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The Fastest Hands in Hang. A Talk with Liron Man, an Audio and Visual Spectacle

The Fastest Hands in Hang

A Talk with Liron Man
An Audio and Visual Spectacle
 
By Natasha J
 
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Israeli multi-instrumentalist Liron Man has in recent years established himself as a pioneer and master of the HandPan and Flamenco guitar. 
 
The Hang, also known as the Hang Pan drum or Hand Pan is truly a musical instrument of the 21st Century. It was introduced to the market in the year 2000 by Sabina Sch盲rer and Felix Rohner in Bern, Switzerland. The name comes from the German word for hand. As the name suggests, the hang is usually played with the hands and fingers while resting on the player’s lap, (technically it is an idiophone). It has a central note which is called the “Ding” and there are 7 or 8 tone circles around it. The sound produced is rich in overtones and a much softer or warmer sound than that of the steel pan. The Hang is handmade and constructed from two hollow half spheres of steel that have been deep-drawn, stamped and exposed to gas-nitride. The two spheres are glued together. The bottom of the drum has a hole in the centre.
 
Liron's connection to the HandPan was immediate and from the very beginning showed high skills when he started performing. A YouTube favorite and hypnotising live performer, Liron is without-doubt, an authentic performer. His hands buzz across the surface of his Hang like an ecstatic honey bee in a bountiful flower garden - swift and precise, combining melody and rhythm with rare flair. Pulling from the Hang complex compositions, although an integral part of his performance, he’s not just about the speed. He was soon recognized as a musician with the highest hand dexterity with this instrument in the world and received the title “The Fastest HandPan Player in The World”. 
 
Over the years, Liron has developed a clean, harmonious technique and has influenced many hang drum artists around the world. “World music” is the apt phrase to describe his music style in short, as Liron combines music from diverse cultures, from Middle East, Asia, Southern Europe and Eastern Europe. His astounding speed and accuracy combined with his rich music experience creates the unique audio experience which captivates his audience. Liron has performed in theaters and festivals in more than 20 countries across Europe, Asia, Middle East, North and South America. 
 
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When did your music career begin?
Initially I did not discover music as an immediate career path but as a medium of healing or releasing creativity. Growing up in a traditional family, I had a playful childhood followed with many different hobbies and interests. Music was one of those. From a very young age, playing music always felt like home. I sought solace in music. My passion for music grew and it became my main purpose. Eventually I managed to transcend into a platform that produces quite professional looking ideas of art.
 
I started playing the piano at the age of 5 and began performing at 10 giving solo recitals. I discovered the electric guitar at age 12, and at 18, having performed widely, and having composed original music for both, branched out into such instruments as the ‘bouzouki’, and the ‘ney flute’. I was drawn to diverse musical styles from ‘Heavy Metal’ through to the Gypsy music of Eastern Europe.
 
At the age of 19 there were several meaningful incidents in my life, personally, professionally and artistically speaking. Regarding music, I was proud to produce events and perform alongside Israel’s finest artists such as Shlomo Gronich a famous composer and song writer, Sanya Kroitor top violin player in Israel and more. These collaborations always made me realize that I wanted to find my own unique style. This journey took me through two avenues, the HandPan and Flamenco guitar. Although I didn't start playing them right away, I knew my heart will lead me there eventually. 
 
In September 2006, I bought my first HandPan, and just half a year later I bought a second. It was clear I needed more than one instrument since each one carries only one musical scale which limits musical possibilities. For a long while it was fine having just two because I had many other things on my plate and was starting to shape myself and develop as a musician. Nowadays I have four instruments and I can play all the scales that involve the 12 regular notes. I plan to get more instruments that involve quarter tones.
 
Professionally speaking, I created a career out of it in December 2011. Although that was many years ago, the memories are very vivid. At the time I was in Spain, studying to master the Flamenco guitar. It was my very first tour and that wasn’t the only remarkable aspect for me. I even had the opportunity to work with Pardo, a very talented flutist from Spain. It really was a great start to my career. 
 
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Who had the biggest impact on you musically?
I can easily say that the biggest musical impact I received was from a band called 'Estradasphere'. Although the band is not as familiar to the world as one would expect it to be, they are brilliant musicians that completely changed my life. They incorporate numerous genres taken from various parts of the world and combine them into a single piece. It is mesmerizing.  This exposed me to many unique styles of traditional music from all over the world. They have been and still are a great inspiration to me.
 
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How did you master the HandPan despite it being a new instrument?
First, I don’t think I have mastered the instrument or anything in my life. I don’t think anyone can master anything. You just continue to study and discover new untapped areas. 
 
When I started there weren’t many teachers who specialized in this unique new musical instrument. I just took from what I learned of the piano, guitar and other instruments I have played and tried to inculcate those into the HandPan. I was able to discover the abilities, advantages as well as the disadvantages of this instrument. I developed my own style. I am still learning through practice. Most of my practice was from performance, playing background music for corporate and private events where no one usually listens.
 
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What is your most memorable moment with the HandPan? 
I have countless amazing stories. Some of them, you would not believe, even I find it hard to take in, the most recent being having the opportunity to play with a very famous popstar in Hong Kong. Her name is Lin Yan, and I played 4 songs in her concert that spanned over 4 days with over 13,000 spectators every day. This is not something I’m used to as my performances are more intimate with about 50-500 people and on the very rare occasion 1000. The concert was at a mega stadium where I was taken on to the stage on an elevator. It was crazy! All of a sudden from under the stage, which is not so pleasant, you are elevated to an arena of 13,000 spectators screaming.    
 
On a personal note, if you activate your emotional intelligence you would find that everybody working in the production unit, of over 100 people, lives the life of the popstar for 1 week. Everybody feels like they are part of her life. It’s very different from what I am used to, the relaxed, low scale living. That was really an incredible experience but not one I would wish for every day of my life.
 
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For someone just learning the HandPan, what advice would you give them? 
The HandPan is a simple instrument consisting of only one scale on each instrument. I would recommend to first experiment with other musical instruments, so that you can open your ‘musical mind’. In fact, I would recommend this to all aspiring musicians, not just those who want to play the HandPan. Take time to listen to music. Find the bands and musicians, not the ones given to you by the media because from my experience, most of the inspiring artists and ethnomusicologists must be found and that process is incredible. Taking your HandPan on your travel journey to various parts of the world, meeting musicians and playing with them is another way to find your technique. It’s a new instrument, so find your own path with it. Create something the world is yet to hear.
 
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You also play the Flamenco guitar.
In the year 2010 I moved to Jerez De La Frontera with a clear mission to study the art of Flamenco. I had the opportunity to study a lot and work with Flamenco artists, such as Jorge Pardo, Ni帽o Jero, Bernardo Parilla, Jose de los Camarones, Fransisco Leon, Fiona Malena, Mara Rey, Beatriz Morales and more. Flamenco is an ongoing research for me and I am very patient and respectful to the culture. I play and produce shows for dancers and work with singers playing traditional and modern Flamenco, also fusions such as Ethnic Music from the Middle East, Persian Music, Latin Music alongside Flamenco.
 
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You have come a long way with regard to the HandPan. What are your future plans?
I have been longing to record new music for a long time. I’ve been touring since the end of 2011 and never really stopped. I’ve had rests of about 1 month, but definitely not enough to record an album. Through all that I recorded my album while I was travelling. It was a 9-month process of recording and it was an incredible experience on its own.
 
I have so many ideas and so many projects that I want to complete. Recently I met interesting musicians in Beijing. They play the melodic Ancient Chinese bells called Bian Zhong. I think the combination of both instruments, the Bian Zhong and the HandPan, would be a beautiful team. The intention behind is to share with the world the beauty that I find in Chinese culture. Maybe that would be my next project. There is also a Latin music project that I have been yearning to do with my friends from Venezuela also living in Beijing. A solo album is also on the way. Hopefully one of these will fall into the roulette soon. 
 

 

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