and catalogues, his old instruments and microphone stand, and even merchandise."

Pablo was 46 years old when he died of a nerve disorder in 1999. He cofounded the Rockers Label in 1972 with his brother Garth Swaby and is remembered for projects like Skanking Easy, East of the River Nile, and Dub Organiser.

Williams, who has been serving as one of the store operators since Pablo's death, hopes to keep the business alive as long as possible. Plans are afoot to construct a recording studio as Rockers International Vinyls and Museum rests on the same property where Dennis Brown was born. Several entertainers like Shaggy, Tarrus Riley, Richie Stephens, and most recently, Beres Hammond, have utilised the space for music videos. Williams credits this to the building's aesthetics.

"The demand for videos is high. People come here because they love the appeal, and there is a real need for that authentic look right now," said Williams. "One of the things that helped us along the way to survive in this digital age was we never modernised the shop. We keep it old - as ancient as possible. So although we are renovating it now, we still try to keep that old look because people from all over the world love it."