english spanish italian

Hang Drum

Walking in a silent square that vibrates with the notes of thin steel. The handpan is a music instrument created with the original name of Hang in 2000 by the Swiss marriage of PANArt from their experience as steel drum builders The Hang drum, otherwise known nowadays with the new general term “handpan”, has travelled from Trinidad's sun to the hidden small streets of European cities. The musicians have kept on playing its music that is touring the world, passing from Europe to Russia, India and the Far East, to go back home in the warm seas of the Caribbean.



Hang Massive - Razzmatazz

After some years of being away for me, and just one year for them, last Friday we met Hang Massive for their concert in Razzmatazz, here in Barcelona. They are touring the world with their Hang and handpan show, more than three hours of enchanting rhythms and melodies played with six instruments and the collaboration of guest musicians that are touring with them or that simply happened to be in Barcelona the day of their concert.

The event was hosted by the elegant Craig, who introduced to the public the guitar and voice duo Govardo: they are Dominic and Jack, two young musicians mixing their USA, English and Mexican identities to create a busking project made of Dominik’s delicate guitar arpeggios and chords accompanying the evocative and soulful lyrics sang by Jack. It was nice watching and listening to a concert where all the public remained silent, their breath suspended to follow the melody and the crescendo of the songs until the enchanting finale. And at the end of each song, all couldn’t but notice how Jack seemed to feed on the energy and the applause that rained on them.

Then, after a good 45-minute concert by the Govardo duo, it was time for Hang Massive to go onstage. We had never been to a real Hang/handpan concert, I mean I have listened to many musicians play, but it was the first time for us in a concert hall with lights and everything. The audience was there to listen to the songs that have made Hang Massive famous all around the world, playing their songs that reached more than 27 million visualizations on YouTube. At first, we did not know what to think or what to expect, but the songs went on intriguing our ears and suspending time in the repetition of the rhythmic line played by Markus and the melodic combinations played by Danny. From time to time, in between the songs, the same Danny talked to the audience about contemporary hyper-connectivity, both on a technological and on a spiritual point of view, making the whole experience also a glimpse of the power we have to roam around and give sense to the apparently meaningless accidents come across in our daily experience. Then, also Victoria Grebezs, singer and handpan player, showed her impressive voice to an audience that was living at its full the music momentum of the night. Dominik from Govardo accompanied the concert with ambient sounds and video, to finally put create some dubstep lines for Hang Massive to play along. The concert ended with the musicians taking pictures both with the audience as a whole and after they went down the stage we could talk with them, take pictures and exchange a few words and smiles.
Tag: hang, massive, hanpan, razzmatazz, tour, concert, grebezs

Music playing and mindfulness, finding the right therapist

I spent six months watching TV series and movies while trying to strum my first F major on a guitar. Being a couch potato and a guitar player really works, I mean, until you become aware of your playing all you need is finding a comfortable way to train. But after that first F major barre chord, playing becomes so much more.
Playing a music instrument is an activity that involves many factors and aspects of our lives. When we start practicing, it’s just repeating and repeating a movement until we get to know how to play without even noticing we are doing it. The instrument unveils its secrets and we become more and more able to weave complex harmonies and melodies with no effort. The notes fill the air and we start thinking about what we’re going to have for dinner, or about job-related issues or our weird neighbor. What happens is that we sometimes lose contact with our feelings and become simply players. And after some years of practice, we seem to be missing something, to get stuck into our repetitive way of producing music.
Clearly, once the music instrument has become familiar, there are several other aspects that intertwine and become our music playing style. This is what we miss. They are creativity, the sense of rhythm, or simple music taste that lead us toward working on particular music genres.

I got stuck, too, in my music practice. And I was lucky I found a great music teacher who, on the first lesson I took, asked me the right question.
He went like:
- Which is the most important of all music instruments?
I answered that I did not know, maybe the piano, but the guitar too was good, the violin of course is very difficult to learn so I wasn’t sure. After some blabbering for that awkward question, he just stopped me and gave me the answer.
- It’s your body. – he told me.

I felt stupid! He was right! And then I was relieved. To demonstrate his point, he made me pick the guitar up and had me play something. After a phrase or two, he just stopped me and made me notice how the shoulder of the picking hand was tense, contracted. He told me to relax it and to keep on playing. I noticed the benefit at once, the notes were softer, but firmer at the same time.
I was very curious about his idea of playing, and I started making questions. The answer to all the question was basically one, and it was a practice called mindfulness.

My teacher told me that mindfulness is a form of direct experience. It’s learning to pay attention to what’s going wrong in the way you are playing, in our case. It leads you to focusing on what is happening in the moment you are living, the position of the hands, your thoughts and opinions about your performance. It is becoming aware of the present moment. It stems from oriental meditation practices, especially classic Buddhism, but it has acquired other ingredients and it can be applied to a lot of different contexts.
In music, it is focusing on our performance and on the tensions that we put into playing. But is also reducing stress, and performance anxiety. Getting stuck in our practice is partially due to our inability to control and harness such tensions. Once we know that, we know where to start and we do not even have to add hours to our practice. It’s just the remote part of our mind that needs to be trained to abandon anxieties and fears.
So train it! There is so much material on the web about the topic of mindfulness, but little specifically related to music playing. Sometimes it is advisable to find trained specialists, the web site BetterHelp provides a detailed list of therapists that will know for sure what mindfulness is, and have your music teacher have a look at the topic to update his style. I can tell you stories of friends that had awful music teachers, the ones that were all “sit upright!” or “you missed a quarter note!” and stuff like that. And I’m sure you know these stories, too!
Music is art, and it’s the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, a quote from a most famous English Romantic poet. He was writing about poetry, but I’m sure we can apply his ideas to all arts. And as they are the expression of our mind and body, in their undeniable unity, as musicians and artists we always remember that we don’t’ play or paint with our hands and limbs, we make art with all our essence. Finding good guides and teachers is just as important as having talent and instruments, and mindfulness can be a powerful ally!
Tag: therapist, mindfulness, playing, music practice, performance, Betterhelp

What are you thinking about?

Hang Drum albums