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Reflections on a great man & some of Moresby’s very best days

Phil Charley, Carolus Ketsimur & Keith JacksonALAN GRANT

IN A pathetic enforced retirement there is more than enough time to mull over the past.

In Papua New Guinea I had been a didiman (agricultural officer), arriving in the 1960s and posted all over the country. I had come as a £10 migrant to Australia in 1965, bringing with me a deep love of traditional jazz. It is with me to this day.

Anyway, there came a time when seniority and commitment to projects brought me to Port Moresby.

Between busy rural development tasks and building a 40-foot sailing craft, I allowed myself to be talked into being the banjo player in a series of ad hoc jazz bands that proliferated for a time before and just after independence in 1975.

A disparate group of expat residents came to form the Port Moresby Jazz Band (I think the name was my suggestion).

Our routine involved a Sunday afternoon session at the Four-Mile Club, followed by not much of a break and then the whole evening until late at the Weinkeller, a below-stairs venue at the Gateway Hotel which I think is now a restaurant.

This entertainment went on until at least midnight, the clientele mainly expat public servants; goodness knows what state they must have been in next morning for the first day of their working week.

On several of those evenings Bougainvillean broadcaster Carolus (Charlie) Ketsimur, himself a talented jazz musician, joined the band and I especially recall his rendering of St Louis Blues, which was much appreciated both by the band and the lively audience.

Due to this connection we later made a jazz program for the National Nroadcasting Commission’s Time Out series. Popular announcer Pearson Vetuna presented our work on air.

I am fortunate to still have a cassette tape copy of the program, perhaps the only one in existence.

I later met Carolus and his then partner, an Australian, at their home near Tinputz on Bougainville.

By then I was an officer of the National Plantation Management Agency and was involved in redeveloping a cocoa estate in Buka.

Over the years since, I have often thought of Carolus and his family and what must have been his horrendous situation in Bougainville.

I am remorseful and regret we lost touch.

Carolus KetsimurYou can read Carolus Ketsimur’s obituary here. He loved jazz, was an excellent vocalist and musician and was a major influence – along with Alan, Doug Fyfe, Phil Charley and others – in the jazz resurgence in PNG around independence. Charley, as he was called, did it tough during the Bougainville civil war but went on to a distinguished career in the Autonomous Bougainville Government. He died two years ago. If you want to contact Alan, you can do so here.

Top photo: Phil Charley, Carolus Ketsimur and Keith Jackson worked together at the NBC in the 1970s and remained friends for life. Phil and Carolus both died in 2014.

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