It’s amazing how chance encounters can change the course of your life…
At Glastonbury festival, its the year 2000.. listening to the late night session at the stone circle where people are playing all kinds of drums and instruments in a weird tribal organic jam when a super friendly and persistent fellow geordie ( person from my home town Newcastle) someone i had never met before or since, encourages me to play his djembe drum…”have a go man, go on..”.
Joinning in. Connecting. It was great, It felt great… I was hooked…. line and sinker.
My life changed that night, thank you whoever you are!
Within a few years I’d helped start a community drumming group, had been to West Africa to study djembe, trained in facilitating Drum circles and had began to learn Indian Tabla drums. Bongos, congas and and all kinds of drums littered my house.
It was a clear case of percussionitis.
I met amazing people, helped build community, joined a funk and soul band, performed and learnt all over the country and shared in the joy of making music.
How could it get any better? Well…
In 2006 whilst wandering through Vondel Park in Amsterdam when another encounter changed my life yet further. In the distance i hear a tinkling sound together with a deep sonorous bass. It wasnt clear who or what was creating this sound. I rounded a corner and there in front of me was a be-dreadlocked man, eyes closed in rapture, sat by the path playing his heart out on a ufo shaped instrument.
I sat down and listened, when he stopped and we shared a smile and I asked about the instrument. He told me it was a “Hang” from Switzerland, invented in the year 2000 by two people, Felix and Sabina. He excitedly told me this was the latest version.
I was transfixed.
On my return after hunting down the Hang makers online, PANArt in Bern I wrote to the¬m, saying I’d love one… any chance? Nearly one year later, having forgot all about this, a reply came from PANArt.. “Are you interested in purchasing a Hang? Please call us and we can fix a date to meet.” Happy days !!
A few months later I set off for Switzerland. They made me very welcome and I was soon alone in a room with around 40 hanghangs with the time to pick out the one that I connected with. During my youtube hang research I found out that the player i¬’d met was called David Swarup and it was with some amazement when on my second day there whilst relaxing in a hammock in he walked though the door at the HangBauhaus.
We spoke and I thanked him for being so integral in my journey to that place and time and to my new instrument, a hang tuned to D A Bb C D E F A. We have since met by chance again in London and also in India ! Thank you again David and thank you to Sabina and Felix for birthing this most amazing instrument.
Since then I’ve been lucky enough to acquire another two instruments or Handpan or Pantam as some call them, this time I visited Bilabo in Spain and came home with a Bells instrument in a lovely Pygmy tuning and very recently i have been lucky enough to aquire a lovely HAlo in a deep Ursa Minor tuning in B. So I’m wonderfully fortunate to have three instruments.
There are so many wonderful people in the Hang or Handpan community that I have played with and i’ve gigged and busked all over the world. I even recorded an album called Here and there which chronicles my early musical journey with the hang.You can listen to my journey, just click Album.
Many of my fellow players express the same sentiments…this instrument changed their lives and their selves.
It is deep and wonderful.
Currently I ‘m a self employed musician – i do workshops with drums, performances and street playing to scrape a living.However, I’m extremely fortunate in that i do what i love
I have been working with drums and music in the community since 2002 with many dozens of groups and for lots of organisations and schools.
working with the following groups of people:
- children and young people in the looked after care system and justice system and with kids that are carers.
- people with substance misuse issues.
- lots of work with older people.
- asylum seeker and refugee groups.
- as a sessional musician part-time for newcastle and gateshead arts service working with people with mental health issues
- youth groups across the north east and many more.
also I’m currently a volunteer music worker at st oswalds hospice in newcastle working with people with a terminal diagnosis..a quite amazing and humbling experience in a wonderfully life affirming place.
I have a current CRB and im insured with Public Liability through the Musicans Union