Since I discovered the Hang Drum at the Buskers Festival, I found out a few things about it. First, the name is pronounced as in the title, and is Bernese Swiss German, meaning hand.
Second, PanArt (the maker) has reduced its distribution to the point that you have to go to Switzerland to get one, or buy one used. The instruments are so popular that people have been hunting for used ones for over a year; they feel like they’ve been left hanging. It seems that many try it, then get fanatical about getting their own. On the other hand, if you want to visit Bern anyway you will get a customised instrument, where you choose the 7-9 notes on the Ding (top) side, and the fundamental base note on the Gu (bottom) side. And on the third hand, if you own one and hang onto it you could get a pretty penny for it.
Third, if you play it with the Gu side up, it plays like an Udu and can act as a talking drum covering almost a full octave.
Bottom line: If you get a chance, hang around and listen to one. There aren’t that many in existence. With a good musician who is a bit improvisational it can be good to unearthly. Accompanied by a Didgeridoo and some strings it can get downright mystical. And it looks elegant, partially like a Wok and partially like a flying saucer. Since I like stir fry, science fiction, and unusual music with chimes, I was sold.
It will be interesting to see if it stands the test of time. The Hang sounds great and works well with other instruments, especially traditional ones. It also is one of those instruments where you can get the hang of it quickly, but is very open ended (sorry) in how far you can go with it.
Just for curiosity, I’ve emailed PanArt to find out what is going on. I’ll let you know, so hang on for a little longer.