the hang

Learn more about the genesis of the handpan.

The Hang Story

In the 1970s the Trinidad steel drum came on the scene strong throughout Europe. Felix Rohner had been playing steel pans before eventually starting his own company PANart 20 years later. He was inspired to create a convex version of the steel drum that could be played by the hands. Sabrina Scharer, who joined Felix as a long-term business partner, eventually signed on to PANart. The handpan was conceived after a Swiss jazz and steel pan musician, Reto Weber, entered PANart's shop. Reto had previously traveled to India and was in search of a way to play the steel drum with his hands. In India Reto played the ghatam (clay drum) and asked, “Can you make a ghatam with notes?” The inspiration for the Hang and what was later to be called the Handpan was conceived and eventually become the global instrument of the New Millenium.

“Fortunately this instrument has a certain inherent power: it is magic. ”Steve Shehan, Global Musician

Felix and Sabrina chose to name the instrument the "Hang” (pronounced hah-ng). Hang means “hand” in the local Swiss-German dialect where PANart is located. Eventually PANart owned legal rights to the name “Hang." The Hang was introduced in 2001 in Frankfurt, Germany and instantly gained popularity world-wide for the beautiful and mysterious tone and unprecedented musical notations. Because demand for the Hang grew rapidly there was an immediate influx of demand. However, Felix and Sabrina were in no hurry to rush production. They saw the Hang as not just an instrument, but a work of art. They stayed with their handmade process and refused the commercial ideas to mass-produce. As of December 2013 PANArt announced that the Hang would no longer be made. In 2007 instrument makers throughout Europe and the United States started to create similar versions of the Hang. However, because the name “Hang” was limited only to instruments created by PANart. The name “handpan” was born, which now refers to any type of “Hang” type steel pan created by a manufacturer other than PANart.


See the full documentary detailing the hang instrument.