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

July 04, 2016

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, 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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  • New name for Felix Rohner is Felix RUNNER.

    Felix Runner, yuh run like teef!
  • Hey Michael,

    while you are waiting for me to call your number, here is another fire you should probably start trying to quench:

  • Michael,

    Call your boss and tell him to man up and log onto WST and put out this fire, if he can. You are just dousing the flames with your haughty tone. Quite frankly you are becoming irritating to me as you fail to be able to comply with my instructions to tell Felix Rohner (as if he is not already reading this) to defend his legacy before I start posting receipts of Felix Rohner's loose, racist speech concerning his belief that steelbands in the Mecca are not worthy of his patronage because they are "lazy druggies"!

    Now be a good lackey Michael, and call your boss and stay in your seat until your number is called.
    • Dear readers on WST,

      it is obviously impossible to conduct a normal debate with Rudy Kendall.

      I have shown in my initial comment how he has misused alleged quotes by other persons to spread his own preconception. Nobody should fall for this. He tries to make you believe, that there are enemies of Trinidad at PANArt. But there aren't any.

      I think, odw has understood this very well when he posted the Round the neck video. Unlike Rudy Kendall insinuated, its publishing has nothing to do with his articles. It was the second video of a series that is published (and will be continued) to give insights in the history of PANArt and to gain a better understanding of the roots of the Hang and the new Pang instruments. The first video was published on April 8th, 2016 long before Rudy Kendall started his articles in his blog. Also this video emphasizes the strong steelpan roots in PANArt's work:

      Most of what I know about Trinidad's culture I learned from Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer. When my interest in the Hang began in 2005, I hadn't any clue about the pan. I learned my respect for Trinidad's pan culture from the PANArt tuners.

      • Michael,

        Like a typical, non-critically thinking, Germ-man robot who only understands programming,
        Stay tuned for the next upcoming bit of Karibpan programming on our blog entitled,

        "Mr. Eat and Run Felix Rohner and his Paltry Patsy Michael Paschko Put up a Pitiful Defense Against Karibpan's Proper Persecution"

        You wanted the spotlight, Michael. Let me tell you, it can get pretty hot under there.

        Keep your dial locked.
  • Michael,

    This is your third post on WST but yet you have the pompous nerve to call someone like me a "chicken".

    Read my blog for an example of how you manage a successful blog with hundreds of engaged, eager readers.

    You blog about a dead, zombie of an instrument that is not being made anymore.

    What else can you blog about since the hang is officially dead, the "Gubal", which looks like a hang with elephantitis?

    Or maybe a better description of the Gubal is a hang (baby Steelpan) with a poopy, droopy diaper!

    Nothing you say changes the fact that Felix Rohner personally viewed my LinkedIn Profile. The fact that you said or did not say that you were a producer of the film in question does not change the fact Felix Rohner participated heavily and ultimately signed off on the production. Just like Felix signs off on everything you say.

    Michael, have a seat and wait your turn. You have no reputation on WST and if you want to build one off of me of all members, you are barking up the wrong tree.

    Tell your boss his presence is urgently needed and go back to your seat and wait your turn.
    • By the way: I never called you a chicken.

      "to chicken out of something" means "sich vor etwas drücken" or "vor etwas kneifen" says my dictionary:

      That's all. No reason to get upset.

    • Rudy Kendall, you need a lot of words for saying nothing.

      I put my arguments on the table, and obviously you are not able or willing to reply to them.

      It seems, you have a "boss" problem. Obviously as "general manager" you want only to talk to someone who is a "boss" too. I don't know in what a world you are living in. I'm not living in a world that consists only of bosses and subordinates.

      For your information: All arguments in my comment are originally my own ideas as well as the decision to post them on WST. Some of these arguments I recently talked about in a discussion with a number of friends (including Felix Rohner). So, if the one or the other of these arguments found their way into an email by Felix Rohner to you, it doesn't say that he is "the boss" and I'm only his speaker. In fact it is the other way round: Regarding these arguments I'm "the boss" (in your words - I would say: originator).

      You can reply to me or not. Your choice.

      I wrote my initial comment to your post for the readers on WST to provide them the whole picture of this topic. I'm convinced that the readers on WST are able to make up their own minds.

  • Round the neck - Reithalle Bern 1994

    The Trinidadian people gave a gift to the world: the sweet sound of steel. Each individual has to find out what is meant by this gift. You have to live it, to eat it, do digest it. In 1994 the steel orchestra Original Bernese Oil Company organized the first international Panyard in Europe. It was an insight into the nature of this gift from Trinidad, into the nature of human beings. This is a glimpse of the closing party. Enjoy!

  • As editor of the Hang Library, who has published the film documentary in question online by courtesy of Véronice Pagnon, who together with Thibaut Castan is the author of the documentary, I cannot leave this without a comment.

    It's a pitty that Rudy Kendall is not interested in understanding what the opinion of the PANArt tuners Sabina Schärer and Felix Rohner about the relation of Hang and steelpan really is. He just searched through the documentary collecting a number of phrases that seem to confirm his preconception.

    He also don't take in consideration that this documentary is not a work of or on behalf of PANArt. It is the work of two French film makers. The narrator represents their opinion and understanding and the different persons who are interviewed (the PANArt tuners, musicians, an instrument dealer and others) represent their own opinion and understanding.

    In some cases Rudy Kendall's critique is based only on a complete misunderstanding of what really was said.
    For example he criticizes Sabina Schärer for allegedly having "an agenda to remove the hang ''in principal'' from its place as a direct descendant of the oil drum (traditional steelpan)". In this context he quotes the English subtitles of the documentary allegedly saying at 16:28: "The pan (hang) generated a completely different principle than that of the oil drum." This is a false quotation. Rudy Kendall smuggled the word "hang" into this phrase. The original phrase doesn't say anything about the Hang. The correct quote is: "The pan generated a completely different principle from that of the oil drums." What the real meaning of this sentence is, we will see below.
    Some lines later Rudy Kendall blames Sabina Schärer for allegedly claiming at 18:52 "that she has conducted the ''first acoustical research on the steelpan''". This is a false quotation too. In fact the English subtitles in the documentary say: "Thus we started with acoustical research to understand how this object could be tuned, how it resonated. Thus were born the first scientific collaborations based on an understanding of the physical and acoustical behavior of the steel pan."
    Now let's try to understand what Sabina Schärer was really talking about. In fact she neither said anything about the Hang nor about Trinidadian steelpan in this part of the interview. She talked about a development by PANArt: The deep drawn and nitrided raw form. Felix Rohner had researched since the 1980th to find an alternative to the oil drum, because it had become difficult to obtain good drums for steelpan building. In 1995 this research resulted in a raw form that was produced by deep drawing and then hardening by nitriding. This metal matrix composite with a ceramic like surface the PANArt tuners called Pang. It was at the time when the first Pang raw forms arrived in summer 1995 in the PANArt workshop (five years before the Hang was developed!) when Sabina Schärer joined PANArt as a Tuner and began to study together with Felix Roher the characteristics and physics of this new raw form.
    Sadly the English subtitles are in some parts of the interwies not a good translation of the spoken German text. Obviously the involved translator hadn't a good understanding of what she was translating. Therefore I made a new translation for you, that follows the spoken German text as accurately as possible.

    Sabina Schärer said:
    "I started [she is talking about her work as a tuner for PANArt] with the machine-made raw form we used for building steelpans. This material remained the same until today. This raw form we had to become acquainted with. This was a completely different principle than using a steel drum as raw form. This lead us to initial acoustical examinations: How can this raw form be tuned? How does it sound? In this context we started our collaboration with acousticians and gained a better understanding of the acoustics and the physics."
    Rudy Kendall tells us that Sabina Schärer has an agenda to remove the Hang from its place as descendant of the steelpan, but in fact Sabina Schärer isn't talking about the Hang but about another topic. Rudy Kendall tells us she claims to have conducted "the first acoustical research on the steelpan" while in fact she is talking about a special scientific collaboration with the US physicists Thomas Rossing and Uwe Hansen researching PANArt's Pang raw form and the instruments built with it.
    Rudy Kendall ignores this development by PANArt - the Pang raw form - completely. But without knowing about this, he cannot understand what Felix Rohner meant when he said in the interview that he had  made his own contribution.
    Rudy Kendall is not right saying, that the Hang is only a convex steelpan from the early days and nothing else. The Hang has strong roots in the Trinidadian steelpan - and nobody appreciate this more than the PANArt tuners. But there are three aspects that were new and necessary to create the Hang.

    The first was the Pang raw form that lead the PANArt tuners to new note geometries and tuning methods.

    The second was the idea of the hands on the sheet metal. Trinidad doesn't play the pan with the hands. In the whole world people are seldom playing with the hands on iron or steel. The ceramic like surface of the Pang material was an invitation to use the hands.

    The third was the integration of the air resonance into the Hang sound. The Hang is a vessel. Understanding the interplay between the modes in the sheet metal and the Helmholtz resonance was one important aspect that drove the development of the newer Hang versions and lead the PANArt tuners recently to their new instruments Gubal, Hang Gudu and Hang Urgu.
    When you are talking with Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer about their work (and I have done this many times), you can be sure that they will tell you how important Trinidad is for it. There isn't any agenda to present the Hang as something completely new without roots in Trinidad.

    Felix Rohner has written a review on the book "The Secrets of the Steelpan" by the great Trinidadian physicist and steelpan researcher Anthony Achong, to make it better known among tuners in Europe and USA (also handpan tuners). His summary is: "Whoever has ever had the chance to attend a concert of a Trinidad steel band, will agree with Achong: The art form created by Trinidad must not fade or disappear! Achong’s book can contribute a lot to young tuners, so that their sounds from sheet metal will continue to enchant people."

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