Golshifteh Farahani Playing Hang - The Sounds of My Sweet Pepper Land

We might not have too many bona-fide celebrity ambassadors championing the small but growing world of Handpan, at time of posting.  But those that we do have, we hold dearly.  As it is with Iranian actress, musician, and singer, Golshifteh Farahani - who to date has appeared in twenty-five movies, and counting - including alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, in the 2008 released, “Body of Lies” (in which she became the first Iranian actress to appear in a Hollywood film since the 1979 revolution). And you'll also find her in the upcoming 2017 instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, “Dead Men Tell No tales”.  Additionally, if you’re not ill-at-ease with paddling out into the pools of world-cinema from time-to-time, it is here that you’ll arguably find Golshifteh shine brightest.  In movies such as “The Pear Tree”, in which she first gained attention at the age of fourteen, before going on to become widely considered to be Iran’s biggest movie star (before later being banished from her home country for her art), and “My Sweet Pepper Land” a movie we’ll discuss a little more below, which, to our knowledge, featured  the Hang / Handpan’s very first foray onto the big-screen, anywhere, ever.

But first, here's a recent video of Golshifteh performing on her seemingly-beloved PANArt Integral Hang...

The Integral Hang

Golshifteh Farahani’s instrument of choice to date has always been an Integral Hang, from the original Swiss-makers, PANArt (and there are a number of videos of her performing upon it around the web). Offered-up by PANArt circa 2008, the Integral Hang are darker, and rougher, than the Second-Generation Hang that preceded them.  And in accordance with PANArt’s previous moves to reduce the number of sound-models they offered, the Integral Hang was made available in only one tuning (D3 Ding with seven notes A3, Bb3, C4, D4, E4, F4, and A4 surrounding it in the Tone Circle).

My Sweet Pepper Land

Unfortunately, despite really wanting to give this movie a proper viewing, we’ve never been able to find a copy with English subtitles (despite the trailer above having them).  Which kind of forced us to make up our own dialogue for the characters as we went along - and whether that made for a better, or worse film than is officially scripted, it’s difficult to say.  My Sweet Pepper Land is essentially a Spaghetti-Western set in Iran, with an interesting cast of characters, an enjoyable cinematic-style, and of course for us, most importantly in this instance, several Hang performances, and more Hang music sprinkled in between, setting the mood.

Unless you’re the sort of Singing-steel fan who sees Handpan in the sky, and among the trees, and wants to watch this movie purely to catch the Hang’s cinematic debut, unless you either speak Kurdish, and/or read French, you probably won't find too much of interest in My Sweet Pepper Land.  However, that said, Golshifteh Farahani’s performance was captivating.  And just perhaps, we’ll see Golshifteh, and her Hang, centre-stage alongside the ever-popular, Captain Jack Sparrow, come 2017(?)...


The Art of Rock Balancing - And HandPan Music

While the connection we’re drawing between Rock Balancing, and Handpan music, is pretty tenuous - relying solely on the following video by YouTube user, PanDaman, we’re running with it.  Not least because it is something that we’ve recently found a certain amount of fascination with ourselves (we were introduced to it last year while visiting Thailand, where everybody seemed to be at it), but also because it just seems to be something that fits the tempo of the Handpan well, whatever that means…

What is Rock Balancing?

We expected it to be something that was some kind of ancient Chinese art-form, Buddhist practice, or something of that nature.  But research seems to suggest that that is not the case at all.  And while it seems likely that throughout history, all over the world, people have balanced rocks one atop the other, for whatever reasons drove them to do so - the art of Rock Balancing in its increasingly established current form, appears to be something quite new.

Similarities have been drawn to such things as “Cairn”, and “Inuksuk”, man-made piles of rock with much longer histories.  However, these structures usually served as landmarks, and were intended to stand for a long time.  Whereas Rock Balancing is considered to be a transient art-form, with sculptures having life-spans often counted in hours, or even minutes.  

The name of the art-form, “Rock Balancing”, is not unlike that of the “Handpan”, in the sense of being quite a practical moniker, that barely hints at its potential for creating truly intricate-beauty.  And in much the same manner that those hearing the Handpan for the first time are often deeply surprised that that wok / trash-can looking thing can produce the sounds that it does, the art of Rock Balancing requires a certain degree of sensitivity, with the ultimate goal being to generate that which appears to be impossible, but is in fact, only improbable.

And even if like ours, your own initial attempts are not overly elaborate (see our first effort below), there is something quite "Zen" about the whole process (in terms of being present in the moment), and also something quite satisfying, in successfully stacking even only a small handful of rocks, and stones, to create something, that no matter how short-lived, and volatile, briefly adds a little extra wonder to the world. Before once again being consumed and set-to-purpose, by the appetites of Mother Nature.


Improvisation JB Handpan - HandPan Tube’s Most Popular - May, 2016

HandPan Tube’s most popular video of May, 2016, came in the form of the following improvisational piece on a Handpan made by Jan Borren, performed by YouTube user, Inner Music.

It’s a nicely played melodic piece, with a strong poignant quality to it.  And the JB Handpan sings sweetly.  Cards on the table, we actually know very little about either Inner Music, the artist, with this being the very first video we have thus far stumbled across of theirs. Or even “JB Handpan” themselves, with this Netherlands-based “brand” being one that has successfully stayed pretty-much off radar for most of its development, with, until recently, there being little in the way of YouTube exposure.  And, seemingly intentionally, no particular name to lock-in on. Other than the increasingly frequent web-chatter of late referencing the name, "Jan Borren".

‘...I like how it is now, no name no logo.  Would be nice if people who own an instrument of mine say 'it's a pan from Jan' making it more personal…’ - from the Jan’s Pannen Facebook Page.

So, without further ado, you can take a listen below…


HandPan Rope Decorations - from Zen-Percussion

A short post to highlight the handwoven Handpan rope decorations currently being offered for sale by Zen-Percussion - the guys behind the GUDA drum.  We know from our reading around the internet that these things certainly have their admirers, and if you too are on the look-out for a way to jazz-up the appearance of your Handpan, without risking measures such as painting your instrument, which is not widely believed to be the best of ideas, than one of these ornate craft-made rope-edgings, could be just what you’ve been looking for.

While these (according to their website) come by default with their GUDA drum range of steel tongue drum, and the OMana make of Handpan - they also offer them for sale for any make of Handpan - you just need send them the dimensions, and they’ll put you one together custom-style.

And beyond any aesthetic pleasure you might glean from the addition of a rope-skirt to your Handpan, these could also have practical uses.  The rim of a Handpan is not always the most comfortable of things when it’s digging into your belly, and the rims on some Handpan can even be quite sharp/jagged.  Problems, that could potentially be soothed or solved with the addition of one of these nifty little Jute-made Handpan adornments…

Find them for sale over at ETSY: HERE


Microphone Comparison for HandPan - with David Kuckhermann

Handpan have always had a bit of a reputation for beings instruments with a sound that is difficult to capture fully with microphones.  Whether for recording, or live-performance, the Handpans intricate, yet delicate sound can really test equipment, that might work just fine for other instruments, and situations.  And in the words of one professional live-sound technician who has been working with Hang-legend, Manu Delago, and other Handpan performers for over seven years: ‘Lovely sounding things, but they're an absolute s**t to mic up in a live setting for a large audience...’

Enter David Kuckhermann

One-half of the team responsible for having produced YouTube’s most popular Handpan comparison video, and a popular series of Handpan tutorial DVDs - David Kuckhermann, is also a familiar Handpan festival favourite, travelling and performing all over the world. So if you’re looking for a little insight into possible microphone set-ups for your own performance, or recording needs, David Kuckhermann is a man more than qualified to give some pointers.  

Which he does, in his third YouTube Handpan Vlog offering, ‘Microphone Comparison’, in which he test runs two different Handpan against fifteen different mics.  Before sharing with us his personal favourites of the bunch…

The Results

At the budget (though do be warned that this is not low-end gear, and that prices reflect that) end David gives honourable mentions to the Oktava Mk12 Stereo Pair, combined with the Recording Tools MC-700 to complete the sound.  While the microphones that win out for David Kuckhermann overall, in terms of capturing the fullest possible handpan flavour, are the Schoeps CMC-64 Stereo Set, combined with the Royer Labs R-121.  

You can find David Kuckhermann over at YouTube, Facebook, or via his Website.  


PANArt Hang Promotional Material - Relics from PANArt’s Distribution Network.

While over the Hang’s short span of production, prior to its retirement by PANArt in 2013, “Mystique” levels surrounding the Hang grew to the point where folks were near offering up their first-born-children, for the chance to get their hands on one of PANArt’s creations - in the beginning, PANArt needed to find ways to get their new fledgling instrument before the eyes and ears, and into the hands, of those who would become the early pioneers of Hang music.  And with this in mind, PANArt set about creating an international dealer network that would span the globe.  And between 2001, and 2005, PANArt established distributors in Austria, Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the U.S.A. as well as several music stores in the Hang’s home country of Switzerland.

From 2006 onwards, with the birth of the second generation Hang, and demand for the Hang beginning to reach the crazy-highs that would surround it until it was retired (and arguably still exists despite the many newer makers - Hang appearing for sale via Handpan Bay continue to command roughly five times more attention than any other offering) - PANArt began to move away from their network of dealers, now requiring those looking to purchase a Hang to write to PANArt directly, expressing their interest.

And the following images are relics of that early Hang dealer network - and a tiny slice of Hang history.  From before the days of “Hang-Mania”, and before the “Handpan”, was even a thing…

PANArt Hang Promotional / Informational Material

Photograph of a PANArt Hang informational / promotional flyer - from back when they were being sold in the U.S. by distributor, Ron Kravitz, believed to date from 2003/2004. Ron Kravitz was the sole USA distributor for the Hang from 2002 to 2007.

More promotional / instructional material from early Hang sales. This time associated with the former German Hang distributor: Anklang Musikwelt.  Acquired alongside Hang #1482 - purchased in 2003.


PANArt Vs BEllArt - The Battle for the HandPan

The following topic will always hold the potential to be contentious, and pick at scars, that are arguably only just beginning to heal - however, as a slice of Handpan history, the date, June 27th, 2012, looking back in retrospect, can arguably be conisdered as one of the most significant dates in the history of the Handpan.  And a crossroads at which, the currently blossoming eco-system that surrounds this new instrument, could have taken a very different turn.

Having recently celebrated adding one hundred names to our Handpan makers list, a number that has since risen further - you have to wonder whether things would be quite so fruitful currently - if, on June 27th, 2012 - the day that PANArt (the Hang-makers) took newer rival maker, BEllArt, to court - over accusations of  “creating unfair competition”, things had gone differently to how they did.

A Little History

As you may well know if you have done a little reading into the origins of the Handpan, the instrument-type was first born in the form of the PANArt Hang, among the picturesque slopes of Bern, in the year 2000.  And with a growing demand far greater than supply, PANArt appeared to not just welcome, but also encourage others to take up the hammer and follow their lead - going as far as to share huge swathes of their research online - for all to read, and learn from.

Fast-forward to 2009 however, to a time when a number of the earliest Hang-inspired creations were starting to make themselves known to the market, and seemingly, PANArt’s welcoming stance towards new makers, would rapidly begin to change.  In particular (though not limited to), with regards to newcomer, and Spanish maker, Luis Eguiguren, in the form of BEllArt.

BEllArt unveiled their first instruments in 2009, and it has been noted by some in attendance at the Hanghaus in that same year, that the Spanish-made Handpan were at times a topic of some controversy, among the Hang-makers and their guests.  And things would go down-hill from there, when private discussions between PANArt, and Luis Eguiguren, failed to reach an amicable conclusion, and the lawyers were wheeled out.

The litigation would begin almost immediately, with the primary reason offered up by PANArt being that the instruments of BEllArt were “too similar”, in terms of appearance, and even down to the name (which was originally "HANArt").  Other makes of Handpan were also beginning to gain market-attention, but most were discernibly different in terms of looks, whereas PANArt considered Luis’s instruments to be intentional “copies”, trading upon, and potentially damaging, their own reputation.  The main problem for PANArt now being, that in the earlier days of the Hang’s unleashing, PANArt had not sought to protect their instrument, and had not secured a patent for their new invention.  

A second-generation PANArt Hang, and a circa-2010 BEllArt BElls.  
In PANArt’s (2013 published) book, Hang: Sound Sculpture, PANArt state that:

‘When the first copies of the Hang appeared in 2009, we turned to patent and market attorneys at Bovard AG.  We learned that we were already quite late.  However, an attempt was made to protect the Hang’s design.  Unsuccessfully.  There was nothing to be done against the copies by BEllArt (Spain), nor those by Pantheon Steel (U.S.A)...'

PANArt Vs BEllArt - The Battle for the HandPan

While we don't know the exact details of what happened in court when PANArt met BEllArt there in June, 2012 - it is clear that for PANArt, it was too little, too late. And that for right, or for wrong, other than some minor stipulations being placed upon BEllArt (as is our understanding), PANArt had essentially lost their battle to exhibit much in terms of control over those producing their own Hang-inspired Handpans (with the exception of a few patents later granted regarding specific production methods), forever onwards. Clearing the field, for the army of next-generation makers we see today, to bloom within, and build their own instruments freely - In a landscape that might now be very different - had PANArt's legal offensive been victorious. And arguably also freeing PANArt themselves, to return to the playful creativity, and inventiveness, we have once again seen in recent days, from which the Hang itself first sprung.

© HandPans Magazine