History, development and worldwide spread of the Hang/Handpan – an ethnomusicology dissertation by Ahkok Chun-Kwok Wong


As someone who is very interested in the history of the Hang and Handpan, in the history of their origin as well as in the phenomenon of the amazingly rapid and worldwide spread of these so young instruments (?), this work by Ahkok Wong, published a few days ago, is a great gift! For years I have been waiting for someone to write on this subject in a comprehensive, structured, neutral, scientific and in-depth way. And that is exactly what has now happened. And at such a high level that I would never have dared to wish for.
I am ‘infinitely grateful’ to the author for this publication. It can and should form a reliable basis for (in my opinion necessary) discussions on many topics relating to the Hang or Handpan phenomenon.

From the tension of disputes regarding ‘invention’, copyrights and intellectual property (PANArt vs. HCU), to cultural appropriation (Steelpan/Trinidad), manufacturing and distribution ethics, commercialization, formation of collectives and a (New Age influenced ?) community that is mainly white/European and well situated, the author illuminates with care and very clearly.

Even uncomfortable topics, which are often ‘stifled’ in the public discussions of the Handpan community, are presented by the author of this work without shyness – including good approaches for a debate and discussion about them.

Knowledge and education are similar to ‘making music’. You need interest, enjoyment, time and patience to make progress. You don’t read a good 300 pages ‘on the side’. An in-depth work like this can also be ‘skimmed’ – but the knowledge gained will then be limited. I recommend those who are really interested in the subject to take the time to really read these 300 pages – only then will you have the chance to expand your HANG/HANDPAN HORIZONT by a few dimensions.

In order to make reading and understanding this publication as pleasant as possible for anyone interested, I have had Ahkok Wong’s work translated from the original English into German, French and Spanish, Italian, Portoguese, Netherlands, Japanese, Russian and Chinese by a surprisingly well-functioning translation AI (DeepL Pro Service). All this Translation can be downloaded for free:
| EN (orig.,compressed) | DE | FR | ES | IT | PT | NL | JP | RU | ZH |

<<…the Hang succeeded in creating a sense of indigeneity with its back-to-basics architecture, raw material, ‘pure’ sonic properties and organic means of distribution which places an accent upon direct producer-consumer connections, as well as the appropriation of foreign scale systems and the imaginations of rich ‘world’ cultures that correspond to and accompany these exotic tunings. These are all essential features provided by the Hang in harmony with the fashion for pre-and-postmodern world views. Yet, paradoxically, the Hang/Handpan is a product of Western modernism. The ‘fool-proof’ design, the integration of musical systems from foreign cultures into a singular Western equal temperament frame, the scientific research into the material Pang, the ‘golden’ 1:2:3 ratio of frequency in tuning notes, instrument and material copyrights and patent protection, the utilisation of foreign instrument construction ideas, are all consonant with discourses of modernity. In this sense, the Hang/Handpan is concomitantly primitive and progressive, melancholic and futuristic, pre-modern and modern, an object in between time and cultures…>>

from “History, development and worldwide spread of the Hang/Handpan – an ethnomusicology dissertation by Ahkok Chun-Kwok Wong”

ORIGINAL DOWNLOAD (en / PDF): https://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/32744/



  1. thanks for pointing out ! I think it’s great that there is now a really solid foundation that puts this widespread myth into perspective. At last, topics that have long concerned me as a handpan enthusiast are being addressed openly. The most exciting and informative 300+ pages I have read in a long time ! thank you !

  2. It’s about time someone spoke out about the narcissistic tendencies of this detached handpan new age community. I was part of it from 2014 to around 2017, but the commercialisation and influence of new, purely business-oriented yupi-hippies with inflated egos caused any morality to disappear from the scene!
    I wasn’t a fan of PANArt and their confusing Hang sales strategies for a long time. Now I know better, and it seems the author of this work does too!
    I hope the judges will see that in this conflict, real artists are up against business-minded copyists who don’t even have the slightest idea about art or business ethics!

    • Dear ‘Pioneer’ – So, with all due respect, I find your ‘judgement’ very harsh. not to say too harsh!
      In my opinion, Wong’s work shows very well that there is/was a very strong idea behind the Hang on the part of PANArt, but that it has/had little chance of ‘standing the test of time’. This is partly due to the fascination with this special sound, the form, the system, but also the incredibly easy accessibility to making music yourself. that such a fascination, when it meets the most diverse characters, with whom the most diverse things are done, is the same with everything that inspires and ‘empowers’ many.
      at least i really like a lot of the people i’ve met and got to know at Handpan gatherings/events – still. Nobody claims that all hang or Handpan players are automatically better people.
      And on the PANArt controversy, Wong’s work also explains the background quite well. he lays out quite well what you should know if you are actually interested in the ‘why’ of this conflict. it is complex. and it is legitimate to disagree. The simple answers are often tempting, but rarely comprehensively correct. that’s how i see it. and that’s exactly why i ‘praised’ Wong’s thesis here.

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