Not quite a drum. Mumbai ‘hangs’ out with a rare musical instrument
Mumbai city news: Canadian tabla fusion artist Gurpreet Chana, 30, showed a smitten group of 150 enthusiasts exactly how at Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Byculla, during his unique percussion performance on Thursday.mumbai Updated: Jun 02, 2017 00:44 IST
How does one musical instrument bring together the sounds and cultures of Switzerland, Japan, India and South Africa in a single performance? Canadian tabla fusion artist Gurpreet Chana, 30, showed a smitten group of 150 enthusiasts exactly how at Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Byculla, during his unique percussion performance on Thursday.
His instrument, the hang (pronounced ‘hung’), looks like a UFO and is made up of two convex steel shells with a hollow interior that produces a variety of rich sounds when played with the hands. “The indentations on the steel surface produce different pitches, some high, some low, with the centre giving out the lowest note,” says Chana. “Flip it over, and you can recreate the hollow bass sound of the south Indian ghatam and South African udu drum as well.”
In the world of music, hangs are relatively new. The first one was created by two physicists in a workshop in Switzerland only 17 years ago. But they’re also rare. Only about 7,000 of them exist across the world, because each is handcrafted according to a particular tuning or scale. Chana’s hang is tuned to the Japanese scale, Ake Bono, which gives his compositions a unique eastern melody and rhythm.
Chana first encountered the instrument in 2003, at a world music festival in Quebec and says it was love “at first stroke”. But it took him five years to get the ‘hang’ of it and procure one of his own. “The best thing about it is there is no right or wrong way of playing the instrument,” he says. “There are no rules and the emphasis is wholly on the experience of stringing notes together to make your own composition.”
Only a handful in the audience knew about the instrument. Many needed a quick web search before they decided to attend. Byculla residents Nidhi Parekh, 23, and Satyashree Loke, 24, had heard about it on social media and thought it would be “really cool to attend a rare musical performance in the heart of a museum”. Investment banker Abhishek Thanvi, 26, was taking a walk around the museum when he stopped to hear Chana play. “I was amazed by the music because it was different from anything I had heard before. I ended up staying for the entire performance,” he says.
Chana’s cutest fans were probably a group of four kids aged between seven and 10 who sat in the front row, armed with pencil and paper, waiting for him to take his gloves off after the performance. “We were feeling very hot, but all of us liked how he played the hang, and now we want an autograph,” said Thea Patel, 7, before rushing off with her friends Annanya Shah, Jiyaan Gandhi and Maahir Patel to get the autograph.