WST Global News Division


Professor Instrumental in Promoting Pan in the Diaspora

Following his distinction for having the most requested pan song on the internet via Basement Recordings of his arrangement of the tune “Nah Going Home Till de Morning Come” with Harmony Steelband of New York- Ken “Professor” Philmore received yet another accolade in his career as a pannist.  He’s literally responsible for grooming many youngsters who are currently promoting the gospel of pan in foreign countries.

Ken "Professor" Philmore and Hollis Clifton

Ken was the guest of PAN DIASPORA, a newly found call-in programme on WACK 90.1 FM Radio in San Fernando, Trinidad. The feature is hosted by DJ Heshimu and co-host Hollis Clifton each Sunday from 4 PM to 5 PM within “Pan in Yuh Pwefen” which itself runs from 3 to 6 PM.

The edition commenced with homage being paid to Gulab Belgrove who recently met his demise. According to the Professor, Mr. Belgrove was a true Pan Jumbie who helped a lot of young pannists to remain focused. Furthermore, he was the father of Darryl and Dwight who were groomed by the Professor at Pleasantville Senior Comprehensive School .

Condolences were also sent to Ken’s father – in- law who also passed away during the Christmas season.

Among the students who have been groomed by Ken and are now pan prodigies are -  Darren Shepherd - Fonclaire arranger; Liam Teague – Northern Illinois University, Wayne “Blubber” Austin - UK; Ian Beckles - UK; Dwight Belgrove – Canada; Darryl Belgrove – Switzerland; Wentworth Richardson – Washington DC; Brent Richardson – Chicago; Colin Brayton – Minneapolis; Arlene Webb – USA Circus; Curtis “Sleepy” Marcelle – Cruse Ship; Roger Charles – Arima Simple Songs; Sean Ramsey – Ole Tech/Pan Revival – Aldon Moore – Michael Boothman’s Jazz Ensemble; to name a few.

Then there’s Leon Foster a presidential honors graduate from university who now has his own band in Miami.  All these players responded to the challenge when Professor urged them to see pan as a career and a vehicle to tour the world and more important to teach self about self.

There were many callers to the programme.  David from Ottawa commended WACK for hosting such an innovative programme and for having the renown steelpan virtuoso/arranger who has impacted on the youth not only in Trinidad and Tobago but also in the USA where his arrangement of the calypso “We Nah Going Home “ with Harmony Steel Orchestra has become the most requested piece on You Tube.

In response to a concern from Hollis that Trinidad and Tobago is being shortchanged with respect to being credited as the birth place of the steelpan Professor informed that the Ohio based Pan Yard Inc. had a workshop and was emphatic in crediting the Twin Island Republic with the title.

In addition, Peoria, a small village just outside Chicago with a population of 78,000 residents recently hosted a pan festival with its own 12 steelbands. They made it quite clear that T&T is the founder of the steelpan – the only musical invention of the twentieth century.  Unfortunately however, countries like Jamaica and Barbados readily take the credit for the invention of the art form.

Hollis in pursuit of the goals of Pan Diaspora asked Pro if his pan had a serial number attached to it or as a matter of fact any form of branding inclusive of manufacturer, sale date or tuner etc? This could also be the answer to international pan yard pilfering in the industry.

Ken responded in the negative but agreed that all of these details needed to have been rectified a long time ago adding that we need to expeditiously work towards the standardization of the pan itself

Clifton again alluded to a school band in Botswana – Broadhurst Primary – where it was observed that a student was playing a pan with one stick.  When asked why, the reply was that the other stick had no rubber and they were awaiting delivery of a replacement from the supplier in South Africa.  Hollis simply took the stick got a couple rubber bands and wrapped the stick in front of the players.  They were all overjoyed and overwhelmed at the feat.

The Professor then made reference to French based American pannist, Andy Narrell who is kicking up a storm in South Africa where it believed that he introduced the instrument many moons ago. Andy ekes out a living solely off pan.  Narrell remains the epitome for the average Trinibagonian pannist. He himself was inspired by Ellie Mannette and would have no one but the great master blend his instrument.

Heshimu then alluded to the fact that Andy still has in his possession the original ping pong which he got from “Fish Eye” and which was used at the end of the ditty “The Longtime Band” as sung by David Rudder.

Philmore then expressed a gut feeling that if only pan could get on the Oprah Winfrey Show that would be the ultimate.  Then there will be no turning back.

Pro then recalled a failed attempt by him and Ainsworth Mohammed (Exodos Manager) in seeking assistance from Ken Atalle of Lonsdale Advertising.  The Mr. Atalle proffered that it was easier to make money off of 8 women in bikini than that of the pan.

In response, a caller from the US felt that Lonsdale response was no surprise since they had no experience in marketing pan internationally and concluded that Trinbagonians were accustom to enjoying freeco pan and were often not prepared to pay for same.

Another caller, Dr Love, from the US expressed gratitude to Pro for giving his son his first steelpan. Since then the boy went on to read music and is now confidently gigging the New York music circuit.

Dr Love suggested the introduction of a Steelpan Awards Ceremony similar to what obtains in the wider entertainment industry. This may prevent the frustration experienced by pannists due to a lack of appreciation.

Another caller, Ms Lucy Regis, called for parents to instill and share the passion and aura to involve the children in the creative arts. She further informed that pan has been reintroduced to Pleasantville Senior Comprehensive School .

Another caller from New York spoke on behalf of her brother – Ship Captain William Rodney, who was currently sailing to Angola.  He had formed the Neptunes Band in New Orleans and is working towards the development of pan in schools … a true ambassador.  Thereupon Host Heshimu thanked her for bringing the work of her brother to the fore informing her that her efforts truly represents the ideals of Pan Diaspora.

In sharing the tribulations of her brother at home in La Brea, T&T she iterated that one day after practice their father took an axe and destroyed all the pans of the band then proceeded to carry the pans to the dump on a vehicle. On the way, however, onlookers oblivious to the mishap started asking where the band was playing later.  That group was the now defunct Southern Crossfire.

William, nonetheless, persevered and made his father to understand that he was hurting. Thereafter the father never tried to deter the son.

Another caller from Pleasantville, Nigel Williams, proposed the need to look at endorsements and copy rights and returns to the Panman then size of the audience of audience may not matter so much.

In interjection Pro said that he was the first pannist to appear on BET but Oprah remains the next stop.

Nigel felt that we need to understand the values of institutions and that we need to come out of our slumber.  Philmore agreed but warned that “the panman is greater than the competition”

The programme winded up with a lamentation on the apparent injustice done to Ken in 1988 when he is said to have lost panorama by half of a point with his arrangement of his own composition of Pan by Storm with Fonclaire Steel Orchestra.  A similar injustice is said to have occurred in 2007 with Skiffle Bunch.

For 2008 Ken is again arranging for Skiffle Bunch with a piece entitled “Time to Break Away.

Ken "Professor" Philmore is one of the most talented pan players to come from the South of Trinidad. He has recorded several albums and has arranged music for several Panorama bands in Trinidad and New York.  "Professor" has performed and recorded with Tito Puente, Ella Fitzgerald, Phyllis Hyman, Nancy Wilson, Tina Turner, Andy Narell, Ralph MacDonald, George Howard, and jazz great Lionel Hampton. "Professor" has also performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, The Royal Albert Hall in London, and the Apollo Theatre in Harlem

by Hollis Clifton
Pan Diaspora Visionary


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