It has been said that Len “Boogsie” Sharpe is a pannist of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Boogsie, known to his close friends as “Pip” is considered to be the Mozart of Pan. He is also an accomplished pianist.
He was born 28 October 1953, Benares Street, St James, Trinidad. The nick-name Boogsie was given to him by his mother.
Boogsie began playing the steel drums at the tender age of five, encouraged by his father who would take him to varous panyards. Ironically, his parents’ yard was the headquarters of the Symphonettes, which was led by his cousin Rupert ‘Shadow’ Nathaniel.
At the age of nine years he began composing and had mastered the instrument by the time he reached his teens, reaching performance heights unequalled by any other steelpan artist in the instrument's short history.
Boogsie’s pan career took off when he became a member of Starlift.
Malick was his first composition for pan.
In 1972 Phase II Pan Grove (Phase II) was formed and took part in Panorama in 1973 for the first time.
From 1974 (with Phase II) Boogsie entered and arranged his own compositions for the Panorama competitions.
In 1987 this paid dividends when he made history by being the first person to win Panorama with 'This Feeling Nice'. This was a sign for things to come as many other arrangers began to follow his winning formula. Marjorie Wooding, chief Panorama judge said 'He is full of imagination, and I feel he has led the steelband into a new era. I said this years ago that one of these days, we, as judges would have to deal with this man'. In that same year Phase II also became the first band to win Panorama without sponsorship.
In 1989, he arranged for 8 of the 48 bands in the national preliminaries steelpan competition in Trinidad and Tobago, and 4 of the 12 finalists in the same competition. Ken 'Professor' Philmore and Fonclaire came close to outscoring Phase II playing Boogsie's composition 'Fire Down Below'. The Cordettes played a Jit Samroo arrangement of Boogsie's 'Toronto Toronto'.
In 1999, he received a house from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) for his contribution to pan in Tobago. In the same year calypsonian Brother Superior (Andrew Marcano) wrote a calyspo titled ‘True True Story’ as a tribute to Boogsie. The lyrics gave a description about hearing Boogsie perform at the funeral of the great calypsonian ‘The Roaring Lion’ (Rafael de Leon). When Boogsie started to play he closed his eyes and listened to the rendition of Amazing Grace. To him it sounded like ‘three panmen in one’: The panmen being Jit Samaroo, Ray Holman and Robert Greenidge.
In 2000, he became a Cultural Ambassador with task of promoting the steelpan and in the same year was arranger for the National Steelband of Trinidad and Tobago. More success came that year when he took the Skiffle Bunch Steel Orchestra to the World Steelband Music Festival and won with his composition 'In The Rain Forest' as the classical tune of choice and Ken 'Professor' Philmore's Pan by Storm as the calypso tune of choice. In a tribute to Aldwyn Roberts, Boogsie and the Invaders Steelband performed for Aldwyn's last public appearance at the Ringband Celebration 2000.
In 2002, Boogsie performed with Mangrove Steel Orchestra (London) and the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Music Live Festival of Delights Parade staged at Albert Square, Manchester.
In 2003, he began to teach steelpan in local schools.
In 2005, his collaboration with songwriter Anthony ‘Lexo’ Alexis gave Trinidad and Tobago the most popular Panorama win in history (by 20 points) with 'Trinis Gone Wild'.
In 2006, they won Panorama with 'This One’s for You(U), Bradley', a tribute to the late Clive Bradley.
In 2009, he composed a calypso for Panorama titled 'The Magic Drum' in recognition of the new generation of steelpan called PHI. On 31 August, Independence Day, he was also awarded the Humming Bird Gold Medal for his outsanding service and contribution to the culture of Trinidad and Tobago. Shortly after receiving this award Boogsie stated that 'Pan is dead right now' in Trinidad. His comments were made in an attempt to force Pan Trinbago to do more to promote pan worldwide.
In 2011, he released a CD titled 'A Tribute to the Mighty Sparrow' using PHI.
In 2012, Boogsie composed a tribute to the late Pat Bishop, titled 'Archbishop of Pan'. The song was sung by the Lydian Singers Choir and played by Phase II who gained 2nd place in the large band competition.
UK Panorama 2012 - heard Real Steel reign supreme with their tune of choice 'Prophet of Pan', a calypso dedication to Boogsie.
2013 marks the 50th anniversary of Panorama and the last year of the competition in its current format. In 2014 Panorama will become an international competition. 2013 also marks the 40th anniversary of Phase II in the Panorama competition. 10 February 2013, Boogsie and his band are again winners of the competition with his composition 'More Love'.
In 2014, Boogsie and Phase II won the first International Panorama with his composition 'Jump High'. In the same year Boogsie performed Lord Kitchener's Pan Night and Day at ‘I Am Pan’, the first National Steelband Pageant held in honour of Bertram Kelman.
In 2015, Boogsie and Phase II were runners up at Panorama with Happiness, missing out for the third time on making history for being the first steelband to win Panorama on three consecutive occasions performing their own compositions.
Boogsie’s dominance as a pan player is endorsed by the numerous bands he has worked with over the years. Some of the headline steelbands include:
Antillian All Stars, BWIA Invaders, Crossfire, Deltones, Despers U.S.A, Halcyon Antigua, Moods Pan Groove NY, Our Boys Steel Orchestra, Pamberi, Petrotrin Phase 11, Potential Symphony, Starlift, Silver Stars, Solo Harmonites, Tropical Angel Harps, Valley Harps, WITCO Desperadoes.
His panyard at Hamilton Street, Woodbrook is known to many as the "University of Pan".