The Magic Of Ghosts - “Professor” Ken Philmore

by Dalton Narine

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MY Space - Dalton Narine
Dalton Narine

Dalton Narine

In the flash of an eye and within the hearing aid of a zeppo, who would have thought that we’ve recently reentered the ancient world, perhaps to be reacquainted in our new world of Pan where, in a sense, magic still abounds.

I do.

I recall, many years ago, Ken “Professor” Philmore on the other end of the phone dragging me out of my house and pulling me into a party that celebrated his birthday.

Ken “Professor” Philmore
Ken “Professor” Philmore

He had just arrived from Trinidad and now he was in Miami, friends and family regaling him as if he were a lord.

Amid the melee of partygoers, Professor introduced me to sidekick Leon Pan Foster as his protégé.

‘Pan Foster’ then pulled me aside, took me to the car, opened the trunk and handed me a few of his CDs.

It was “Professor’s” own Birthday gift to me. I cut loose from the party and was back home in two twos playing some of the richest music I’d heard on Pan in those days.

I still look up to ‘Leon Pan,’ hoping someday, some Panorama night, he’ll wave the flag for Lord Philmore and himself, too, not as protégé anymore, more so Fonclaire’s (or the South’s) brand new face just so he could dispel, if necessary, the “arrangerama” myth to the audience.

   Pan In “A” Minor / Lord Kitchener featuring Ken “Professor” Philmore


Truth to tell, “Professor” was a Lord alright when you matched him with that other Lord, Kitchener — “Professor” advancing Kitch to a higher level with his nightly ramajays back in the day.

Whenever I caught up with both of them at the Tent on Henry Street, “Professor” would be imbuing Kitchener’s magical Ruso’s with the fiery play of his tenor pan, so much so that the set over, the audience not only got tuned up but also brought down the house with brilliant flashes of greased lightning and a deafening clap of thunder.

They say to me they want a musical change in Pan
Well, I didn’t tell them yes, but I didn’t tell them no
I say gentlemen I’ll do the best I can.
As long as they challenge me, well, I go have a go.
They all indicated that they would get involved and would appreciate something new.

So I thought it best to change to the minor chord to see really who is who.
“Boogsie” on the tenor, ringing out A minor
Up come the “Professor” to add to the fire
You go hear Pan in A minor
in them steel band all over . . .

Leave it to “Professor” to bring something new in Pan by Storm and Pan Ecstasy. Should have been back-to-back Panorama “victories” in 1990 and 1991. I remember Pan enthusiasts speaking up loudly about that stormy and orgasmic evolution of Pan in the then-latest revolution of Pan.

For me, it still remains instant gratification, considering both performances have taken ahold of the culture, and so Panorama audiences have yet to let them go.

Why should they? In the annals of the competition, great bands have made their mark on that erotic wooden stage, but “Professor’s” intimacy with audiences as well as his unordinary music just seem to interact with everyone’s panoramic mood.

Ken “Professor” Philmore at work and play
Ken “Professor” Philmore at work and play

Look, it’s easy to find such ingredients at work — the pitch that governs melody and harmony; the rhythm, including tempo, meter and enunciation; dynamics, too, and the distinctive fingerprints of the band’s sonic pleasure, and colorful sound.

These ingredients mingled, as with our unique culture, in Philmore’s Southern stew. It was his knack for communicating not only with me but also everyone who appreciated his beat, which, of course, was his heart.

Small wonder audiences fell in love with his authoritative sound.

Ever notice when he used to light it up? His music was orchestrated to dance like a will-o'-the-wisp in the dark. It certainly resonated like that among the instruments, particularly the lower pans. No wonder the beats of  “Professor’s” music thumped through the heart of the Savannah while opening new windows.

For sure he had earned the accolade “Professor,” and then some.

I recall him rushing to speak with me amid the drums as the big trucks rolled away from Memorial Park on the morning of a Panorama.

“What went wrong?”

“Nothing, “Professor”. It has been my belief that, well, you know, Steel band judges will always be found guilty of tampering  — in a court of law.”

“Professor” looked at me straight in the eyes, panists and panatics in the area giving him the usual shoutout. When he looked back at me, he smiled, and his teeth looked bigger and whiter than ever.

“Pro”, you’re the boss, man. It would be hard not to miss you. Much respect to your family and loved ones.

I’ll see you in my dreams, the hat and all, bro.

Dalton Narine
About the author, Dalton Narine

Dalton Narine watched a movie among friends and was harassed for watching the credits roll. He was 12. They laughed at his quip that someday his name would be scrolling like that on a movie screen somewhere. Little did they know it was a prescient warning.

A similar scene played when Narine stopped learning the piano and walked into a panyard. Nobody believed him until they saw him playing classical music on pan on J’Ouvert. Eventually Narine co-founded the iconic PAN magazine and became senior editor.

Narine, an award-winning writer for two newspapers and a magazine, started working on a novel. But the chair of Columbia University film school steered him toward a screenplay instead. Your story is a movie, the professor said. Today Narine is working on his final draft, with two more screenplays in his head.

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