“Wow, you play a hang drum!”

I hear that phrase almost every time I go busking. Usually I explain politely that it’s not a Hang by PANArt, but basically the same instrument. In English they are usually called handpans. They can also be called cupolas or pantams. But not hangs or hangdrums or spacedrums. Unless, of course, if you play a Hang or a Spacedrum.

Hang is a trademark and a brand name. So is Spacedrum.

“But everyone call them hang drums!”

True. Or at least the masses call them hang drums. But usually these people know the instrument only through Youtube from videos with titles like “Amazing Hang Drum Player” or “Street player plays Hang drum insanely”. And yes, even I call them sometimes hang when I don’t want to start picking about the correct way of talking about the instrument. But it still sounds a bit like calling all guitars “gibsons” or “fenders”…

Why is it important then? Aren’t we supposed to just enjoy the good vibes? What does it matter what the instrument is called?

There’s a certain cultural mystical aura around the term “hang drum”. Some people have heard stories about the builders who live somewhere in the Swiss Alps and don’t want to sell their instruments to anyone. Some people have heard that you have to write a letter to them and prove you’re worthy of playing a hang drum. Some people know for sure that these are 1000 year old instruments from Asia and that they used to be made of porcelain…

Of course, not much of this is true. There’s plenty of information about these instruments available online, but often people just read the titles, watch the popular videos and don’t dig deeper. Calling these instruments hang drums just add to the mythical aura that speaks mainly of misunderstanding or ignorance…

So, unless you really want to sound like you spend a bit too much time on Youtube the next time you see a handpan player, instead of claiming to know what the instrument is, just ask. Maybe you’ll even get to try it yourself!

(Oh and btw, I have some big news coming up about my new album soon! There is also a new collaboration in the works with the insanely talented beatboxer Felix Zenger. But I’ll leave that to next time! Gotta run to a gig!)