Where Did the Handpan Come From?

Where Did the Handpan Come From?

The handpan is a relatively new instrument that has recently started gaining much attention and popularity. It is a two-sided steel drum with a convex shape similar to a steel tongue drum. 

The instrument produces a unique, melodic sound often described as ethereal and calming, and has  become popular in many genres of music, including classical, jazz, and experimental. The instrument has been embraced by musicians and producers alike thanks to its unique sound and ability to be soothing and energizing. 

At first glance, the handpan looks strange. The handpan has a convex shape with two sides and is usually composed of a steel shell with a series of indentations and notes along the surface. Most people have never seen another instrument resembling a handpan, making it stand out in a sea of guitars and stringed instruments.

History of the Handpan

Despite looking like a stone age relic, the handpan is a relatively new invention. The handpan as we know it today was developed in Switzerland in 2000 by long-time steel pan makers Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer. They developed the instrument from a steel tongue drum inspired by the steel drums of Trinidad and Tobago. The instrument was initially called the Hang.

The story goes that after building steel pans for decades, they sought to take the sound of these instruments and mix it with elements from other traditional instruments. They took inspiration from the gamelan of Indonesia, the gong from Thailand, and the ghatam from India, to create something they could play with just their hands. They wanted to make a new musical instrument that combined the best of all these worlds.

The Hang was first introduced to the public in 2001 and quickly gained much attention. Musicians and producers alike praised the Hang for its unique sound and soothing and energizing ability. 

In the years following, several variations of the Hang emerged, such as the Halo, the Halo-Gong, and the Halo-Guitar. These instruments were created by other instrument makers, such as Manu Delago, who wanted to create instruments with different sounds and textures. 

Over time, the Hang evolved into what we now know as the handpan. This new instrument comprises a steel shell with indentations and notes along the surface. Its unique sound and ability to be both soothing and energizing have made it popular in many genres of music, including classical, jazz, and experimental. 

The handpan has been adopted by many famous musicians in recent years. For example, multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Bon Iver has used the handpan in several tracks, including “Flume” and “Skinny Love.” Singer-songwriter Hozier has also incorporated the handpan into songs such as “Take Me to Church” and “Cherry Wine.”

Other notable musicians that have utilized the handpan in their music include Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, and The Black Keys. The handpan adds a unique texture to their music and provides a soothing and energizing quality that can be felt throughout their songs.


The handpan is a unique instrument with a unique history that many famous musicians have embraced in recent years. Its ability to add a unique texture and energy to music has made it a welcome addition to many different genres. The handpan is sure to continue to be a popular instrument for many years to come.

If you're looking for an instrument that will bring a unique, energizing sound to your music, then visit Canggu Guitar in Bali to explore their collection of acoustic guitars and handpans! Don't wait any longer, browse our online shop today and experience the joy of playing a handpan!

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.