What are PANTAMS ? Where do they come from ?
Trinidad & Tobago, 1930s: The British colonialists have forbidden the locals (historically descendants of slaves, mainly from Africa and India) to drum on African percussion instruments. As creative and proud people they were looking for new possibilities for musical expression. In search of new instruments, the first steelpans were produced, which were made from discarded oil barrels in the early 1930s.
During the Second World War, the Carnival celebrations were banned in Trinidad, but on the V-Days, steel bands played, especially as an act of insurrection, in the streets of Port of Spain!
International attention came up, when TASPO (Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra) was invited to England in 1951 to present this new musical instrument at the Festival of Britain.
Some musicians of this group stayed in England (Sterling Betancourt MBE) and made the Steelpan known in Europe. Other Trinidadians brought the music of Steelpan and Trinidad (Calypso) to America and around the world.
THE FIRST PANTAM / HANDPAN – The HANG
Switzerland, 1998: In 1999, the Swiss percussionist Reto Weber visited the workshop of Steelpan manufacturer PANArt and came up with the idea of having a “new” instrument built for him. His play on several Ghatams at the same time inspired Reto Weber. So he asked PANart to build a ghatam with more than one grade of steel so that he could play it with his HANDS like a ghatam.
Some time later, the first “HANG” was born. By the way, “HANG” means HAND in the Swiss dialect. A steel ghatam with more notes, playable by hand (but too big on the first try …).
In 2001, PANart presented its new instrument, the HANG, at the Musikmesse Frankfurt. PANart gave up building steelpans and instead focused on making Hanhhang (plural for Hang).
In 2014, PANart stopped the production of HANGHANG. Since then, the Swiss instrument makers have dedicated themselves to the development and production of a wide range of innovative instruments – all made from the special steel (the so-called “Pang”) developed by PANart (and also patented).
FROM THE HANG TO THE PANTAM
The first, to my knowledge (there is little documented, but a lot of rumors, stories, assumptions and also lies on this subject) “sound sculptures” (similar) as the Hang made by PANart were:
- Bill Brown with the CAISA in Germany
- Kyle Cox and Jim Dusin, with HALO by Pantheon Steel in the USA – and Luis Eguiguren with the BELLART in Span in 2006/2007.
- Philippe Maignaut‘s SPACEDRUM in France in 2008/2009.
WHERE DOES THE NAME PANTAME AND HANDPAN COME FROM ?
The Hang® is a term protected by PANart and may only be used for the instruments manufactured by PANart. HANG is therefore a brand name and not the name of a musical instrument!
The terms HANDPAN and PANTAM have become internationally accepted as names for this kind of sound sculptures or musical instruments
Today there are more than 150 manufacturers of PANTAMS / HANDPANS (and there are more and more) producing instruments at a different level of subjective and objective quality.
The production of these instruments is very complex, requires a lot of experience and is much more associated with a craft than a classic craft. Each instrument is unique, a work of art. This makes it very difficult to establish an objective value for these instruments. Of course, comparisons can be used to develop a sense of fairness, but basically, I think that art’s buyer, in the first place, will have to decide how much a particular art object (in this case, a PANTAM) is worth to him.
ATTENTION: Still, the imbalance between demand for and supply of PANTAMS is quite big. This is the reason why a lot is cheated on the PANTAM market. Partly horrible bad instruments are sold at horrendous prices – or good instruments at crazy overpriced prices. And it happens again and again, that PANTAM interested people pay a lot of money to get in the end, nothing.
CAUTION! Never buy hastily! It is best to buy directly from the manufacturer, or “face-to-face”. Only with an instrument, which was played itself, one knows the true quality!