Updated: Jan 29
In the year 2000, a small Swiss company called PANArt invented a magical instrument called the Hang®. It was extremely rare and difficult to find. It took me two long years to finally get mine in 2007 (it's sad to think many people never got theirs). Then prices skyrocketed. I still remember when a Hang sold on eBay for more than $10,000! And to think I had purchased mine for only 600 euros a couple years before... it was insane! "How lucky” I thought but exclusivity is only enjoyed by insiders.
Then, one by one, people like Kyle Cox, Mark Garner & many others who were fascinated by the Hang taught themselves how to make a similar instrument. The result was not exactly a Hang but it produced the same kind of magic. It became known as the "hand pan" and through it immeasurably more people got to join in. The ability to join brought diversity of population, ideas and outcomes. Diversity led to connection and forward-motion. And today, the handpan art form is far greater than our tiny Hang community ever was.
Don’t get me wrong, I still really really like the Hang to this day. It’s charming and poetic and PANArt's philosophy was revolutionary in how to approach music-making. But the inventors of the Hang are now claiming a copyright on their design which could mean the end of all handpans. It would consider handpans as mere "copies" (which, to me, is just shrinking the truth) and that doesn't seem fair after two decades.
So... What do we do when ”private property” shows up where it didn’t use to exist? To be sure, the Hang was a legendary success and PANArt is worthy of respect and recognition for creating it, but the Swiss inventors could not meet the global demand for this instrument. In other words, this is a non-competitive ontology where the presence of one does not negate the presence of another.
What is the point of spreading our gift? Only when we give it away does it become art. It can only become art when we share it. When we give it to someone else, we change them, and then, they give it to someone else. Because together is better than alone.
Here's more info if you want to get involved: http://bit.ly/SaveTheHandpan
P.S. I get it that handpan players may be wondering why Hang players like me are so attached to PANArt's creation. Some might say, "aren't today's handpans better than the original?" or "aren't the lawsuits enough to change one's mind?".
Let's put it this way: the feeling you experience when listening to your favorite childhood song isn't only about that song or the artist who wrote it. Rather, it's about the memory of where you were or who you were with, that is, it brings you back to that period of your life when you first heard it. So it is with the Hang for me, it brings me back to those special moments.
Some might call for boycotting PANArt products but in doing so I would actually be punishing myself (by not playing my instruments made by them all these years ago) or punishing my friends who create music with PANArt instruments.