TT – Having grown up in a pan yard in St James, it is no surprise that Len “Boogsie” Sharpe would turn out to be one of the best arrangers this country has ever seen.
“I live music, that is my life, that is all I know,” says the pan man, whose real name is Lennox Sharpe.
His older cousin oversaw a pan band which was located in the front yard of his family’s home and before he could even walk, baby Boogsie was interacting with the pan. Often time, he would crawl out into the yard and knock the pan with stone after observing his cousin doing so with a hammer.
This earned him several spankings, but one day a well-known pan man from the area intervened and forcefully encouraged the family to allow Boogsie to learn the instrument.
He became a sight to behold when he started to play for a band at age five.
“People used to come around to see this little boy playing this pan.”
In an attempt to help foster his talent, his parents sent him to learn to read and write music, but this didn’t go as planned.
“Well, the first person I went by was a man they called Sel Duncan, he used to have an orchestra long time. He lived about two streets away from me and my parents sent me there to learn to read and write music and the first time I went, whatever he showed me there I went back for the next lesson and he picked me up from what he taught me and it never registered.”
He said that happened about five different times. “He told my parent don’t bring me back because ‘that boy can’t read and write, leave him just so, is a gift the boy has’.”
To this day, he still cannot read or write music. But this never kept Boogsie back.
He continued to develop himself and eventually, he was able to play any pan put in front of him.
At age nine, Boogsie formed his band with a few friends, but this was only as a hobby.
Boogsie didn’t turn back, he went on to arrange for several bands across the country, too many to mention. He also accomplished many feats, among them, winning seven national panorama titles.
Now aged 65, Boogsie spends his time arranging for Hadco Phase 2, located in Woodbrook.
His talent is just one of many nurtured because of the rich Carnival and pan culture in Port-of-Spain and environs.
Other than Phase 2, several other big bands emerged from Port-of-Spain—Renegades, All Stars, Desperados, and Silver Stars. After all, the instrument was invented in the capital city.
As for the future of pan, Boogsie feels that it should be taken more seriously by those in authority to keep it alive.