Gu to Bed - At this HandPan-Shaped Treehouse Hotel

The perfect get-away for the HandPan musician in need of quiet retreat, this giant Handpan-shaped hotel room can be found deep within the thick woods of the Swedish village of Harrads.  And while the village itself may only be called home by six hundred or so inhabitants, people are increasingly coming from far-and-wide, to visit the ‘Treehotel’ that can be found there -  home to this gigantic metallic Handpan, nestling among the trees.

Designed by by some of Scandinavia’s leading architects such as Martin Videgård and Bolle Tham as well asMårten & Gustav Cyrén, the hotel promises to reconnect its guests with nature.  And in addition to the Handpan-like UFO treehouse, there is also the ‘Mirror Cube’ treehouse, a mirror-enveloped cube-shaped treehouse, high among the trees, that seeks to blend in completely with its environment, and a huge bird’s nest themed treehouse, that from the outside at least, is pretty much what it says on the tin - while inside, things, are a little more luxurious.

At nearly $500+ a night this isn’t the cheapest lodgings that you’re likely to find, but, it is certainly unique.  And for us, taking a trip to see the locally-visible Northern Lights, would be the cherry on the top of a stay here - if, a Handpan-shaped treehouse with stairs leading straight up through the GU, were in need of such things, as cherries.  

Visit the Treehouse Hotel's website for more info: HERE

Which PANArt Hang Were Sold Under Contract?

You may (or may not) be aware that some PANArt Hang were sold under contract by PANArt to those who purchased them directly from the makers.  From time-to-time you’ll see this mentioned within the details of eBay listings, and the like, “No Contract”, or see potential buyers enquiring as to whether a particular Hang being offered for sale is under contract.  So, we’ll explore the issue of PANArt Hang contracts a little further here.

The Contract itself requested that PANArt be offered pre-emptive rights to purchase back the Hang from the buyer, should they be looking to part with it, and/or that the resale price of the Hang, within the open market (should PANArt not wish to purchase it back), should be for no more, than the original acquisition price.

This agreement was created in attempt to combat the rocketing prices for second-hand Hang, sold on sites like eBay, etc.  where Hang were (and continue to be) sold for many times their original purchase price.  And came into place in 2008 with the distribution of the Integral Hang.  

First generation Hang are the most numerous (with roughly 4300 produced) and these were sold without and kind of stipulations, or strings attached, so we can say that most Hang were not sold by PANArt under contract.  However, it is known that some owners of earlier generation Hang who returned their instruments to PANArt for retuning, and other maintenance work, at a later date, were also required to sign-up to this contract, before the work was carried out.  But in general, only Hang made after 2008, from the Integral Hang onwards, were sold with contracts attached to them.

As a point of note, it has been speculated that the contract itself, is more of a “Gentleman’s Agreement” and would hold very little weight in a court of law.  Yet, while it exists, arguably only, as a pinky-swear, between owner, and maker - It is much rarer to see PANArt's more recent creations being offered for sale through the usual channels, than earlier models not sold under contract - thus far.

Ballistol - For HandPan Rust Prevention

While FrogLube has arguably become the HandPan communities rust-prevention treatment of choice, here at HandPans Magazine, we’re users.  In the only independent test of corrosion inhibiting products conducted to date (at time of posting) upon fragments of HandPan shell - both FrogLube, and Ballistol, ranked among the most effective.  

And being Europe-based, and with Ballistol being produced in Germany, we’ve found Ballistol to be a much easier product to source locally (there are now some European HandPan makers, etc., selling FrogLube as an accessory, but even so, considering that the two products were found to perform pretty much on a par, we’ve found that we’ve been able to source Ballistol at much more competitive prices - though of course, should you be located in the States (where FrogLube is produced), or somewhere where FrogLube is easier to acquire than Ballistol, no doubt you’ll find the reverse to be true.

What is Ballistol?

Advertised as being an Eco-friendly, non-toxic, biodegradable, cleaner, lubricant, and preservative; with 1001 uses.  Ballistol (meaning ‘Ballistic Oil’), was originally developed at the request of Germany’s army, prior to World War I, for protecting its firearms, and, like many of the most effective products currently being used to protect HandPan from the elements, remains popular with gun-users around the world.  

And within Germany, Ballistol is used almost religiously, where many folk believe it to have magical-like properties, where in addition to being used to protect metal, wood, leather, rubber, and synthetic materials, Ballistol is used for a multitude of unexpected purposes, even being used to treat wounds.

Ballistol Wipes

If, like us, you’re big fans of convenience, we can strongly recommend . With each individual pre-treated sachet-encased cloth being the perfect amount for giving a single HandPan a good covering.  And being perfectly-sized for stashing a few away inside your HandPan bag/case - for on your travels.

Additionally, while best used as a rust-prevention treatment, Ballistol should also easily remove any light surface rust, that may have already formed.

Frequency of Use

While how often you’ll need to treat your HandPan with Ballistol (or any other corrosion prevention treatment) is going to depend on what sort of conditions your HandPan is exposed to, we’ve found that a good wipe-down with Ballistol once every couple of months, is more than adequate, to keep our own instruments in tip-top condition.

Algambra - HandPan-Tinged World Music from Moscow

One album that we’ve been enjoying a lot recently here at HandPans Magazine, after stumbling across some epic performances by them over at YouTube a few weeks back,  is the self-titled album by the outfit named, ‘Algambra’.

A Russian world music band led by HandPan man 'Yuri Rubin', that mixes the sounds of HandPan, with the likes of the metallophone, cello, electric guitar, and Celtic harp (to name a few), Algambra draw their influences from the different ethnic influences of middle-eastern, Indian, and Mediterranean music, through  to modern fusion and minimalism.

Algambra (by Algambra) has a super-chilled vibe to it, with tracks like ‘Night Sky’, that carries you away to some exotic destination, and doesn’t just invite you to relax, but insists upon it.  And the cello-laden ‘New Year Lullaby in Space’, that is not just fitting for the time of year as we post this, but its plodding melody perfectly captures that flavour situated directly between melancholic, and uplifting, that we’ve grown to love in good HandPan music.

Another reason we’ve got a lot of love for this self-titled album, is that the dominant voice, HandPan-wise, sounds to be the Caisa HandPan, an instrument that doesn’t get a whole lot of love within the HandPan community, but, as this album shows, in the right hands, is just as capable of producing magic, as any of its brethren.  Though there’s also some Victor Levinson SPB on here too.  And judging by their recent video for the track ‘Walking Across the Desert’ (embedded - but not featured on this particular album), it appears as if they’ve added a Pantheon Steel Halo to their arsenal as well, with good results.

And with this album available to listen to for free, with the option to purchase from as little as $3 over at BandCamp (at time of posting), in our book, you can’t really go wrong.  

Decide for yourself, below...

Are Stradivarius Style Investment Funds for PANArt Hang the Future?

While buying HandPan, and specifically, PANArt Hang, as an investment, is generally frowned upon within the HandPan community, at time of posting, this hasn’t stopped the price of the most sought after of these instruments from continuing to sky-rocket.  A relatively recent invention, with the first Hang being offered for sale to the public in 2001, Hang that originally sold for as low as $300 directly from PANArt just a few short years ago, now frequently sell for prices between $8000-$12000+ at auction .  With two second generation Hang being snatched up on eBay for well in excess of ten thousand dollars earlier this year; in a matter of hours (the first sold at its buy-it-now price in under an hour) - with first generation Hang sales being not far behind (approximately 800 second generation Hang were produced by PANArt, while first generation Hang are believed to number around 4300 - making second generation Hanghang that bit rarer).

Difficulties around obtaining a Hang directly from the makers, primarily due to supply-and-demand, and the handmade nature of the instruments that allowed for only limited production, drove prices high within the ‘used’ market, almost as soon as the world began to discover their existence (primarily through the viral sharing of YouTube videos, and the like).  And prices have continued to rise ever since.

And with PANArt having announced back in late 2013 that they would no longer be making ANY more Hang, it seems possible that there could be another at least partial explanation, for the ever increasing prices of original PANArt-made Hang - In addition to the ever growing number of musicians seeking to obtain one.

A Sound Investment

In recent years, investment funds, and private investors, have increasingly become interested in ‘top-tier’ musical instruments, as a way of sidestepping issues associated with the volatile equities market, and other investment options, such as the often high maintenance costs associated with real-estate.  With particular interest being shown to rare violins, such as those produced by Stradivarius, and Guarneri del Gesu.  With increasing interest also being shown in sought-after vintage guitars, and other rare instruments of provenance.  

Rare Stradivarius violins have sold with price tags as high as 45 million dollars (and rising), and the most sought-after vintage guitars frequently sell with price tags well into the hundreds of thousands.  For investors, the predicted return on investment sits at around 10% annually on high-end musical instruments.  A percentage that if anything, considering the rocketing increase in prices commanded year-after-year, within the open market, for Hang, since their birth thus far - actually seems to be kind of on the low side.  

And with Hang being not just rare, handmade, and highly sought-after, but also the very first, of a brand new instrument type, they appear to carry all of the marks of prestige, that could attract investors in rare musical instruments to seek them out.

Leading violin dealer David Brewer hazards a guess that half of the world’s 600 or so remaining Stradivarius are sitting in high-security vaults, which, might seem like a tragic fate; if this were to also prove to be the ultimate resting ground of most of PANArt's Hanghang.  But, as somebody who has personally now been in the company of a good handful of Hang that have been badly taken care of by their owners, beaten half to death, or left to rust away, I would guesstimate that a fair number of Hang have already been lost to the world, in the short amount of time that has passed since their relatively recent invention - and as such, I can personally see a certain appeal to the idea of preserving in as pristine condition as possible, at least some, of what will soon become the historical relics of this fast-developing art-form, by whatever means necessary.  Especially, considering that there are now a growing number of more-than-capable makers able to produce quality instruments for the musicians and performers, and knowing that the Stradivarius (etc.) owned by these investment groups, are often lent out for special concerts and performances, to those who have proven themselves gifted and respectful enough to wield them. But maybe that's just me.

Will Hang prices continue to rise? Will the bubble burst? As always, only time will tell...

Visiting the Hanghaus(s) using Google Earth

With the Hanghaus - or Hanghaus(s) - being where it all began for those of us in love with the sounds of the Hang, and HandPan, and having not been fortunate enough to this date to visit this singing-steel Mecca in person - we decided to take a virtual tour of these “hallowed grounds” using the power of Google Earth.

And it did not take long to find it...

This small wooden building between the trees, and by the side of a river, is the birth-place of the Hang.  And while PANArt have since moved to larger premises, this, even now, is where we still picture Felix and Sabina hammering away.  

However, times change, and as mentioned above, PANArt have since relocated to larger premises...

Which, while not as quaint, and picturesque looking as the original Hanghaus, is actually only a very short trek down the street, on the other side of the road from the original wooden Hanghaus.  

* As a point of note, we're not 100% sure as to exactly when PANArt moved into the newer larger premises, but, we do know that it must have been at some point towards the end of the building of first generation Hang, as the address for PANArt found on the stickers placed inside early Hanghang changes towards the end of the first generations.  For example, the address inside Hang number 2845 is for the original Hanghaus, while the address found inside Hang number 3955, is for the newer premises.

Want to take the virtual tour yourself?  Simply load up Google Earth, and then tap in the following two addresses:

* Original Hanghaus: Engehalden Street 134, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
* PANArt's newer premises: Engehalden Street 131, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

And go exploring.

* In case anybody is wondering, "Hangruhe" as seen on the sign at the end of the above video, refers to when the Hang Makers set aside the winter season each year as a quiet regenerative time when they can research and develop their instruments. 

(!) PANArt are known to not be appreciative of those who turn up in person, without having first been invited.

© HandPans Magazine