Dr. Ellie Mannette, and the HandPan

Dr. Ellie Mannette Working on a Steelpan.
Source: www.mannetteinstruments.com
In the early days of the Hang, we occasionally got a sense that there was a slight air of disappointment coming from the home of the original Swiss-makers, PANArt - that their new hand-played singing-steel creation, hadn’t caused a bigger stir when unveiled before the Steelpan community, from which PANArt themselves had sprung. While here at HPM we tend to think of Felix Rohner only in relation to the Hang - Felix was hugely important to the Swiss Steelpan scene, long before the Hang had ever been imagined.

Despite receiving the Bavarian State Award for special technical achievement at the International Trade Fair held in Munich, in the year 2000.  When presented before scientists, tuners, and journalists, at the International Conference on the Science and
Felix Rohner working on a Hang
Source: http://www.frsw.de/
Technology of the Steelpan (ICSTS), held in Trinidad, in the same year - all that could be agreed upon was that the Hang, was something “new”, which would surely “make its own way”.

In an interview with ask.audio, Steelpan tuner of over twenty years, and current Handpan maker, Dave Beery (of Dave’s Island Instruments) explains:

‘...a teacher who purchased instruments from me said, ‘Dave, I saw this new instrument, it’s called a Hang, you’ve got to make them, you’ll be a millionaire!’  I totally dismissed it about 8 years ago and didn’t think about for a while until other people started to mention how cool it was. Other Steel Drum makers didn’t see the appeal because it only had 8 or so notes on it and we are used to tuning Steel Drums with 27 notes on it. We saw it as a limited instrument and didn’t understand what it was all about.  So, finally, with enough persistence from friends who told me to just make one and try it, I relented. As soon as I made one and put it in my lap, I thought ‘Ok, I get it, this is fun!’  Ever since then I’ve become an advocate for the instrument and have enjoyed making them.’

And while the Hang may not have caused the fireworks Felix, and Sabina might have been hoping for, initially, within the community of tuners, and enthusiasts that surrounded the traditional Steelpan - there was a brand new community waiting to be born, that would greedily claim the instrument as its own.  A community for a new generation, that would use the tools of its time, to spread love for this new invention, in its own way - with early Hang YouTube videos notching up millions of views, spread far-and-wide via Social media, and the like.  With websites, and online forums appearing, to further facilitate discussion, and shared passion.

Dr. Ellie Mannette and the HandPan

If Sabina and Felix, are the Hang's Mother, and Father - Ellie Mannette, by default, is the Grandfather of the entire Handpan genus. If you don't know who Ellie Mannette is - he is the man acknowledged as being the Father of the modern Steelpan instrument (and is a man who can make Handpan players publicly weep). Essentially, no Ellie Mannette, no Hang, and no Hang, no Handpan. Ellie Mannette is a man who dreamed something new into existence, and then (much like PANArt would later do themselves) with his heart, mind, hands, and determination, gave it form...

And as such, we've often wondered as to his thoughts, regarding this new type of off-shoot, that his own work has inarguably directly led to.  Ellie Mannette has shared publicly that part of his dream is for others to move forward, with what he has started - but when it comes to Handpan, and the new and burgeoning community that now surrounds it, does the man-at-the-top, give this new development the thumbs up?

Unfortunately, in lieu of any response thus far to our e-mail enquiring - at time of posting, we can only speculate.  We find it of note, that regardless of Dr Ellie Mannette's personal thoughts as to the Handpan, numerous next-generation steelpan tuners have embraced the steel-UFO. Including at least one of the good Doctor's former apprentices, Darren Dyke, who studied under Ellie Mannette to learn the craft of tuning, and who now operates as the European-arm of US makers, Pantheon Steel.

But as to Ellie Mannette's thoughts, well, It's been known for a while now that Ellie has been working with US Handpan makers, TerraTonz, offering help, and guidance.  And a few years back, a photograph emerged on their website showing a concentrating Ellie Mannette, taking his magickal hammers, to one of their TerraPan instruments.  And you can see that photo: HERE. What are his thoughts as he tunes the Steelpans younger sibling?  As great art is supposed to speak to each individual on a very personal level, all we can do is offer you that photo, to take from what you will.  While from THIS PHOTO, of Ellie Mannette, involved in a singing-steel jam, with Handpan in attendance - we're going to choose to believe, albeit in a somewhat unofficial, and unverified manner, that Dr Ellie Mannette, has very much welcomed the Handpan; into the wider pan-family, that he will always head; as patriarch.  

Mannette Musical Instruments: http://www.mannetteinstruments.com/

* The Handpan, and Steelpan, singing side-by-side.  Performance by Nobuya Yamaguchi, and Yonatan Bar.

© HandPans Magazine