Boogsie, pan prodigy

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.

Len “Boogsie” Sharpe plays a tune at the Phase 2 pan yard in Woodbrook. Chester Sambarno

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.