The Hang, also known as a hang drum or handpan, is a new instrument in the street musician scene. Hang street performers have produced some of the most incredible shows I’ve seen, and I’m always on the lookout for more.
My first introduction to the Hang was in Brussels, Belgium. I was invited to a couchsurfing event and had no idea what I was looking at. Since then I’ve seen the instrument played around the world in Istanbul, Vienna and Chiang Mai. Of all the street performances, these have been the best.
The Hang was invented in 2001 by two Swiss musicians, modifying the principles of a steelpan. Since then, there have been several companies manufacturing the instrument. The original company of the two musicians, PANArt, stopped producing Hangs in 2013. Purchasing one now costs several thousand dollars. They originally were priced at $300, but recently have sold for as much as $12,000. There weren’t many produced in the first place, and there’s no way to know how many are still in existence, even though it’s only been less than 15 years since their inception.
Most Hang street performers are solo. However, the show I saw in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was a combination of two Hangs and a special horn, possibly African. The combination was mesmerizing. The performers were Spanish and hardly spoke a word of English. But they were proof that music is a universal language which everyone can understand. I’m so glad I found them behind the Tha Phae gate, performing for the Loi Krathong Lantern Festival. I listened for as long as my friends would let me, and was able to get a great recording of them. Possibly not the best quality with all the ambient noise, but you’ll get the idea.
If you get the chance to see Hang street performers, stop and listen. They are unique arnd beautiful. Talk to them and get their story. They probably have a great tale of how they got their Hang, where they have performed, etc. Feel free to comment here on any performances you have already seen!