Wadhom - Didgeridoo / Hang Drum (LIVE)

Being without a doubt one of the best nine dollars I’ve ever spent on an audio download to date, ‘Wadhom’, is the ‘live’ album recorded by a group of musicians who we can but assume go by the same name. Composed primarily on the didgeridoo and the Hang, this beautiful collection of music is both tribal and contemporary, pure enough to please those seeking meditation, yet eclectic and fast-paced enough to act as the soundtrack to any chilled-out gathering.

At over fifty minutes long and featuring nine tracks, each more enriching than the last, Wadhom, not only ‘attempts’ to merge the music of the worlds oldest
known instrument (the didgeridoo), with one of the worlds newest (the Hang) perfectly, it succeeds on all fronts. And when you throw into the mix some additional percussion and a little folksy violin, you end up with what is truly a masterpiece of modern music, and a gem sure to be treasured by all who tread the beat of Wadhom, and by all who drift away to this ear orgasmic audio trip.

Bali Steel Pan - The Indonesian-Made HandPan / ‘Hang Drum' Alternative

(!) This post may now be out of date - but has been left published for archive purposes.  It may still prove to be of interest, but some (or all) details may now be out of date (!).

The creation of, ‘Chris Anderson’, ‘I Ketut Suda’, and ‘I Neghah Resna’, the Bali Steel Pan (often referred to simply as a ‘Bali’), is another (relatively speaking) established member of the HandPan family. Made in Bali, Indonesia, the Bali Steel Pan, is a non-nitrided HandPan, constructed in the manner of traditional ‘Steel Pan’, from 55 gallon steel oil drums. Originally available in only three scales, the Bali Steel Pan is now (at time of writing) available in around twelve scales, with popular scales including the ‘Shang Diao’, and the ‘Kokin Joshi’. And to my ear, the Bali Steel Pan’s voice retains much of the exotic feel, associated with the country of its birth.

Field reports suggest that the workshop in which Bali are made, is far removed from the ‘high-tech’ premises of the likes of Pantheon Steel (Halo makers), employing more traditional artisan techniques, and a strong hammer arm. And it’s also possible (though contacting the maker in advance is of course advisable) to collect your HandPan while visiting Bali (a great excuse for a holiday, if ever there was one).

Priced at $1200 (at time of writing). And believed to have a considerable waiting list (one year plus at last estimate). Bali Steel Pan can be ordered via the official ETSY store: HERE, or from the Bali Steel website: HERE
* You can read a review of a Bali Steel Pan Gong Diao: HERE (as per 2012).
* Stay away from 'Ding Bending'.
* See how a Bali sounds played side-by-side with a PANArt Hang: HERE

* Should you be considering traveling to Bali to collect your pan, according to one who has made the journey, "Hire a driver, go to Bangli, and ask for Manuk, a small town close by. Workshop is just north of the village I believe."

Find more info in the forum: HERE

The ‘Hang’ (Drum) - The World's First ‘Viral’ Instrument

Ask most people where they first heard of the ‘Hang’ (generally referred to as a ‘Hang drum’), and they’ll most likely tell you that they saw it on YouTube, or from some other online source. Working like an Internet ‘MEME’ (an idea or joke shared via the Internet) spreading across the web, the Hang has been either stumbled upon online, or shared by, ‘virtual’ word of mouth, via video sharing websites, social networks, and the like...

The most popular ‘Hang Drum’ video on YouTube (to date) is now closing in on three million views (see above-right), and there are plenty of other Hang drum videos online with views in the hundreds of thousands. The main Hang drum Facebook page has just short of six thousand ‘likes’, and searching for the term ‘Hang drum’ in Google returns over one-hundred-and-fifty-thousand results specific to the Hang...

The Hang was only born just over ten years ago (at time of writing) in the year 2000, and it seems a safe bet to assume that the instruments creators ‘PANArt’ were not prepared for the runaway appeal of their creation, just as it seems a safe bet to assume that without the Internet, the Hang would still remain a little heard of curiosity.  And in many ways it often seems as if this is what the Hang’s creators ‘Felix Rohner’ and ‘Sabina Schärer’ would have preferred for their ‘baby’, because as they became overrun by everybody and their grandmother desperately trying to get their hands on a Hang, from the outside they appeared to close ranks and close-up-shop, leaving many accusing PANArt of musical snobbery, due to the methods through which they made their 'Sound Sculptures' available only to those they deemed worthy (or in PANArt talk: 'those who resonate'), that were perceived as being elitist.

But while PANArt themselves may shy away from the commercial demand that has grown around their creation, others have been quick to rise to meet this demand. So that now numerous alternatives in the form of Hang-like HandPans such as the ‘Bali Steel HandPan’ and the ‘Casia’, and Steel Tongue Drums like the ‘MILLTONE’ and the ‘HAPI Drum', have been born in their wake (and many more have now since followed).

So while PANArt will always be credited as the creators of what is perhaps the greatest musical breakthrough of this generation, their own invention has already (arguably) outgrown them.  Meaning that as the momentum of the Hang continues to gain pace, those who now cling to their creations like a mother who refuses to let her child fly the nest, will have no choice but to step-up, or step-aside, as the popularity of (and demand for) this new instrument type continues to grow, fuelled by the viral nature of the Internet...

[Update] October 2013, PANArt announced that they will no longer be making ANY Hang.  They will however now be offering their new (and relatively speaking, similar) instrument for sale, named the 'Gubal'.  Watch videos of the PANArt Gubal: HERE

From time to time PANArt are known to take a hiatus (a break from building) during which people are encouraged not to send letters requesting Hanghang/Gubal.  Additionally, price, and/or the procedure for purchasing instruments direct from PANArt might change a little over time.  Two websites that have close ties with PANArt are 'Hang Blog', and 'Hang Forum', both of which are useful for obtaining the very latest information regarding the current status of production, and the latest guidance for the purchase of Hang/Gubal.

1TONE ECLIPSE Steel Tongue Drums

Arguably the steel tongue drum (currently) closest to the ‘Hang’ in both build and sound, the ‘ECLIPSE’ steel tongue drum produced by ‘1TONE’, is the beautiful handcrafted, hand-tuned, percussion instrument, that is really setting the bar high in terms of standards for other steel drum manufacturers to match.  You’ll find no recycled propane tank at the heart of the 1TONE ECLIPSE drum, as instead this instrument is constructed from two hand-welded carbon steel shells, that form the base of this precision tuned masterpiece of resonance.

Even featuring a ‘Ding’ (top central domed note) and ‘Gu’ (resonating opening at the bottom) that while common to HandPans are lacking in many steel tongue drums, the 1TONE ECLIPSE is currently
into its second generation, an evolution that has brought with it sharper and purer sounds due to breakthroughs in steel tongue tuning techniques developed by 1TONE, each individual steel tongue now features an octave overtone that empowers the tongues fundamental note, while the central Ding offers a more bass-heavy note that compliments those that surround it.

Available (at time of writing) for around $500 plus shipping, the ECLIPSE steel tongue drum is a robust, aesthetically pleasing, beautiful sounding instrument, that offers real value for money when compared to some of the more highly sought after handpans such as the Hang, and you can find them for sale over at Amazon, or via the 1TONE website here.


The Pantheon Steel Halo HandPan - An American-Made 'Hang Drum' Alternative

(!) This post may now be out of date - but has been left published for archive purposes.  It may still prove to be of interest, but some (or all) details; may now be out of date (!).

The ‘Halo’, made by Pantheon Steel (comprising of “Kyle Cox’, and ‘Jim Dusin’), based in Farmington, Missouri, U.S, was among the first HandPan (and thee first to use the ‘HandPan’ moniker) to appear following the popularity of the PANArt Hang.

The Halo

Like the Hang, the ‘Halo’ is an instrument, sound-sculpture, and descendant of the steel pans of Trinidad and Tobago. A metallic UFO shaped, lap-played, HandPan, that while being an instrument of the idiophone class, is often referred to as a drum.

Halo HandPan are larger than the Hang, and Pantheon Steel its creators describe the Halo as being not simply a copy of the Hang, but a side-step along an alternative evolutionary path, to create an instrument with its own voice and character, that boasts a ‘soulful and rich timbre of its own’ that is capable of providing a ‘powerful sonic experience’. 

Halo are available in a wide variety of scales, and customers are encouraged to choose the style of tuning that ‘speaks to them’. And while PANArt may not have appreciated the association (or competition), Pantheon Steel’s Halo, has been largely applauded within the Handpan community, for both its solid build quality, and its sweet-sounding singing voice. A fact that has unfortunately (currently), made Halo HandPan almost as hard to get hold of, as the instrument that inspired their creation.

Points of note:

* For the chance to obtain a Halo you must sign up to the Pantheon Steel mailing list. Roughly once a year Pantheon Steel run a lottery among all those who show interest, with the winners receiving the opportunity to purchase Halo, as and when they become available. With Pantheon Steel building roughly 200-300 Halo over the course of each year.

* At last known count the list of people having expressed an interest in purchasing a Pantheon Steel Halo was 14,000 strong. Not all will commit to purchase at the time of lottery. But even so, chances of winning a Halo from Pantheon may prove slim.

* The Halo is among the largest, heaviest HandPan (something to keep in mind when considering shipping costs), with the batch one Halo being: 58cm (23 inches) by 22cm (8.5 inches).

* In addition to their waiting list / lottery, Pantheon Steel also offer one Halo per month (roughly) for sale via their ebay store: Visit Pantheon Steel Halo ebay Store.

* The last known price of a Halo purchased directly from Pantheon Steel is $1800 (with those sold on eBay frequently selling for around the $7000 mark).

* The original Halo (now known as the Halo ‘Genesis’), had/has a much deeper sounding voice compared to that of the PANArt Hang. And is considered to be the ‘Baritone’, to the Hang’s tenors, and altos. However, Pantheon now also produce the Halo ‘Stratus’, a HandPan with a higher register than the original Genesis Halo.

For more information on the Halo, and/or to sign up to Pantheon Steel's mailing list, you can visit their website: HERE Or find more information on the makers page: HERE

Tipper - Bringing the Hang Drum to the Electronic Music Scene

British music composer, ‘Tipper’, well known for his inventive and eclectic DJing, and electronic music releases, has in recent years built around him a growing army of fans, won with earlier releases such as ‘Holding Pattern’, and ‘Tertiary Noise’. And Tipper’s new album ‘Broken Soul Jamboree’ doesn’t disappoint, and is easily counted amongst his best work to date. 

Bringing together a diverse mixture of sounds inspired by his lifetimes obsession with weird and wonderful instruments, Tipper, blends them with mastery, to create something worth far more than the sum of its parts. Featuring moments of trip-hop, ambient, and even classical, Broken Soul Jamboree, is a twisted melting pot of organic and midi, that displays a new musical maturity for Tipper, that is sure to bolster the numbers of his loyal and growing fan-base.

And it is within the albums final track ‘Ever Drecreasing Circles’, that the Hang drum takes centre stage, to conclude this chaotic masterpiece, by carrying the listener away on a melancholic yet uplifting, voyage to the stars.

Excerpts from the Tipper LP "Broken Soul Jamboree":

Broken Soul Jamboree - Album Revue by tippermusic

The Hang Meets Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows Part 1

Love or loath the Harry Potter books and movies as you choose, but there’s no denying the global success of the stories as written by J.K.Rowling, that follow the life and times of the adolescent boy wizard ‘Harry Potter’, and gang, as they do battle against towering trolls, evil wizards, and the like.
And it is within the soundtrack of the latest Harry Potter movie ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, that the Hang gets its first taste of big screen Hollywood style exposure. Composed by ‘Alexandre Desplat’, French composer, and winner of both a Grammy award and a Golden Globe, the soundtrack features the Hang on at least two tracks: 'Lovegood', and 'The Deathly Hallows'.
Described as being ‘one of his greatest acheivements’, and ‘full with rich orchestral textures’, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. displays the intricate use of numerous unexpected instruments, not least of which is the Hang, an instrument that Alexandre Desplat describes as being ‘like a steel drum blended with some gamelans’.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Kool Drums - Funky Steel Tongue Drum for Sale

Created by professional sound engineer 'Jimmy James’, child of the 60’s, and ex Londoner currently residing in France, 'Kool Drum', Steel tongue drums, have come a long way since their early days as a traditional 'Hank drum' - made from recycled propane tanks. And are now produced using custom-made (pressed steel) shells. . Hand-made with love and care, Kool Drums undergo three separate stages of tuning, and feature a unique damper, which really brings together the sympathetic frequencies, resonating in perfect harmony.
Available at time of writing in three different models: eight note, nine note, or an epic eighteen note model. Numerous scales, and note layouts. Kool Drums are perfect for jammin', busking, meditation, and healing work, Kool Drums, with their stylish exterior, and pleasing tones, are great either played alone, or as an accompaniment (perhaps played with HandPan as in the video by 'Singing Steel', above-right). 
With prices starting (at time of writing) at 295 Euro (roughly $380) - for more information, and/or to purchase a Kool Drum, you can visit the makers website: HERE

Bern, Switzerland, Home of the PANArt Hang

With its official language being German, Bern, was established on the banks of the river ‘Aar’ in 1191, by the German nobleman named, ‘Berthold V’, who allegedly named the city after the bear that he’d recently killed. Lying on the Swiss plateau in the Canton of Bern, the area is home to mount ‘Gurten’ (958m) and mount ‘Bantiger’ (947m), is 51.62 square kilometers in size, and has a population of 123,466 (Dec, 2009).

And in addition to being the birthplace of the Hang, Bern’s medieval city center is also a world heritage site, home to the ‘Time Bell’, an elaborate medieval clock with moving puppets, the ‘Munster’,
an impressive 15th century Gothic cathedral, and is home to one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe.
And for some ‘Bern’ (also called ‘Berne’) the fifth most populous city of Switzerland, is like the destination of a religious pilgrimage, and a mecca, for lovers of the ‘Hang’, the sound sculpture and instrument produced by Felix Rohner’ and ‘Sabina Schärer', A duo of master craftsmen who dedicated over 30 years to the creation and perfection of their baby, the ‘Hang-Hang’’, the first HandPan, and an instrument  that has left musicians the world over dreaming, of the day they're called to Bern.

The Caisa Drum / HandPan - The German-Made 'Hang Drum' Alternative

(!) This post may now be out of date - but has been left published for archive purposes.  It may still prove to be of interest, but some (or all) details may now be out of date (!).

Named ‘Caisa’, after a Trinidad carnival chant, the Caisa is the HandPan made by, ‘Bill Brown’, of ‘Kaisos Steel Drums’, based in Germany.

One of the first HandPan to appear, following in the wake of the PANArt Hang, the Caisa is an instrument that brings very much its own voice and identity to the world of HandPan, with popular tunings being the ‘Cosma’ tuning, and the 432Hz Caisa, ‘OM”. 

With a diameter of 58-60cm, the Caisa HandPan is considerably larger than the PANArt Hang, and is notable for the bottom of the HandPan, which differs considerably from the Standard ‘Gu’ style underneath; common to most HandPan. With the Caisa’s bottom featuring a central screw-fitting for the insertion of a small wooden stand, which gives the Caisa a mushroom-like look. And also has three holes for the use of a snare-type stand.

Points of note:

* The Caisa is a non-nitrided HandPan.

* Some Caisa are tuned in a ‘circular’ pattern (notes ascend around the circumference of the pan). Rather than in the ‘zig-zag’ pattern common to most HandPan (worth being aware of if you’re purchasing a Caisa second-hand).

* In addition to the standard Caisa, Bill Brown also produces a ‘Baby Caisa’, a smaller, lighter version of its larger brother.

Last known price of a (standard sized) Caisa HandPan: 1100 Euro (around $1400).

For more information, check the makers page: HERE

Davide Swarup - Music for Hang

The Hang is the type of instrument that will sound relatively good, even in the most poorly skilled of hands, however, as with all instruments, it takes a musician with that little something extra, who forms a bond with their weapon of choice, and who lets it inside of themself, to really be able to make it sing.  And if there was ever an early contender deserving of the title of the first ‘Rock Star’ of the Hang, then ‘Davide Swarup’ is surely it.

And while bringing the Hang and its music to the masses may not be his intention, Davide Swarup, has both the look, and the skills necessary to appeal to both an alternative, and to a more mainstream audience, with songs that are just that, songs, rather than the repetitive slow paced melodic melodies aimed more towards meditation, than listening to for pleasure, that his contemporaries often produce.  So that with his album ‘Music for Hang’, Davide Swarup gives us a taste of this beautiful instrument at its finest, mixing slowed-down dreamy beats, with fast-paced tribal dance-floor hooks and rhythms, that push the Hang that little bit further.

It is inevitable now, that sooner or later an album or song is going to be released that brings the Hang (and HandPans in general) to the attention of the music buying masses, and while this may be to the dislike of all those who have struggled hard to hide the Hang away and keep it for themselves, somebody is going to be riding that wave.  And while ‘Music for Hang’ is not that album, it comes close, meaning that when the time comes, perhaps with a future release, Davide Swarup is (currently) most likely to become to the Hang what Louise Armstrong was to the trumpet, or Ray Charles Robinson was to the piano, meaning that with time, Davide Swarup, could well become known as the first true superstar of the Hang.

MILLTONE Steel Tongue Drums

There’s no denying that MILLTONE make a great Hank (style) drum.  In fact, they’re arguably the best ‘all-round’ steel tongue drum currently available for purchase.  They look great, they sound great, they’re well made, they’re reasonably priced, and they’re relatively easy to obtain.

MILLTONE are a U.S. based company that produce quality hand crafted instruments suitable for both amateur and professional musicians alike. And with their unique sound and revolutionary magnetic tuning system, MILLTONE steel tongue drums (created by master craftsman ‘Larry Miller’) have found favor the world over with those seeking an innovative instrument that is not only a pleasure to play, but that also offers a sound suitable for all levels of play, from bedroom jams, to studio productions.

And as mentioned 
above, MILLTONE steel tongue drums allow the musician to (using inbuilt magnets) re-tune their drum themselves, which offers a very real advantage over some of their competitors, which may involve a long-drawn-out and costly procedure to get re-tuned.

And the additional benefit of purchasing a MILLTONE, should you purchase it via eBay.  Is that their listings are extremely thorough.  Providing potential customers with everything they could possibly want to know about their instruments prior to purchase.  Including a YouTube video of the exact MILLTONE steel tongue drum that you’re considering bidding on.  Allowing you to see, and more importantly, listen to, the exact instrument you could end up playing yourself.  Seriously reducing the risk of that disappointment factor, that sometimes accompanies purchases made online, when they’re finally delivered.
Or alternatively, you can visit the MILLTONE website for: MORE INFORMATION

Where to Get Your Hang (Drum) Tuned

Image result for hand hammer

Following on from my last post concerning buying a second-hand Hang on eBay, and the consequences of doing so, I’d like to take the opportunity to direct any visitors who were either brave, desperate, or foolish enough, to win at auction on eBay, a pre-owned Hang, and what no doubt turned out to be a fairly expensive purchase, the list of steel Pan tuning individuals and businesses that follows, as put together by the website ‘Hotpans.se’.

And I make no guarantees, regarding the ability of anyone listed being able to return your secondhand Hang to its original condition, should you find it delivered out of tune. But should you be unable to return your PANArt Hang to PANArt in Berne, Switzerland, due to their policy of generally refusing to re-tune Hanghang these days. Or should it not be economical to ship your Bali steel pan all the way back home when in need of re-tuning, then the following list seems like as good a place as any, to start seeking out alternative options.

List of International Steel Pan Makers and Tuners

Update - The following tuners are known to have re-tuned Hang (and other HandPan):

Kyle Cox of Pantheon Steel (America)
Robbie at Mannette Musical Instruments (America)
Eckhard C. Schulz of E.C.S Steel Drums (Germany)
Darren Dyke of PanCycle (Brussels)

[Update 2015]  Now that there are a sizeable number of HandPan makers around the world, it would make more sense to find and contact your nearest HandPan maker to seek advice, or services (if offered]. Rather than contacting your local steel pan tuner - who may not have experience with the more specialised HandPan form.

Download Hang Drum Music Online

There’s something about the blissed out tunes of ‘Bhanu’ playing the Hang on the album ‘HANGDRUMMUSIC - For Yoga and Meditation’ that makes me want to roll one up, crawl inside myself, and then quietly drift away to a world far more peaceful than this one.  With four slow-paced extended tracks totalling over an hour of amazing Hang music, Bhanu carries the listener away on a journey of self-discovery, and ultimate relaxation.
So whether for use during yoga and meditation, or just for enjoying while chilling out, Bhanu's beautiful collection of euphoric Hang drum music can be downloaded and enjoyed from Amazon: Hang Drum Music

Rockcreek Steel Tongue Drums

Rockcreek have been producing traditional steel pans of the Trinidad / Tobago style since back in 1998, when the companies founder ‘Kevin Martin’ left his investment job to pursue his dream of producing steel pans and of being a full time musician. And in recent years Rockcreek have expanded their enterprise to include the production of their own special breed of steel tongue drums.

With a sound that has been compared to a ‘Wurlitzer’ Rockcreeks steel tongue drums include some of the most innovative designs currently on the market. And with their rich tones, long sustain, quality build, and prices that offer great value for money, Rockcreeks steel tongue drums have quickly established a growing and loyal fan-base amongst musicians of all levels.


Amazing Homemade Hang Alternatives

Being unable to obtain and play a genuine PANArt Hang drives some people to incredible lengths in a bid to reproduce the sound and/or style of what is fast becoming one of Switzerland's most famous inventions. And whatever your beliefs regarding PANArts policies for the distribution of their instruments, and the elitist like cliques that have formed around it, there is no denying the beauty of the instrument itself (or ‘Sound Sculpture’ as PANArt would have you call it). And due to the fact that demand exists for the Hang with no supply to quench its thirst, people, as they always will, have drawn upon their skills both technical and creative, to bring to life their own sound sculptures.  And you would need to look far and wide to find a man more deserving of the title “King of the homemade Hang alternative’ than ‘David Havlena’, a man who has gone above and beyond, in his quest to build Handpan inspired instruments from the likes of PVC tubing, golf balls, and guitar strings.
For more information and/or to learn how to build his creations for yourself you can visit his website: Here.
© HandPans Magazine