Harmonites alumni remember fallen founder

Pan legend George Weekes
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By Carlena Knight 

A “jack of all trades” is how close family friend and Harmonites pioneer Rupert “Teela” Parker referred to the late George “Macko, Nuni” Weekes.

Weekes, a founding member of the Harmonites International Steel Orchestra, has been confirmed as the country’s second Covid-related death.  

News of the virus’s second local death was revealed by Prime Minister Gaston Browne on his personal Facebook page last week. It came hours after the announcement of the nation’s first coronavirus fatality – 48-year-old Garfield Joseph of Glanvilles who passed away on April 4. 

Details remain sketchy but Weekes, who was born and raised in the Villa and Point community, was apparently admitted to hospital around March 22and taken to the Intensive Care Unit a few days later. He remained there until he succumbed to the illness last Tuesday.

Weekes, along with Parker and a number of other pan players, were instrumental in forming the Harmonites back in the 1960s after leaving the Junior Hellgates. He led the band to its first individual title in 1969 after tying with Brude Force a year earlier. 

Following the news of his passing a number of friends and colleagues paid tribute to the cultural icon. 

Parker told Observer he was in shock when he heard the news, referring to Weekes as being like a brother to him.

“We went back a long way. We started this thing together both of us,” he recalled. “Nuni was a jack of all trades. He was a carpenter and also was an expert in building the steelpans. When we would run out of drums, we would go look for drums at West Indies Oil or gas stations anywhere really and in order for us not to get in trouble we would burn them in the night and start to sink them and groove them,” he said laughing.

“The two of us did our best in forming that band. We had a lot of chat too. George wasn’t just a friend, he was a brother; both of us were born and raised in the Villa and Point community. 

“This is a big loss because of the kind of history he has within pan, but he was really recently doing a lot of single performances with funerals, weddings and at churches but we were planning to do a big thing this year; it is just sad that it cannot happen now. I wasn’t even able to go to the hospital to see him.” 

Another member, Simon Toulon, said Weekes referred to Harmonites as his “baby”. 

“We shared a lot of good moments and good times. He used to have this truck and would carry the band to play out and if anybody deserves a good send off it would be him and I am not sure how that is going to happen but maybe later we will probably have to do something, some kind of memorial for him because he deserves it.” 

Close friend Bradley Ferrance took to popular social media site Facebook to share an emotional goodbye. 

“George Weekes was a true and dear friend that looked out for me as a brother. Every human being should have a George Weekes in their life. I wish I could have seen him one last time in Antigua. May he rest in eternal peace!”

The country’s third Covid-19 death was George Lewis who is believed to have been among travellers who visited Montserrat for St Patrick’s Day last month. To date, there have been 23 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Antigua and Barbuda and three fatalities.

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