Handpan is a musical instrument that captivates the listener with a strong hypnotic draw and has a unique vibe to its tone. This instrument remains elusive in its acquisition. It drew its origins from the steel drum family emulating the traditional steel pans of the Caribbean Islands.
Initially, the handpan was recognized as the "Hang" – a word that means "hand" in Bernese German dialect due to the fact that the instrument was played by hand. In other terms, it can be referred as a term used for a group of unique musical instruments that has resulted from a growing worldwide interest in the Hang.
The heritage of this instrument originates in Bern, Switzerland where Felix Rohner and Sabina Schårer constructed this multifaceted instrument called Hang. Felix Rohner was the first prominent player of a musical instrument called the Trinidad Steel drum which received its first recognition in Europe in the early 70s. With a clear understanding of steel drum, he and his business partner Sabrina Scharer established PANArt, a company well known for creating dented musical instruments in the year 1990. It was not until the year 2001, when Felix and Sabrina officially introduced Hang in Musikmesse Frankfurt in Germany.
This presentation led to the popularization of the Hang as a musical instrument for its mysterious and beautiful tone as well as its unique scales. However, the creators did not mass produce it and as a result it was only available in a limited number each year. The reason for this is the creators thought of the instrument as an artistic and imaginative creation and not something that can be easily sold around the world. It was for this reason that different versions began to erupt from Europe and United States by other instrument makers around 2007. These models were referred to as the "handpan" and not "Hang" as initially recognised. There are now over 100 makers of handpan in the world with varying degrees of objective ad subjective quality.
In order to maintain the originality of this unique instrument, Felix and Sabrina made a policy where potential customers who wanted to purchase the instrument had to present a hand-written letter explaining why they needed it. In the year 2013, PanArt stopped producing Hang in order to preserve the value, mystique and elusiveness of this distinctive musical instrument.
What makes the handpan and the hang different?
Hang inventors trademarked the name Hang and took legal rights over it under PANArt. After some time, the instrument became popular among certain musicians, and other people started making these instruments as well. Due to the legal rights, other makers had to name their instruments differently. That's when they came up with a word "handpan" The name "Hang" is only limited to instruments created by PANArt whereas the name "handpan" refers to any other type of hang drum type or steel pan created by instrument makers other than the PanArt.
Although "hangdrum" is term commonly used by most people verbally to refer to this instrument, the original makers maintain that the title of the musical instrument should be Hang.
There are a lot more commonly used names other than handpan: Pantam, hand drum, hang drum (which is an incorrect term) and many more.
This instrument is often described with a mystical woody sound with hearable overtones. Hang is considered to be one of the most advanced and unique acoustic musical instruments invented in the 21st century, as well as one of the greatest gifts to the musical (especially percussion) community.
The most exciting part about the instrument is that anybody can play it. Thanks to that, more and more people choose handpans as a way to relax and calm themselves. It's also gaining popularity among yoga teachers and sound healers.
And, since it's a new instrument, there are no strict rules or routines of how you should play; You are free to choose any way and style of playing. That's a philosophy we're trying to share, too: you don't have to be a musician, you don't have to stick to certain rules, just be yourself and do you.