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All You Need to Know About Hang Music

Before you head to Brit group Hang Massive’s debut gig in Mumbai, here’s a quick primer on the hang drum

Radhapriya Gupta Mar 11, 2015
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Hang Massive. A still from their video Once Again.

(Hang Massive. Left to right: Danny Cudd and Markus Offbeat)

After Icelandic artist Bjork watched Manu Delago, a leading hang player, perform a solo on the hang drum titled “Mono Desire” on YouTube, she invited him to play on her eight album, Bibliophilia, which released in 2011. Delago also toured with her and went onto become one of the most famous musicians associated with the shield-like drum, which has its origins in the  city of Bern in Switzerland. The hang , which means hand in Bernese German, is a tuned percussion instrument that bears similarity to the traditional mallet (a wooden or a rubber hammer used to play instruments) instrument, the Steelpan. The hang was developed as recently as 15 years ago by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer. The duo began making only a few hundred hangs every year and as the demand grew, they started inviting hand-written letters from people who would like to purchase one. They wanted to keep the instrument a tight-knit secret to avoid commercialization, but soon, Swiss instrument manufacturers adapted the design and started mass producing them.

Since 2000, the hang has captured the attention of several artists and music enthusiasts alike with its rich sound and texture. Online video portals like YouTube are abuzz with videos of artists experimenting with the hang. This week, English hang duo Hang Massive will be performing at Bluefrog, Mumbai. One of the most followed hang players and with over 10 million views on YouTube, Hang Massive have become the pioneers and fitting representatives of the instrument. Hear their music along with other tracks, which have featured the hang below:

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1) Virus by Bjork

The song was featured on the singer-songwriter’s eighth studio album titled Biophilia, released in 2011. The song talks about fatal relationships, explaining them through the symbiotic interaction between a virus and a cell. London-based percussionist and composer Manu Delago played the hang on this track for Bjork in the time signature of ¾. The track peaked at no. 35 on the UK Indie chart.

2) Cirrus by Bonobo

“Cirrus” was the first track released from Bonobo’s fifth studio album The North Borders. The main riff of the song has been played on a hang drum and it is seamlessly woven into the rest of the arrangement as the track builds. The song was also featured in a Vodafone jingle in 2014.

3) Petit Son by Daniel Waples

The Brit hang musician recently toured India with alt-folk rockers Alt-J. Primarily a street artist, Waples usually plays jazz standards to draw more listeners to the sound of the hang. Petit Son is his original composition.

4) Once Again by Hang Massive

The video, which was posted in 2011, has been filmed in the town of Bath Spa in the UK and features both Danny Cudd and Markus Johansson playing one of their own compositions ”“ a hang duet.

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5) Nothing is Worth Doing by Shpongle

In 2008, UK-based psychedelic duo Shpongle also collaborated with renowned percussionist Delago for their track “Nothing is Worth Doing,” which was featured in their fourth album titled Ineffable Mysteries. Besides being enhanced by the hang, the track features smooth bass lines and warm string pads. Watch the live performance here:

Hang Massive will be playing as a part of the Massive Vibe Live! Showcase at Bluefrog, Mumbai on March 12th, 2015, 9 pm onwards. Entry: Rs 300.

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