Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Message from (Boogsie sharpe) a Master

‘Boogsie’ – playing 'My Way" solo on Double seconds

By NASSER KHAN Sunday, March 16 2008
Affectionately known as “Pip” to his close friends (as in “Pip and the Convict” he says), Lennox “Boogsie” Sharpe, 54, is one of TT’s most gifted — “God-given” he acknowledges — talents in the steelpan arena. He is generally acknowledged as one of the greatest steelpan players, if not the greatest ever.

The five-time Panorama arranger winner (winner of three of the past four Panorama finals), plans to catch up with his good friend Jit Samaroo’s nine wins and has a burning desire to three-peat — a goal that has eluded him on two occasions. He is motivated by this goal so we can look forward to his presence in the coming years, he insists.

Lamenting on the on-going sad state of facilities for the national instrument and the treatment meted out to pannists in general, Boogsie hopes that the powers-that-be will come together to truly brand the national instrument and protect all the rights that go with its invention and innovation (proprietary, intellectual, etc).

He hopes they can develop and maintain ways to show the nation’s appreciation for this country’s gift to the world, as he calls it. Boogsie has established his genius over the past forty-plus years with his arrangements for many calypsonians, vocalists and steelbands in TT and the Caribbean, North America, and Europe and has been composer/arranger-in-residence at Phase II Pan Groove (currently Petrotrin sponsored) since 1974.

Sharpe does not read or write music yet he conceives elaborate compositions and arrangements and teaches them to the players note by note, phrase by phrase. Described as ‘the Mozart of pan’ by Wynton Marsalis, he remains a humble, generous man whose St James home is a repository of his treasured memories many of which he emotionally described during this interview and are captured in the following 20 questions:

1. Where /how did you earn the nickname “Boogsie”? My mom, the late Grace Isabella Sharpe, says that when I was born an angel called out “Boogsie” to her. No one knows what it means.

2. When and where did you play your first steelpan? As a youngster, at this very location, which in addition to being our home was also the panyard for the Symphonettes led and arranged for by my cousin Rupert ‘Shadow’ Nathaniel.

3. Of all your recordings available, which four arrangements would you most like people to hear? “In the Rain Forest” the winning composition/arrangement at the World Steelband Music Festival in October 2000; ‘Woman is Boss’ Panorama winner 1988; ‘Trini Gone Wild’ Panorama winner 2005; ‘Musical Vengeance’ Panorama winner 2008.

4. Favourite calypso/soca song(s) of all time and by whom? ‘Pan Night and Day’ by the late great Kitch ‘School Days’ by Sparrow

5. Where were you born and where did you grow up? Born at Benares Street, St James, and grew up right here.

6. The one place you would like to visit and why? Toronto, Canada to visit my three grandsons especially to see the last one who is now four years old….that is my greatest wish at the moment. I hear that Scotiabank announced the sponsorship of Caribana so I am hoping they will consider sending a contingent of this year’s Panorama champions.…yuh could write dat in de papers?....ah hope de boss man at Scotia read de Newsday (laughs heartily as he proudly shows of a picture of his three grandsons. His fourth grandson, Hashim, of whom he is very proud and who lives with him, has taken a liking to the steelpan).

7. Your favourite meal or dish/food? A good chicken pelau with some callaloo and a cold diet Sprite to wash it down.

8. Who were the people or person who influenced you the most to become the acknowledged great pannist/arranger you are today? Definitely my father who used to take me to various panyards and to play in competitions as a youngster once he realised that I had the talent… and of course my mom, who I dearly loved… cherish your mother, you hear.

9. What is your greatest accomplishment? Winning the World Steelband Music Festival in 2000 with my composition and arrangement of ‘In the Rainforest’…I hope you have the CD. Also, being honoured by UTT recently (proudly displays photo and certificate).

10. Even though you won your 5th Panorama title this year what was the feeling like when you heard that you had won? It is hard to explain the joyous feeling especially after the pain we all felt at last year’s tough loss when the entire pan fraternity thought that we should have won.

11. What is your most prized possession? All these photographs on the walls you see of all my family including my grandparents, my parents, my children and grandchildren. I truly appreciate the mothers of my children too.

12. What do most people NOT know about you? That Barrington Levy, the Jamaican reggae star, is my first cousin (pointing to one of the many pictures on the wall). Also, that I am a good piano player.

13. What ,when, where was your first paying job? As a pan player with the steelband Crossfire on Nepaul Street back in about 1965….50 cents, plenty money back then for a young boy.

14. Do you support the changing of the dates for Carnival and why? I’d rather not touch that one.

15. If you could dine with anyone in history, who would that be? Nelson Mandela...that is a great man.

16. If you could hire any singer or band (other than Phase II) to perform in your living room, who would you pick? Stevie Wonder doing ‘Ebony and Ivory’, my favourite non-calypso, pan song.

17. What advice would you give to young people? Love your own people and culture…we tend not to appreciate ours.

18. Who was your hero or idol growing up? In pan, Mr Anthony Williams and in music otherwise, Stevie Wonder.

19. What would you say is your greatest virtue? Helping people, a virtue I learned from my mom whom I cherish and love so dearly.

20. What daily motto do you live by? Take one day at a time.