Think ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and we think of outstanding European music. Think ‘pan’, or more correctly, ‘the steelpan’ and we think the Caribbean. In fact, the steelpan has been described as a Caribbean percussion instrument forged from our history of resistance and rebellion. Over the years, our Caribbean diaspora has exposed many to this instrument.
One Caribbean contributor to pan development, Ken “Professor” Philmore, has donated his passion, skill, money, time, and efforts to this regional instrument. “Professor” Philmore’s passion for pan was evident from an early age. At the tender age of seven, Ken was motivated to begin teaching himself pan, he eventually got a steelpan from his cousins and would practice for hours on end.
As with the birthing of this percussion instrument, coming from resistance and revolt, so too, Ken experienced problems and pressure from surrounding neighbours. In the early days, not being appreciative of our own instrument, panmen and playing pan was ‘persecuted’, had a stigma. Preserving little Philmore, played his pan even after his dad sought to save his son by throwing away his pan. Philmore found the pan and played some more until a person heard him and encouraged his dad to send him to the Hatters Steel Orchestra panyard in Trinidad, Philmore’s birthplace. The rest as they say, is history, a prolific pan history. Philmore went on to become a pan arranger, composer, and performer, performing in Trinidad and Tobago, regionally and internationally.
Philmore’s passion was to contribute to pan being known and played across the globe. This passion translated into his performances, with him, eventually being donned professor of pan Ken “Professor” Philmore. As the arranger for the New York Sonatas Steel Orchestra, he led the band to six New York Steelband Panorama titles in the 1980s.
Other international performances include performances at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the Apollo Theatre in Harlem and at Carnegie Hall in New York. Philmore also performed and recorded with artistes such as Tina Turner, Mariah Carey, George Benson and Bob James at jazz festivals. “Professor” Philmore became the first Trinbago artiste to be featured at BET Jazz Central. On his mission and contribution to take pan worldwide, as recent as 2011, he visited South Africa for the launch of their first Carnival.
Ken “Professor” Philmore was felled by a vehicular accident which occurred on September 24, 2018, Trinidad and Tobago’s Republic Day. Samuel Roberts, radio host and pan player in Antigua and Barbuda is reported by Trinidad Guardian as recalling, “Philmore played with a passion that translated to the audience.”
Grenada Steel Band Association (GABA) noted that we owe it to Philmore to ensure that his legacy lives on.
Well, “Professor” Philmore has paid it forward to this regional percussion instrument and now it is left for us who remain to focus on the ‘ROI’, the “Professor’s” Return-On-Investment.
We know of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and we know the “Professor” Philmore was no phantom pannist. Some have suggested pan is in danger of being snatched away from the Caribbean. Would we allow pan to become a ‘Phantom of the Caribbean’?
By Kerriann Toby
Kerriann Toby holds a Master of Counselling and Bachelor of Psychology. She is a dynamic therapist, trained mediator, and educator since 2000. In addition to being a trained educator, mediator, and therapist, she is a certified Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) Professional. Kerriann has also trained in cyber counseling and holds clinical registration with Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) & Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).
In mid-October 2015 she initiated operations of KarryOn geared toward the provision of a variety of enhancement and developmental services for the individual, groups and the organization; e-Coaching/Counseling, Mediation, EAP Services and the creative presentation of psycho-social information. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.