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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.

ON AIR - PROGRAMMING

2019-05-13

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
2019-05-08

Hang Massive in Barcelona for their Luminous Emptiness tour

Like in November 2017, Hang Massive is back on tour, visiting the beautiful city of Barcelona during this three-months’ music voyage passing for some of the most evocative cities around Europe. We have been following their work as part of our dedication to the instrument and his fast developing scene, paying special attention to the band that has introduced it to a wider public back in 2011 with their YouTube hit Once Again. After 8 years, Danny Cudd and Markus Offbeat have developed their own personal style, mixing the handpan and the hang with several different music genres, passing from dub, reggae, and several styles of electronic music, to classic music and ambient interpretation of the marvelous sound of their instruments. Their latest record, Luminous Emptiness, comes after a period composing in India and visiting some spectacular places of the magic and mysterious subcontinent, a place that harbored the birth of the band back in 2011.

Their concert at the Sala Apolo in Barcelona is cheered by more than a thousand fans, who’ve been queuing to get just a few meters from the stage to witness the soft magic of the two musicians. The first song is End of Sky, taken from their latest album. Differently from their last concert in Barcelona, the band has opted for a five handpan set, with a synth and a launcher to trigger drum samples and to play electronic drones along with the music of the instruments.

Heavy kicks and bass lines set the mood for a profound experience, surrounded by the scenography where prevailing red and yellow colors created a warm and introspective sensation. The images of landscapes and far away stories deepen the sensation of being driven away, over the mountains of India and the contemporary past of their inhabitants. Warmth of the Sun Rays follows, with its simple and elegant taste of electronic music. A nine-minute’s theme with a brief, harder break, leading to the vision of old Oriental country life, with oxen and Buddhist temples in the mountains. A sequence of melodic breaks and heavy drum kick and bass lines with a hint of tabla is in harmonic contrast with the traditional images on the giant screen, charging with tension and power the mood. The fans are now on tune, they want to dance over the themes and they understood how the concert is going to unwind.

Then it’s time for The Secret Kiss. Marcus can speak Spanish, he thanked us all for being there and sharing the experience, and how there are thankful because we’d rather went to the concert instead of going out to the movies or something else. We decided to be there because Hang Massive is a one-of-a-kind experience, a travel began years ago, a story that keeps on adding new chapters and characters. The Secret Kiss has to be a dear song for them, as Markus asks to put the smartphones away and just feel the flowing of the song. A two parts’ instrumental intro with voices and sitars, mandalas on the screen and a strong meditative sensation wrap us into the composition of the song. Luminous Emptiness is announced by Danny, who starts playing wobble effects for a long drone intro, with the heavy kick that structured the whole concert. The pulsating drone makes the hall vibrate, and us too. With Boat Ride, it’s definitely a dancing Friday night. Light go down, heavy bass lines and pixeled television screens followed by higher volumes and the cheering of the fans who definitely start dancing and applauding. Here Comes the Badger is a shower of stars and Buddhas, the bass line accompanies the notes of two handpans playing in a bit of energic Drum and Bass style. A hint of incense fills the air and the shower of stars becomes lotus flowers, moons and a fountain. It is a music crescendo, the fans are now set in the final mood of the concert, between electronic music and the sound of the handpan, halfway between a DJ set and a concert. When the music suddenly stops, its time for the eight song, Awoken, a soft intro and then a dubstep drone played by Markus while Danny is playing the handpans. With Omat Odat, one of their most know songs, the duo gets back to their old style, adding drumbeats and a nice offbeat sidechained drone.

After the song, Danny takes the microphone to deliver his thoughts and ideas on our interconnection as humans, and it’s the time for his sharing an insight he loves, a message that always goes with the experience of Hang Massive, a sort of artistic and live manifesto that is always present during their concerts. Divided as we are, we should remember that we are not. In fact, we have a bond that makes us part of the same wonderful being humans. An invitation to change, to change now if we wish to fulfill our mission and to be what we are meant to. The message leads the way towards the next song, Once Again, in a heavier remix with strong drum lines and a crescendo of dubstep drones.
The last song, Sudden. Markus is thanking us all. A heavy drone of one handpan note, the ding, and kick drum, breaks, and just the few notes needed to keep the flow going, with the fans and the artists dancing their way to the end of another wonderful concert and experience!
Tag: Hang Massive, hang, handpan, concerto, tour, Barcelona
2019-04-16

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

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