Congratulations, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, pannist and musician extraordinaire. The timing of the bestowal of the honorary doctorate title by The University of the West Indies could not have been better.
Thanks, Pan Trinbago president Beverley Ramsey-Moore, for having hosted a virtual event that paid tribute to Sharpe’s accomplishment by notable dignitaries— the Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts; the Mayor of Port of Spain; and the Mayor of San Fernando—all of whom reminisced and praised him highly. They all recognise pan as being a national treasure.
I was particularly impressed with the disclosures made by Minister Randall Mitchell. He reminded his audience that pan—the instrument—is yet to be officially proclaimed as being Trinidad and Tobago’s national musical instrument. According to Nalis (National Library and Information Systems Authority), “organisations such as Pan Trinbago and the National Steel Orchestra were established through acts of Parliament, and apart from the steelpan being declared the national (musical) instrument by the prime minister—the late Hon Patrick Manning—in his 1992 Independence Day address to the nation, we could not locate any Hansard records of it being established by an act of Parliament.”
The minister revealed that Pan Trinbago was incorporated in 1986 by act that inferred corporate status on Pan Trinbago and set forth its aims and objectives. It conferred extensive powers on the organisation to act locally and internationally in all manners to further the development of pan and protect the interest and welfare of the members of steelbands (locally, the usage of land for agricultural purposes in Trincity comes to mind). Pan Trinbago’s role on the international scene has many promotional, representative, educational, advisory and income-earning possibilities that need to be explored and embraced.
Pan is a definite pitch acoustic percussion musical instrument that was invented in the 20th century in Trinidad and Tobago. It must continue to be deliberately promoted universally, with the expectation of positive, rewarding and glowing feedback.
It is a unifying and educational force that preceded everything that we in Trinidad and Tobago describe as being national, i.e., the national anthem, the national flag, the coat of arms, the national birds, the national flower, and governing body Pan Trinbago. The time has come for pan’s status to be on par with the above-mentioned national symbols and with Pan Trinbago. When the national anthem is played at Government functions, it must be played on pan so as to add momentum to having it proclaimed as our national musical instrument.
Thank you, “Dr Sharpe”, for the music and for your willingness to share your knowledge. May you grow from strength to strength on your musical journey.