Archive of Swiss News Items

Dec 1, 2014

In memoriam: Ralph 'Ballak' Bowen (19.6.1936-2011.2014)


CH - Panist Ralph Bowen passed away on November 20, 2014. He was suffering from ulcerative colitis since 2008 and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Ever since then, he has faded away and his wife Elli lovingly took care of him.



Left to right: Billy Cobham, Ralph Bowen (the good Ralph), Junior Gill, Ralph Richardson (the bad Ralph)

Ralph was born to Jeannette Ballak and Albert Bowen on June 19, 1936, into a large family. He spent a wonderful childhood in St. James, Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, as he used to talk often about it.

In 1957, he moved to his elder brother Dan in London. His brothers Desmond and Rudy followed soon after. Ralph was working with different companies, until he started to play the second pan in various bands.

The highlight of his musical career was from 1966 to 1978 in St. Tropez. For 12 summer seasons he brought the beautiful sound of the steelpan to locals and tourists in the south of France. Happy pan music was very much appreciated by everyone, in beach bars, villages, at private parties, and on yachts. He even played for Brigitte Bardot, Gunter Sachs and other celebrities.

1980 he met Elli in the Garden Restaurant Nova Park, in Zurich, Switzerland, where he played for 3 months. He also enjoyed gigs in Restaurant and Hotels in Basel, Lausanne and Montreux until 1983, followed by long periods of working in Dubai, Kuwait, Doha, Casablanca until 1989.

Elli and Ralph got married in 1989. They were able to enjoy holidays in Europe, Caribbean, USA, Far East, Australia and New Zealand. In December 2008 colitis Ulcerosa and Alzheimer brought drastic changes to his life. As a result he was unable to associate with loved ones and people he cared about. On Thursday, November 20 at 4:25 p.m. he was released from pain at home.

His lust for life, happiness, kindness, cooperativeness, politeness, timeliness, solicitousness, culinary art, sense of order, his music, and most of all his charming smile will be sorely missed.



On Sunday, November 30, a farewell party was held for Ralph.


l.t.r. Tom Dyett, Junior J. Edwards, Calvin Thomas, Tamla Batra, Walter Chiment, Sterling Betancourt, David Henry, Junior W. Gill.