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The PanART Hang Documentary: A Propaganda-Filled, Dissemination of Lies (Part 1)

In keeping true to our mission of the pursuit of integrity and ethical business practices within the world of Pan, as promised, the full deconstruction of the PanART hang documentary is right here, right now.

We fully understand that many, if not most of the hang enthusiasts and proponents accept everything that Felix Rohner says as truth, without questioning him. We have received a lot of feedback from hang enthusiasts who are having their illusionary bubbles bursted, many of whom have suggested that we watch the PanART Hang documentary in order to gain a fuller understanding (as if we did not have that already). So we took their advice, watched the documentary multiple times and were not shocked at the amount of lies and propaganda that were being spread by Mr. Rohner and co. in this propaganda piece.

Allow us to proceed with this deconstruction in an orderly, chronological fashion!

The lies begin from the first words of the documentary, which are uttered by a narrator. At 1:18 in the documentary, the narrators opening words are,

''The world of music welcomes the birth of an entirely new instrument.''

From the very beginning of this piece, the viewer is being told a boldfaced lie upon which most of the subsequent lies surrounding the hang are based; namely that the hang is somehow a ''new'' instrument.

As stated before in previous blog posts on karibpan.com, the hang is NOT a new or unique instrument. The hang is essentially the first 21st century, regurigitated version of the 20th century convex steelpan. Convex steelpans were first experimented heavily with in Trinidad in the earliest days of the steelpan. Convex steelpans were the norm until the late 1940's circa 1948, when the concave steelpan which we are all now familiar with became a standard steelpan shape. The old, convex shape was abadoned in Trinidad by early steelpan pioneers who discovered that the concave shape was limited as far as the amount of notes that could be dented in the surface. They then turned their efforts towards the development of the now standard, concave pans which could accomodate more notes.

In essence, Mr. Rohner took an old, discarded, limited steelpan design, dusted it off a bit and tried to reinvent it and market it to the uneducated and uninitiated as a ''new'' instrument, when it is in fact recycled.

The fact is the it is the traditional steelpan that is a new, unique instrument. As the hang is based on the steelpan without a shadow of a doubt and is by definition a steelpan, Mr. Rohner would be hard pressed to prove that the hang is ''an entirely new instrument''.

 

In focusing on some of the propaganda aspects of the documentary, which are essentially half-truths, or truth mixed with lies which are the most effective form of lies, I would like to point the reader to the 4:02 mark in the in the documentary.

 

Here we have a young, prospective buyer of the hang in a music shop in France describing his first time hearing the hang. He describes the sound as something with a ''special ambience''. An apparent musical novice, he expresses his desire to own one due to the fact that he saw a street musician playing this instrument in what appeared to be the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona playing to an enraptured crowd of ''50 people''. 

While this young, prospective hang buyer is talking about this experience first seeing and hearing the hang, video is shown of an Israeli hang player playing in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona to a somewhat fascinated audience.

The propaganda being spread here is centered around the fact that the lie being sold is that anyone with little to no experience with the hang or music in general can merely take a hang to the streets of Europe (Barcelona), and begin making enough money to earn a living like the Israeli hang player featured in the video. This same Israeli hang player also admitted in the video to being a novice and despite this fact, was able to play the hang full-time on the streets of Barcelona and make a living for himself.

I personally know a musician with a strong percussion background who also happens to be a personal friend of mine. He regularly played cajon and djembe on the streets of west Germany as a member of a trio which also included a hang player. This group made quite good money playing on the streets together until they split up. As a solo cajon/djembe player it is quite difficult to make a living on the street, so my friend decided to take a handpan that he owned to the streets and play solo, even though he was inexperienced with the instrument.

Needless to say, despite my friend's strong percussion background, he was unsuccessful on the street as a solo handpan player to the point that after about 1 week of making little to no money, he secured a dayjob for himself that could actually pay his bills.

The moral of this story is that even with a strong percussion background such as my friend has, it is hard to take a hang/handpan to the streets of any city, even the prosperous, money lined streets of Germany and be able to make a living like the Israeli hang player featured in the documentary, much less be able to attract crowds of ''50 people'' who are focused intently on the hang and the player. Many of the hang/handpan players who take this instrument to the streets with the intentions of making a career out of it quickly realize this harsh reality and the fact that it takes a lot more to survive on the streets playing the hang/handpan than merely relying on the novelty of the instrument alone to attract attention/money.

 

At the 5:53 mark of the documentary, the narrator states, ''Since it arrived in Barcelona in the summer of 2003, the hang has made itself known as a street musician's instrument.''

I would love to ask this narrator how many of the hang/handpan street musicians actually LAST on the streets and can pay their bills from such busking activity. The hang/handpan buskers that I see are literally a revolving door of players who are here today, gone tomorrow and most of them seem very fresh faced and brand new. I do not see hang/handpan regulars on the street as a general rule. Sure there are exceptions, but these are by definition exceptional cases. The hang/handpan like any instrument is not something someone can just decide to take to the streets to play and magically make money, impress audiences, and be able to exclusively fund some kind of idealistic, bohemian lifestyle as portrayed via the Israeli hang player in this documentary. And unlike other instruments, the hang being a 9 note instrument in general, will drive any player who plays it hour after hour insane due to the monotonous, limited nature of the instrument. It gets very old very quickly playing the same scale over and over hour after hour as hang/handpan buskers are obliged to do.

Another downside to playing a hang/handpan on the streets is the fact that unless you have a very quiet pitch with good acoustics such as the Israeli player had in the documentary, your chances of being heard are quite slim, especially among the everyday noises of a busy city. With so much competition amongst street musicians for space, a new hang/handpan player who has no experience busking will be hard pressed to find a suitable pitch to play and be heard. In fact, the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona where the video of the Israeli hang player was filmed, is one of the most competitive pitches in the city and often times at any hour or any given day of the week, there will be a street musician playing in that exact same pitch the Israeli hang player was filmed. As a former resident of Barcelona, I know that area quite well and I am very familiar with the scene there as well the the regular musicians who play in the city, especially in the Gothic Quarter.

 

Just to backtrack a bit and cover my bases regarding more propaganda aspects of the documentary,  regarding the ''special ambience'' created by the hang spoken of at the 4:02 mark by the young, prospective buyer in the music shop in France, I must admit, that the hang sounds distinctly like a steelpan in terms of the sound, especially in the distance where the music can be heard, but the actual player is unseen.

 

As a longtime resident of the EU, seeing a hang/handpan player on any street in any EU country is not uncommon. Often times, you will hear the player before actually seeing him/her, and the sound emitted is most definitely the sound of a steelpan! There is no question about this. As a pannist myself, when walking down the street and hearing a hang/handpan player before I actually see him/her, it always takes me a moment to discern whether it is a handpan being played or an actual traditional steelpan. Knowledge and experience tells me that as there are very few traditional steelpan street musicians in Europe and the likelihood is that the sounds I am hearing are coming from a hang/handpan, but I still must take a moment to make the distinction. As much as I wish I would stumble upon an actual street musician in Europe playing the traditional steelpan, the fact of the matter is that there are more hang/handpan street musicians in Europe than there are steelpan players. Thus, when hearing a steelpan on most any European street, the chances are when the actual player comes into view, it will be a hang/handpan player, not a pannist.

 

Now back to more lies in the documentary.

 

Another bold faced lie that is based upon the first lie told in the opening words of the documentary comes at the 12:40 mark in the piece, when the narrator asks the audience, ''Who would have thought that the hang comes from Switzerland?''

If the narrator is really seeking an answer to his question, the answer is that only the uneducated, uninitiated members of the public would believe that ''the hang comes from Switzerland'' for reason that I stated earlier; the hang is based on the convex steelpan which was originally developed in Trinidad as the forerunner to the standard, concave steelpans of today. There is no Trinidadian/West Indian or actual initiated pannist of nay background who will buy the lie being sold that ''the hang comes from Switzerland''. This is pure blasphemy in the steelpan world, and the steelpan is like a religion to many pan enthusiasts such as myself.

 

At the 16:28 mark in the documentary, Sabine Schärer, Felix Rohner's partner-in-crime states, ''The pan (hang) generated a completely different principle than that of the oil drum.'' 

Pray tell, Ms. Schärer, how does the hang represent a completely different principle than that of the ''oil drum'' (traditional steelpan) when the hang as I have stated on numerous occasions is based on the oil drum and ''refined' by individuals like Mr. Rohner yourself who come from admitted traditional steelpan backgrounds?

The hang, like its mother, the traditional steelpan, is an instrument which is based principally on properly tuning metal so that it resonates via percussion techniques. So in fact, in principal, the hang is no different than the traditional steelpan ''in principal'' as Ms. Schärer would like the audience to believe. It is apparent that Ms. Schärer has an agenda to remove the hang ''in principal'' from its place as a direct descendant of the oil drum (traditional steelpan) by claiming that she has ''refined'' it to the point that it is no longer ''in principal'' a steelpan.

I guess the same way Mr. Rohner and Ms. Schärer have ''refined'' the steelpan is similar to the way Europeans took raw (brown) sugar and made it white through the refinement process, as well as wheat flour which has become bleached flour. Not to mention the raw cocoa that is bought cheaply in West Africa at exploitation prices and brought to the European market to be refined into expensive Swiss chocolates and sold at a killing as far as profits are concerned.

 

At the 18:52 mark of the documentary, Ms. Schärer goes onto claim that she has conducted the ''first acoustical research on the steelpan''.

 

This is truly laughable as obviously for the steelpan to have developed enough for her and Mr. Rohner to even be able to take it up with a passion in the first place required countless decades of acoustical research by the original steelpan pioneers who are directly responsible for her research in the 'first'' instance. These claims of hers are literally a slap in the face to an initiated pan enthusiast such as myself.

 

At 22:44 in the documentary, a blasphemous attempt to portray Felix Rohner as some sort of ''divine'' presence in the steelpan world is undertaken when the narrator states, ''The central place of the tuner is symbolic, if not divine. It is he who knows how to put the sound back into the drum.''

At the precise moment the narrator utters these words, at 22:53, the camera pans into a photo of a young Felix Rohner, which is the first time the viewer sees an actual image of him in the entire documentary. The fact that he is first shown to the audience as the narrator is speaking of the ''divine'' nature of the tuner reminds me of how Europeans put a white face on a black Christ.

The earliest images of Christ and the Virgin Mary depict Christ as the Bible describes him:

 

Revelation 1:15 KJV

 

14His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

 

Wooly hair, as Christ is descirbed by the Bible as having is hair that is commonly referred to as ''nappy'' which accurately describes the hair texture of the negro. Fine brass burned in a furnace, as Christ's feet are described is brownish/yellow in color, as is the negro. Early depictions of Christ in Patmos, Greece  feature a negro-looking Christ despite the fact that most Christians of today have been fooled by lies and propaganda into believing that Christ was a European. Paintings of the Black Madonna, mother of Christ cradling Christ in her arms  is also prominently featured in the Vatican.

Mr. Rohner's portrayal of himself subliminally to the audience as some sort of European ''divine'' presence due to his steelpan tuning ability immediately reminded me of how Europeans have a history of attributing ''divine'' attributes and qualities to themselves wherever negroes are concerned, and in this case, the steelpan is obviously no exception. This is flat out blasphemy though and through on the part of Mr. Rohner.

 

Stay Tuned for Part Two of ''The PanART Hang Documentary: A Propaganda- Filled, Dissemination of Lies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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