Among the Polish rock’n’roll poets, it is Pablopavo who is the master of the art of songwriting, claims Grabaż, the leader of bands such as Strachy na Lachy and Pidżama Porno.
Pablopavo (born Paweł Sołtys on 30th March, 1978) grew up in Warsaw’s Stegny district, but since the late 90s, he has has lived in Grochów, a neighbourhood which has been his favourite part of the capital for many years. He has gained recognition as one of the three vocalists of the band Vavamuffin, which makes music that fuses Jamaican pulse with Warsaw street pertness. The energetic ensemble, established in 2003, musically refers to traditional reggae, as well as to the newer styles of dance music that came about in the 80s, such as dancehall and ragamuffin. Pablopavo is Vavamuffin’s ‘middle’ voice, Gorg has the lowest vocal range, and Reggaenerator has the highest.
Pablopavo has collaborated with many bands including Saduba, Magara, and Sedativa, as well as with the dub soundsystem duo Ba-Lan (which, in Vietnamese, means: Poland). He has also teamed up with Sidney Polak, Dreadsquad Sound System from Łódź, and Kapela ze Wsi Warszawa. However, his longest-running musical venture is Zjednoczenie Soundsystem, set up with DJ Krzaq and Reggaenerator in 2001 and still active on music scene. The ensemble has given hundreds of live performances but has yet to release a studio album. Pablopavo made his solo debut in 2009 with the Telehon album, which he'd been working on for two years.
The musician is a supporter of Legia Warsaw football club. Until the end of 2013, he presented the Tramwaj z Pragi (A Streetcar from Praga) programme on the Roxy radio station. He has a great interest in the history of Warsaw, its legends and language, and he is against the demolition of the Palace of Culture. In one of his songs he called for ‘retrieving’ not only the cult Warsaw Moskwa cinema, but also the forgotten Pierwszy Maj /First of May cinema in Grochów, which now houses a supermarket. Pablopavo has published short stories in Rita Baum and Lampa Iskra Boża magazines.
Pablopavo, a graduate of Russian philology, is a connoisseur of Jamaican music and culture. He even used to study the patois language spoken by the inhabitants of Jamaica and the Jamaican diaspora. One of Vavamuffin’s best songs is Poland Story, in which Pablopavo recalls all the great Polish reggae bands and popularizers of the genre in Poland. However, his family roots are important to him with regard to his personal life as well as his musical inspirations.
My family was quite average in terms of communist economic nomenclature; I was neither a poor nor a rich kid on the block. But when you are 15 years old, it is better to be on the side of the rebellious slaves, especially when those on the other side don't make music. I was captivated by the social engagement permeating reggae – declared Pablopavo in an interview for Gazeta Wyborcza.
His interest in Jamaican music was sparked in 1993. He recalls one concert he attended as his most important music experience. It was a gig by the band Transmisja (the first reggae-oriented group in Poland) in the now-defunct jazz club Akwarium. It combined acid jazz, funk, soul, and Warsaw folk. Today, Pablopavo sings along with Transmisja’s vocalist in Vavamuffin and he mixes genres as easily as the frontman of the cult group from Grochów.
For the first time, on the album Telehon recorded with the band Ludziki (which also accompanies Pablopavo during concerts), the musician went beyond Jamaican music and reached for both acoustic and electronic sounds. He also evinced his talent for storytelling. His lyrics are accounts of the lives of Warsaw’s inhabitants: individuals that are unhappy or unfulfilled, those who are in love or suffering disappointment, and often – as befits city ballads – those who face death. The protagonists of Pablopavo’s songs are ordinary people: the unemployed, salesmen, pensioners. With regard to lyrics, Pablopavo’s texts have been compared to those of Grzesiuk or Młynarski. However, the musician recalls the Breakout’s song Oni zaraz wrócą tu/ They are about to return here, as a song that invariably makes a great impression on him, and especially the phrase: ‘wiem, nóż ten był do chleba/ I know, it was a bread knife’.
His second album is even more ‘bloody’. The artist revealed in an interview that the second one is: ‘a rebound of what I do every day with Vavamuffin, where the message oscillates around the idea of ‘let’s go forward, it’s gonna be fine.’ The album 10 Songs is as important as the first one, but better musically and thus satisfying as a whole. With regard to lyrics, Pablopavo alluded to texts by Marcin Świetlicki and Stanisław Staszewski. The characters remained the same (a guy with ‘a heart of gold and pants from Carrefour’ in ‘the broad grassland of Grochów’s backyards), but the most important character was Warsaw, ‘a city which no one cares about’.
Pablopavo and Ludziki further expanded their musical spectrum; in the same year, he and DJ Praczas released a heavy electronic album Głodne kawałki/Hungry Pieces. Alongside the references to Polish music from the 80s, the album features soul songs (Indziej/Elsewhere), electronic (Złoto/Gold), and the most surprising one, Aneta ucieka/ Aneta Escapes, which sounds like it could be taken from The Clash’s eclectic album Sandinista!. There is very little of Jamaica here.
In an interview with T-Mobile Music, the artist explained:
My solo productions are kind of an affair on the side. There is more 'backyard' than Jamaican tradition in it. Both albums will be unacceptable as reggae and as orthodox hip-hop. And the same applies to 'varsavianists', for the records feature modern music, which is sometimes even close to British grime. I address it to people who wish for something weird. People like myself.
Pablopavo’s third album Polor, that premiered on 25th January, 2014, follows the same direction. The same year, Pablopavo received Polityka’s Passport Award.
Author: Jacek Świąder, January 2014, transl.GS, January 2015
- 2005 - Vabang!
- 2006 - Dubang!
- 2007 - Inadibusu
- 2010 - Mo'Better Rootz
- 2013 - Solresol
Pablopavo and Ludziki
- 2009 - Tele-hon
- 2011 - 10 piosenek/ 10 songs
- 2014 - Polor
Pablopavo and Praczas
- 2011 - Głodne kawałki/ Hungry pieces