An Interview with Manu Delago - The Bjork Tour and Beyond

While of course it’s far too early to carve such matters in stone (with the Hang having only been around for ten years or so), and perhaps, even pointless to do so... but with by far the most popular and shared ‘Hang drum’ video online under his belt (creeping up on four million views and counting), having played all over the world with his outfits ‘Living Room’, and ‘Handmade’, and having recently toured with the eccentric Icelandic phenomenon that is Bjork, at the time of writing, Manu Delago is arguably to Hang music, what Elvis was to Rock and Roll. i.e. “The King”.

If you’ve sought out Hang music videos online, it would be almost impossible for you not to have stumbled across at least one by Manu. And for many, Manu Delago’s track ‘Mono Desire’ (quite possibly titled simply as ‘Hang Drum Solo’) is their first introduction to the intoxicating sounds of the Hang. And while some are content to simply seek out, and enjoy listening to more Hang music online. For others this video has become the start of an often long (and/or expensive) journey (addiction?). For those who feel the calling to play the Hang for themselves.


Interviewed by ‘Johnny Bliss’ over at http://fm4.orf.at Manu Delago talks about his experiences of playing with his smaller more intimate outfits, and about being part of the much larger and eclectic Bjork tour. An opportunity that might never have presented itself had an unknown Japanese fan not unexpectedly taken the time to re-title, and re-upload Mono Desire into what would become one of the thirty most watched music videos on YouTube (at time of writing). 

You can read the full interview: HERE

Spin Gem - Hang Sounds for your Puzzle Game Fix

In Thailand they have the saying “Same, same... but different!” Which likely in Thailand means many different things, to many different people. But with regards to this funky new iPhone game from ‘Waggle Games Ltd.’ titled ‘Spin Gem’, it’s fairly self-explanatory. An iPhone / iPad game of the puzzle genre, centred around the manipulation of for points, over-sized, brightly colored gems. On the surface Spin Gem is nothing new. But, tweak the concept just enough. And (the reason we’re talking about this game in the first place) replace upbeat synthesised pop with some blissed out synthesised Hang beats instead, as the soundtrack to the game. And you really do have something that’s: Same, same.. but different!

With the idea being to match gems on opposite sides of what is, in effect, a clock face (or perhaps the surface of a Hang as viewed from above). With the hands of the clock sweeping around, bringing with them gems of differing value that need to be paired up for points. With the high-score awarding points going to those who can piece together combos. Spin Gem is a highly addictive little game that while only having a tentative link to the world of HandPan, is great fun none-the-less. And is certainly worth the price-tag of (at time of writing) nothing what-so-ever. It’s a great freebie. And can be downloaded for hours of fun from the iTunes store: HERE.

Rafael Sotomayor - TheArtOfFusion

It has been said that Steel Pan music makes you want to dance, while HandPan music makes you want to meditate. For me, Rafael Sotomayor, AKA ‘TheArtOfFusion’, is often one of few exceptions to this rule.

A personal favorite of mine, Rafael, is as unique a Hang player as you’re likely to find. Combining rhythm, and melody in ways that few other Hang players are able. And while Rafael Sotomayor took some slack in his earlier days; being labelled something of a ‘Hang basher’, (wrapping reels of tape around his thumbs as he did, turning them into beaters). Few could deny that in his gifted hands lie some serious skills.

"I started learning other instruments to combine techniques like the gatham and tabla from India to improve the percussion part of the instrument and piano harmonies to improve the melodic part...” - Rafael Sotomayor

Putting aside the fact that we both share a love for first generation PANArt Hang in Ake Bono tuning (on which much of his first album was recorded, titled ‘The Vibration of the Hang’), and his jealousy-inducing collection of Hanghang (you’ll find him sat busking with four or so Hang in many of his YouTube videos). Rafael (in addition to the standard meditative fare) is able to release from within the Hang some fairly upbeat trance/dance style beats. Of the kind that make you want to unlock your legs from the lotus position, and get up and bust some moves (though most likely not with as much style as Lil Rock, and Victoria Sontgen do at the Gallus Theatre, Frankfurt, to TheArtOfFusion track ‘Inner Voice’).

‘TheArtOfFusion’, as a project, (founded by Rafael in 2006), aims to explore the full sonic possibilities of the Hang. Combining it not just with fellow musicians. But also through collaboration with dancers, painters, and film makers, (to name but a few). And Rafael himself has spoken of a newly reached maturity to his Hang playing, on the recently released TheArtOfFusion debut album (and Rafael's second),‘Rhizonism’. Speaking of a gentler touch.

And while ‘The Vibration of the Hang’, will always be a favorite of mine, it has to be said that Rhizonism is equally beautiful, and through the varied collaborations it brings more than enough that’s new to the table, to make it worth adding to your collection. Even if you already own the former. And if you don’t. No decent Hang music collection is complete without at least one of Rafael’s offerings...
The Vibration of the Hang can be downloaded from Amazon: HERE, while Rhizonism can be ordered on CD from TheArtOfFusion website: HERE

Enjoy.

432Hz Tuning - HandPan in Harmony with the Universe

432Hz

Caisa 'Om' a 432Hz Tuned HandPan

While most would agree that all HandPan (as with most, if not all musical instruments) have certain healing, and therapeutic qualities, (whether for the musician entering a trance-like state during play, or a sense of blissful relaxation reached through listening to others play). Arguably, the healing properties of some HandPan, are said to be more potent than that of others. Due to the frequency to which they are tuned.

432Hz

Said (by some) to be the frequency at which the entire Universe (and all within it) vibrates, 432Hz (as opposed to the 440Hz to which virtually all modern music is set) is increasingly gaining momentum in being regarded as the ‘natural’ pitch, resonating at a frequency in harmony with mind, body, and soul. And while it would be easy to dismiss some of what you read after a little research into this as new-age 'hokum'. If you take the time out to listen to, and compare a few sound samples recorded in both 440Hz, and then in 432Hz. It's difficult to not find yourself agreeing that there just might be something of substance at the heart of all this.

And while I don’t want to go too deeply into the science, and/or history of it all here (watch the embedded videos to get a better understanding of the concept), general consensus seems to be that it was only relatively recently (some time around 1953) that 440Hz became the standard, replacing the 432Hz that had been the norm for, well, since God made the Earth, the Big-Bang happened, or whatever chosen mechanism you subscribe to that first brought ‘everything’ into being occurred.

And in recent years, there has been something of a movement to return to this more ‘organic’ frequency of 432Hz (including a poll of over 20,000 classical musicians of France who all voted unanimously for A-432Hz). And it's an idea that has not been lost on at least one of the more established HandPan makers. Meaning that should you wish to play your Pan without disrupting the ‘good vibes’ of the Cosmos, Bill Brown of Kaisos Steel Drums has you covered, with the Caisa 'Om' (see video above). The only HandPan (I believe) at time of writing to be tuned to 432Hz. (But as and when more appear, we'll be sure to add them to this post).
Caisa 'Om' can be purchased through the 'Healing Drum' website: HERE

[UPDATE] It seems that most HandPan makers, and steel tongue drum makers, are now either willing, or able to tune their instruments to 432Hz - so if 432Hz is something that you're interested in, have a chat with your instruments maker.

Treating your Hang / HandPan for Rust - Miracle Cloth and More...

As a HandPan owner, rust is not your friend. Especially if you happen to be one of those who dropped 10 grand-plus for a used first generation Hang on ebay, with little-to-no-chance of getting any assistance from PANArt, should your prized possession begin to develop problems.

Usually caused by oxygen found in moisture in the air reacting with the iron molecules found within steel, resulting in oxidiation, and eventually, corrosion. Rust can potentially be a very, very bad thing indeed for your pan. However, if caught and treated early enough, usually rust is not a major problem. And can be treated with relative ease.

The Miracle Cloth

First recommended for use with (and distributed with) the Pantheon Steel Halo, the ‘Miracle Cloth’ is a multi-purpose cleaning cloth containing protective chemicals, and waxes, that penetrate into the pores of the metal. Removing rust spots (depending on severity), and protecting the metal against future corrosion. Properties that have made treatment with a Miracle Cloth, the first point of call for all HandPan that are found to have rust problems.

Find Miracle Cloth for Sale at Amazon

Use the Miracle Cloth as directed on the packaging (which essentially involves polishing your HandPan with the Miracle Cloth). However, please note that the Miracle Cloth is not for day-to-day maintenance (use a micro-fibre cloth for this), and that heavy use may remove surface coloration/patina.

* And should the use of a Miracle Cloth not solve your rust problem, with things being a little more severe, Daniel Waples of the Hang Playing Hedge Monkeys recommends: "0000 grade wire wool, used softly... then apply a little oil...”

If in doubt, you can always try seeking further advice over at handpan.org, where the following threads may be of interest:
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Kaizen Steel Tongue Drums

Receiving some very positive reviews within the HandPan / Tongue drum community recently, ‘Kaizen’ steel tongue drums are an earthy range of finely tuned Hank made by ‘Levi Record’, of Georgia, in the States. Self-proclaimed ‘mountain man’, Levi is an artisan who believes strongly in creating quality instruments, handmade with love and care, over those mass-produced. And following a daily practise of meditation before starting work, Levi (and crew) imbue each Kaizen drum with the spirits of love, and the essence of life’s beauty, in order to aid those who find themselves Kaizen in lap, in achieving a deep sense of inner peace during play. A gift to then be payed-forward by player, to the ears of all who  find themselves listening.

Kaizen, (Japanese for: "continuous improvement or change for the better”), are priced at around $250 (upwards), are available in most scales (including custom), and if you ask very nicely, they may even be available in colors other than brown (although we can’t guarantee this). At the time of writing, Kaizen steel tongue drums are sold primarily through ebay*, and feedback is 100% positive. And in addition, it is known that Kaizen steel tongue drums have proven to be a popular choice; with at least one notoriously hard to please Hank / HandPan enthusiast. ;)

* Kaizen steel tongue drum are no longer available from ebay, but they are available from Levi's Etsy store: HERE

Or additionally, Kaizen now have their own website, which you can check out: HERE.
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