After making a promise to play Pan By Storm in tribute to the late pannist extraordinaire Ken “Professor” Philmore, Phase II Pan Groove arranger Len "Boogsie" Sharpe has opted to go with Party Start (Doi Doi) by Swappi and The Ultimate Rejects for this year's Panorama.
Sharpe made a similar switch last season, when after priming up supporters for Nailah Blackman's Sokah, he dropped the song and chose Kees Dieffenthaller’s Hello.
At Phase II's launch of its 2019 choice on Friday night, Sharpe said he felt stronger "vibes" for Party Start.
“It was an emotional time when I made that statement. I even started it (Pan By Storm) but when I heard Party Start it changed my mind, body and soul. It came just like last year when I changed from playing Nailah’s song to Hello. It’s all about the vibes.”
Philmore’s widow, Sophia, supported Sharpe's decision.
“I know Boogsie had all good intention to do Pan By Storm but it just was not practical. With all those bands playing the latest party songs he did the best thing to switch, and I love that song, Party Start, so I will be going down to the panyard very soon to hear them play it.”
The band rolled out its Panorama selection at its newly refurbished panyard in Woodbrook on Friday evening, where guests were amazed at the transformation of the space, into one that is roomier, has better lighting and better ambience.
Sponsor Hadco spent approximately $400,000 to cover the cost of clearing away a shack and a makeshift stand to create more space, and to install better lighting.
Sharpe thanked the Hadad brothers Robert, Joe and John, all directors of Hadco, for their love and support for the band. “I am very thankful and grateful to them. This is the new phase of Phase II and we are grateful for the sponsorship from Hadco. They are very hands-on and other sponsors should take pattern.”
He pledged: “We will do our best with the platform that has been laid down for us. It would not go to waste. We are confident of victory in 2019.”
Speaking on behalf of his brothers, John Hadad, told Sharpe: “Len you have worked very hard on yourself and when we see that we reset. We are there to hold you and along the way. We will always find the middle ground to move things together.”
In terms of sponsorship of the band, and the fact that pan players have been told by Pan Trinbago president Beverly Ramsey-Moore that they will not be paid stipends this year, Hadad said, “The intention is very clear. We have to take care of our pan players. We don’t know yet how we are going to close that gap but pan players should not be treated as lesser mortals.”
Hadad stated that funds came from three sources – the sponsor, band earnings from performances, memorabilia and bar sales and prize monies – and from that pool pannists were paid every year. “So we will have to do more with less this year, but our intention is to take care of them.”
Hadad also thanked attorney Anthony Smart for his legal advice on the space the panyard occupies and added that they were expecting great news this year on it.
“We don’t care about winning. The ultimate thing is the process. Panmen come out and bring pan music to the panyard and visitors,” he said.
Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez applauded the sponsor’s role and the management team for keeping the band together over the years, noting that anything to do with difficult culture and the arts was a difficult process.
Band captain Terry Bernard told the Hadads: “Our mission this year is to continue to be that guiding light and to share the same vision that you have for your own company, and make sure when somebody comes into this yard their experience is mind-boggling and they leave saying, ‘yes Phase II has made that big change.' We are so thankful for this.”
Among the changes in the 40-year-old band was the appointment of Michelle Huggins-Watts as the manager and Aqua Leith, from the National Steel Orchestra, as the drill master.