Few musical instruments generate such impassioned controversy as the handpan. That’s because the handpan is not your typical musical instrument. Described by The Atlantic as a cross between “a caveman tool and a flying saucer”, the handpan remains elusive in its acquisition and powerful in its impact on both the listener and its provocateur. The unique musical heritage of the handpan originates in Bern Switzerland, where inventors Felix Rohner and Sabina Schårer, founders of the original handpan mecca, PANArt®, constructed a complex musical instrument called The Hang®, meaning “hand” in Bernese German, due to the fact that the instrument is played by hand. The Hang drew from its roots in the steel drum family, mirroring the traditional steel pans of the Caribbean Islands, reverberating the warm, resonant sound of the island drums, enchanting its listeners with a steely, hypnotic draw.
A Grand Debut
In 2001, the PANArt Hang made its grand debut at the Musikmesse in Frankfurt, where the first generation Hang launched into public consciousness with vigorous popularity among musicians and music aficionados, who fell in love with the distinct sound of the finely tuned steel. PANArt became the place to buy a Hang. In a surprising response to the enormous demand for the Hang, PANArt decided to recalibrate and halt production, in order to avoid the pitfalls of mass production. The outcome of this retreat produced a second generation Hang in 2006, followed by a third generation Hang in 2008. Over the next seven years, the difficulty in buying a Hang became more pronounced and the process of obtaining a Hang more elaborate. Buyers of a Hang were obligated to write a letter of intent by hand, stating their motivations for purchasing a Hang, followed by an anticipatory waiting period in which buyers were left wondering whether or not they would receive an invitation letter to buy a Hang, in person, in Switzerland. Finally, after years of limited production and increasing demand, PANArt shutdown production of the Hang in 2014, leaving the music community stunned, in search of something reminiscent.
Disappearance of the Hang
Following the disappearance of the Hang from the market, musicians began to discover the use of the acoustically transcendental, distinctively refined handpan. While similarities exist in the physical appearance of the handpan and the Hang, dedicated loyalists who play the handpan or the Hang would argue that the two instruments are fundamentally distinct from the other, specifically in physical structure and tuning methods.
Difficult to Find
Over the years, several manufacturers began to identify themselves as the place where to buy a handpan, with models like The Spacedrum, The Caisa, and The Bell, to name a few; though, don’t be surprised to find a locked waiting list with no possibilities in acquiring an instrument through these companies. Other names for the instrument included Pantam and Hang Drum, though the handpan community favors the term handpan above all else. Amidst high demand and search for where to buy a handpan, Tzevaot Handpans emerged and began to deliver handpans with a remarkable policy of “no waiting list.” To honor the instrument, Tzevaot Handpans is constantly refining its practice and learning how to build a handpan with the utmost dedication and loyalty to the authenticity of sound quality for the instrument. Since 2010 Tzevaot has focused their efforts not on making alterations to the original mystical design, but rather, emulating it as similarly as possible. In 2015, Tzevaot was capable of acquiring a license agreement with PANArt allowing their instruments to become that much more authentic to the original.
The enigmatic quality of the handpan, with its ability to entrance and enhance the listening experience of its audience and its practitioner, remains a gift to the musical community. As the handpan continues to grow and resonate with various cultures across the globe, the expansion of its creation continues to evolve and reach new ears. To learn more about how to build a handpan, visit http://www.tzevaot.com/, where you will find more industry tales of how the handpan came to be one of the most mesmerizing musical instruments in the world.