England, U.K. - Greetings. Today I shout a “big up” to my dear kin of the Brathwaite family tree, the steel pan legend Ken “Professor” Philmore, who has been called home by the Universal Creator to accompany Lord Kitchener again on his heavenly version of the earthly Calypso Hit - Pan in ‘A’ Minor’....
From Clydesdale Preparatory School (a.k.a. Teacher Bailey’s School, Lucky Lane/Medine Street, San Fernando, Trinidad), and San Fernando Boys’ Government School (Rushworth Street) where we both met and began our academic journey, to the international world stage (he on the tenor pan and I with the Aubrey Adams’ Trinidad Ballet – “Ambakaila”), Ken was nothing less than a singular talent, a true scientist of sound - self-taught and stellar with a contagious smile!
During 1978, Ken would accept my invitation to join with other prominent freelance musicians in San Fernando, under the umbrella of the C.U.L.T.U.R.E. Workshop - a mobile performing arts project I initiated during my one-year-hiatus from international concert performances. We would meet under the Green Acres-based home of the C.U.L.T.U.R.E. aggregation’s bass guitarist Cecil Harris (a.k.a. Damani), to spontaneously compose our own music and just JAM!
With Ken on tenor pan, along with other smooth groove instrumentalists such as Eugene Bass on lead guitar, the dynamic poet Omzee on flute, Brian Gumbs on melodica/guitar, and I on the drums/bass/guitar/flute/assorted percussions, it was there that we all worked along with the late poet/UWI scholar Wayne Davis on self-penned, potent musical creations, which I intuitively tape-recorded for posterity. My plan then was to revisit these raw recordings, and refine them toward seeking any future opportunities for live performances (Television and/or Stage), and eventually a record contract for the benefit of the C.U.L.T.U.R.E. Workshop collective. The opportunities for live performances did come (thanks to my mentors the late Hazel Ward-Redman at T&T Television and the Arawak Dance Company’s Torrance Mohammed). But the recording contract aspiration had to be shelved, as each member of the C.U.L.T.U.R.E. Workshop got increasingly distracted by their own livelihood priorities.
Ken “Professor” Philmore
Interestingly, last week as I browsed through my old cassette/CD collection, I came across three 80-minute CDs on which I had transferred all the C.U.L.T.U.R.E. Workshop’s music I recorded during our tenure together in the 1970s. I was quite excited to hear the vibrant, empathetic body of work we made then, underpinned by the heavy social consciousness imprint of the time .... “Everybody talking about [mind] revolution. But nobody wants to take any action”.
Ken’s excellent musical wizardry which he contributed to the pieces he played on, were simply heart-palpitating! I even remembered one of the aggregation’s members opined in a teasing way back then that “Professor does not play the Pan, he beats the Pan”. However, as fate would have it, when Ken was first approached by the Lord Kitchener to accompany him on the spine-tingling classic “Pan in ‘A’ Minor”, the Grandmaster melodiously instructed him to “Beat Pan!” So contrary to the teasing opinion above, Ken knew what he had to do and he knew his instrument like any Professor knew his/her subject.
I thought (God’s willing) next year (2019) when I visit Trinidad on my annual pilgrimage to my Mom’s graveside, I would touch base with Ken and share a CD of the music we made in the 1970s with him for old times’ sake. But it was not to be. He and Lord Kitchener were literally a match made in heaven. Now they are together again. So get ready for Lord Kitchener’s “PAN IN ‘A’ MINOR II” featuring the “Professor” as he Rises In Peace.
Beat Pan Cuz! BEAT PAN!!
Hon. Fellow (Faculty of Law) University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad.
(Ret.) Director of Postgraduate Studies, Coventry Law School, Coventry University, United Kingdom
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