I can still remember very well how life felt at the main spots of the 80s hippie trail. Kathmandu, Goa, Kho Samui – we always was a few steps ahead of the monsoon. These spots were our paradisiacal meeting places to have fun, discuss and also try out new life models, get to know cultures, make friends, get new ideas and promote common ground. It was great, international and incredibly creative. At least until this “lifestyle” became more widely known and the images of deserted paradisiacal tropical beaches found their way into the mainstream. The longing of (too) many was awakened.
Quite quickly, “our hotspots” were marketed with a vengeance. Hippie colonies became all-incl hotels. The search for new ways of living together turned into the biggest and most commercial parties in the world. The search for knowledge became the addiction to fun – a very unattractive form of egoism, by the way. What remained are all inclusive offers for those who optically follow the hippie style, but whose world view rather follows the ideas of Coca-Cola managers. And what remains is a guilty conscience for many who were part of the hippie trail community and did not try hard enough to prevent this commercialization of an idea.
What ‘all this’ has to do with Handpans and the Handpan community ? From my point of view a lot. For me, much of what I’ve observed in the Handpan community over the last few years feels like a deja vu from the 80s.
Parts of the handpan community are turning more and more into a profit-oriented scene. From something beautiful, inspiring and soulful (Hang/Handpan) becomes a trend, a lucrative business that is also exploited very intensively. Today it is relatively easy to earn 1000 euro or more in 2 hours with a “Handpan Beginner Workshop” – and that without needing any training. That this gold digging is used intensively is more than understandable – or at least logical. But that doesn’t mean that you have to like it. Besides, one can assume that this trend, this “easy money concept” will fail again relatively fast. The customers of some providers will soon realize themselves that they were just milked cleverly. On the market the offerers will remain, who offer solidly and fairly something, which has also substance. These good, recommendable providers also exist on the market – only they are partially lost in the currently prevailing market clamor! Not surprisingly, it is once again true that the loudest voices advertise the worst offers.
In my opinion, the situation is very similar with the range of handpans. An unmanageable armada of handpan manufacturers has emerged to serve the booming market. Quality is a rather subordinate criterion. It is mostly exclusively about profit orientation. Not about sound, not about individuality and certainly not about a revaluation of handwork in times of automation and AI. Anyone who is surprised by this development has slept through the mechanisms of the free market economy. For myself, the same applies here as with the workshop offerings. In the end, only those who actually offer quality will remain successful. The blindness of the trend will be followed by (justified) demands. And that will also be important to bring quality and fair prices together on a compatible level. After all, the handpan is about the only musical instrument I know of where the manufacturer quality of the instrument determines almost 100% the quality of the music played on it. Handpans without character (handwork!) are infinitely boring to play – unless you just want to “play like XY” anyway. For the attempt to copy others, inferior instruments are completely sufficient. What the attraction of copying is, however, is beyond me. Handpans should rather encourage you to discover and explore your own creativity.
This is something I would like to advise every handpan beginner, everyone who is just discovering the handpan: Be brave and do your own thing. Explore, discover, play. That’s where the real potential of these instruments lies!
Why am I writing this reflection ? Maybe just to get rid of something that keeps me busy. Maybe also to show something that is worth to be considered. And maybe also to remember in a few years how I saw the “Handpan developments” today…..
In any case, it will be exciting to see how the Handpan, its use and the Handpan community will evolve. The future is not something we enter. The future is something we create……