Unsure about his future Josh was looking for direction. The handpan helped defined a new path and began to change his life. From player to tuner to maker, hear the remarkable transformation story of Josh Rivera as he unveils his new handpan brand to the public: Veritas Sound Sculpture.
Sylvain: Hey, it's Sylvain and this is the handpan podcast.
Sylvain: This may seem like an odd introduction for this episode, but bear with me here. It will make sense. I want to talk about YouTube for a moment. If you've listened to this podcast at all, you've heard multiple mentions of YouTube as the way many of us discovered the handpan and developed a passion. YouTube was a new distribution model. Unlike traditional media like cable TV or radio, which need their content to appeal to a broad enough audience, YouTube allowed for anyone to share their art, however specific or niche it may be. The point is YouTube at first was not about financial viability. It was about the simple joy of creating. It gave people a voice and man, I mean, do you remember these early years on YouTube discovering and marveling at the Epic and hilarious and just overall remarkable things that everyday people do. Now, it's interesting to me that the beginning of YouTube coincided with the arrival of the Hang from PANArt. Obviously we know that YouTube largely contributed to catapult the Hong from a quiet local invention to a global phenomenon, but I think there's a deeper parallel here, maybe even a cultural shift, just like YouTube allowed for anyone to share their art unlike traditional media, the Hang allowed for anyone to create music and like traditional musical instruments. The result: we discovered hidden treasures that we would have otherwise missed. And these hidden treasures aren't events isolated in time either. No. They shape our lives. In a world of cause and effect. Some of these hidden treasures had an effect far exceeding their cause. Josh Rivera is a prime example of this and I am delighted to bring Josh back to the podcast to tell you more about his personal story and also to catch you up on what he's been up to recently. So here we go.
Sylvain: Josh, welcome back to the podcast.
Josh: Yeah, thank you. Thank you. Nice to hear you again.
Sylvain: Yeah, I know you're my first repeat guest on the show.
Josh: That's a huge honor on this episode, that's for sure.
Sylvain: Yeah, I feel like it's a celebration.
Josh: Yeah, it is. A lot has changed over the last year.
Sylvain: I know. And that's kind of what I want to ask you about because you've had a really busy year. So last year you and I did an episode called the art of blending. We talked about handpan tuning how artful and organic and just fascinating it is. But in that conversation we didn't actually get too much into your own story and that's kind of what I want to do today, sort of leading back up to this milestone, this big announcement that you have to make. But I think it's necessary to draw that picture to sort of build that backdrop before we can get there. Does that sound okay?
Josh: Yeah, yeah. No, that'd be great.
Sylvain: Yeah. So I know that you go way back and so I definitely do want to take some time to like talk about what you've been up to recently, but I thought, um, why don't you do a quick chronological timeline of your history with this instrument? How did it all begin?
Josh: Oh, uh, long story short would be a 2006. It was about when YouTube came out, I believe, maybe somewhere close to there, maybe 2004 or five at the earliest or so. And I was always a a percussionist in a world drummer. I was got really obsessed with a, actually when YouTube came out it got pretty obsessed with tabula and watching darbouka players from all over the world and just having my mind blown by what people are just doing in their homes that aren't these big famous people on stage that was just blow me away that the, I don't know, I'm just a person who can sit down and just like, this is what I do and I'm going to share it with you on YouTube. And it's some of the most amazing things I've ever seen. You know, outside this professional world of musicians, you're finding all these people that they just do this stuff every day in their own houses. And I was fascinated with it. So I got lost on YouTube for a lot hours, hours on the weeks. And, um, so then one day I was looking up tabla performances and came across a player that was playing the Hong Kong and the pan art Hang and I got incredibly lost as you can imagine. And went down the rabbit hole of trying to say, basically I am going to do whatever it takes to buy this instrument. It's just going to happen. I'm getting one today. And a lot of us know, especially especially like you and I being at the very beginning of this, we realized that that wasn't exactly so possible. Um, so by the time, you know, it took me, it totally took me about three days to even find out what the instrument was. Um, lots and lots of research. Later I finally found it and found the forum or the original forum, um, that was all about the hand pan and all his handpan enthusiasts. Um, at the time there was no handpan. It was just the Hang and so at the all these hung enthusiasts and I got directed towards Ron Kravitz, uh, through the forum and Ron Kravitz said his, he can't help me out. At that time, but he directed me to a gentleman in Canada and I sent him an email and he's gave me his email address and told him email and right away because he's going to be going to Bern too. Um, I apparently, I guess a panel that used to just open up, um, periodically to sell instruments, they'd have people out and it was like a big, um, almost, you know, just kind of like a big gathering, you know, people would show up and they'd get to pick their instruments. They would, jam, hang out was like the original hand pan gathering. Right? Yeah. And so he said he goes there to help, um, help out with the English speaking, uh, for the people that come out with, from around the world. And that if I emailed him right away I could maybe get on his list before he went. So I sent an email, told him I was incredibly interested. Uh, what would it take to, to get ahold of a, of a Hang and I kid you not? I had no, I had just sent the email, I clicked send and I got a phone call within maybe two minutes maybe, and it was so fast and it was him. And he just said, Hey, I am leaving for Bern next week. I have one spot left on my list. Um, I can bring back a handful of instruments to sell as a kind of a thank you for helping out. And I've got one spot on the list, so I need to know pretty much right now if you're serious about this and if so I need you to send as much money to Switzerland. And I'm sitting here just thinking, I was like, no, this has gotta be a scam. It's gotta be someone just sitting around waiting for some guy like me to come along, send an email, and then just get an easy check from this guy. Right. And, and I still would hit and did it like, uh, I was like, sure, okay, bye. You know, like whatever it takes. And so I wrote a check and I sent it off and I, well, I, I remember I turned around and looked at my wife and I was like, Oh, we've got to talk. I just committed to something that might be a little bit unorthodox, but, um, so yeah, I had gotten really lucky. I sent the check to Switzerland and three months later I got to pick the scale, um, which, you know, nowadays, and as you can imagine, I was at the very, very, very end of when they ship them out and getting to pick the scale that they were going to build for me was another, uh, another rarity. And so, um, yeah, I got to pick the scale. And so from the day I first saw the home to the time it was in my lap was actually about three months. And that was back in 2006. And so the way everything kind of fell fell into place. It was almost just like this natural progression that was kind of just. It felt like this was my, this is my new path, if you will. And everything from there, from the time that Hang showed up, I kind of feel like it kind of took over the rest of my life in a, in a really good way. You know, this, um, I had, I was kind of in the middle of life where there was a lot of directions trying to decide which direction I wanted to take for my future and what kind of things I to do and what kind of jobs I wanted to have or what was it gonna be. And I was kind of struggling actually, you know, there's like, we all go through that period, you know, we have those periods in life where you really want to have your purpose and your goal laid out for you in a way and not necessarily laid out for you, but you really want to know what that is and when you're trying to search that out and you can't find it, it's a really, it's a really difficult time. And, um, I was really, really just kinda confused and lost and it came along and the next thing you know, it changed my musical approach and understanding. Next thing you know, I was performing a lot with it. Next thing I knew I was traveling with it. And then next thing I know I was meeting all these people from around the world and it just kind of, it, it just kind of was that object that helped define a new path. And so, um, yeah, that's kind of my quick, short little story on how, what my history is with the Hang.
Sylvain: yeah. Yeah. What I, what I love is the transformation. I mean, there was a clear before and after and obviously it took, you know, 13 years between the time that you discovered the Hang and, and where you're at today. But, um, yeah, I mean, I, I love what you just shared that you, back then you didn't really have a clear sense of direction for your life and, and that this instrument has played a big role. Um, and it's been really neat to, to see that, um, solidify and sort of morph into, uh, what seems like from the outside your life's calling. I mean it seems like you w