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The Genius
of Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe

 Steelpan giant returns to Moods of Pan

Moods of Pan 2008 

“Boogsie reminds me of Bird (Charlie Parker), he has Bird-like qualities...on any given moment he can do something spectacular...”  the late great legendary drummer extraordinaire - Max Roach

Antigua & Barbuda, W.I. - One of the operating guiding principles of Moods of Pan (MOP) almost from its inception is to provide a performing forum for the best in steelpan music talent.  And in this regard the people of Antigua have been blessed by the continual success of the Moods of Pan Festival, and the awesome array of top notch talent that it has drawn to their shores over the years.

Len “Boogsie” Sharpe playing at Moods of Pan Festival 2008

There has been no greater talent to have performed at the Moods of Pan Festival than Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe.  In fact it was Sharpe who, after performing  at the first MOP festival, encouraged the young show producers from Gemonites to keep the event (then a one-day affair) going.  Of course it was no surprise that Sharpe would be a part of the powerful line-up of performers in this Moods of Pan celebrating the festival’s tenth anniversary.

Boogsie performed on the final night of the MOP Festival named ‘Another Side of Pan.’  His performance - for lack of a better term - was “Boogsie Like” and defies description.  It was both intriguing and fascinating to watch the total awe on the faces of the people in the audience as they watched Boogsie perform.  This living legend continues to stretch and challenge the accepted norms of the steelpan instrument and music in general.

Len “Boogsie” Sharpe thrills the audience at Moods of Pan 2008 - Another Side of Pan

Boogsie hears tones, see colors, feels rhythms and timings that others do not.  He is truly a percussionist at heart - raw and unrefined in touch - always rhythm first - with sophisticated  melodic content disguised in between complex rhythm patterns.  Boogsie can deliver violent dynamic outbursts on the instrument - while simultaneously eliciting  the most subdued lullaby-like passages just below the surface at breathtaking speeds.  And of course he can always play just two notes in the oddest of places at a snail’s pace.  Indeed, such is the genius of “Boogsie” Sharpe.

It has been a while since this author has had the opportunity to hear Boogsie in a solo artist situation.  I have had the fortune of interacting with Boogsie while wearing many different hats including that of player, producer, engineer and competitor.  My first interaction with Boogsie placed him as the opposing arranger for the Moods Pan Groove in New York back in the early 80’s.  Later we would hook up again when he was part of some of the finest steelpan recordings to date by Basement Recordings as he was the arranger for Moods Pan Groove and Pan Rebels Steel Orchestras.

Back in the 90’s as an engineer for the late great legendary drummer Max Roach, and returning with him in a cab from a gig at Harvard University - in an informal conversation about pan and Trinidad - Max asked me who was the best steelpan performer.  I told him that I felt that Boogsie was the most gifted talent.  On many a night Max himself walked with the Gods when he performed.  Max subsequently traveled to Trinidad and met Boogsie.  He was so impressed with Boogie's talent he invited him to tour with his all-percussive group M’Boom.  Later Max would setup a jazz recording project featuring Boogsie, in which Max instructed me to record every moment.  Max told me that Boogsie had Charlie "Bird" Parker qualities and at any given time Boogsie could do something spectacular.  Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe no doubt possesses the same qualities.  Max saw Boogsie as being directly connected to the legends and geniuses he himself once played with. 

The musical cohorts of Max were many of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, including Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Charles on.  He is to be admired, enjoyed for his gift and formidable skills - as they are unique.

The word ‘genius’ means different things to different people, and is sometimes misused when ascribed to less than qualified parties.  The genius of Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe will never be in question.


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Moods of Pan 2008   

contact: Moods of Pan
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