Peter Telfer: Born to drum

Peter Telfer -
Peter Telfer -

The late Peter Telfer’s life can be summed up in one quote: “What a beautiful difference one single life made.”

The contributions Telfer made to the local Roman Catholic church as well as to music were celebrated at the live streaming of his funeral on October 22. The late percussionist, drummer and cultural activist died on October 15 at 63.

He was known for bringing African drumming into the celebration of the Catholic mass, and founding the band the Mawasi Experience. said, “Telfer and the Mawasi Experience are well-known for their musical contributions to the Catholic community and many local, cultural productions.”

It added, “Telfer founded the Mawasi Experience on October 12, 1980 and over the years they produced new liturgical music with a Caribbean feel.”

No physical venue was announced for the funeral, but it was livestreamed on YouTube. The virtual service began at 2.23 pm. In front of Telfer’s casket a drum stood tall. A red, white and black bandana with the words "Trinidad and Tobago" was placed on the casket, as well as a black hat.

Telfer’s eldest sister, Michelle Brown, said while she was the eldest, she was also one of the shortest, and so Telfer would greet her, “’Hi big, little sis.’”

To her and his family, he was “literally born to drum.”

She said in her eulogy, “I remember him as always drumming, his fingers constantly moving to some rhythm in his head. He would drum on the walls…even your head.

“He drummed everywhere and at any time. It was drumming in season and out of season.”

Brown recalled that while Telfer attended Fatima College he would run away to find the drummer Jah Jah Oga Onilu.

“Peter sometimes ended up staying with Jah Jah. This added to added to Daddy’s grey hairs, because as a worried parent, Daddy didn’t know where Peter was or with whom. Jah Jah would always assure Daddy that Peter was okay.”

She said Jah Jah and his group had a profound effect on Telfer.

She remembered Telfer getting the help of his siblings and neighbourhood friends when he wanted to make a drum.

If he knew an individual belonged to a choir or played an instrument, that individual would be on his radar, Brown said.

“He once told me that he remembered receiving a flute as a gift and had given it to Dawud Orr. Dawud Orr, a gifted flautist, was one of the earliest members of Mawasi and one of Peter’s dearest friends,” she said. (Orr, who also worked with the late Andre Tanker, died earlier this year.)

She said Telfer dedicated 40-plus years of his life to promoting the love of God through his music.

She added that he will remain forever in the hearts of his family, friends and siblings.

An unnamed representative of the Mawasi Experience, who also gave a tribute, said everything Telfer believed, cherished and fought for could be found in his music. She said he used his gifts to bless others and followed God’s call to pick up one’s cross and follow him.

“Doing God’s will and following his passion as not an easy road but Peter offered all to God: his joys, pains, works, gains, prayers, trials, suffering,” she said.

She added that his work and vision for the group was not just to make music, but to help others experience God’s love and to bring people into relationship with God.

She added that Telfer’s legacy was in the music and the people with whom he connected, and the group will continue his work of sharing the “message of praise.”


"Peter Telfer: Born to drum"

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