Here at Dara, we are always looking for new and unique sounds. Instruments that you don’t hear too often, but that maybe you should. One that fits that bill marvelously is the Hang (pronounced hung). It is often called a hang drum, because it is a percussion instrument. Felix Rohner and Sabina Scharer, the inventors of the hang, highly discourage calling it a hang drum. What harm could calling it a drum do?
The hang is a precisely crafted instrument. Very similar in principal to steel drums, it is usually played with hands instead of mallets. It’s inventors worry that if known as a drum, it will be played more aggressively than necessary. The fine craftsmanship, subtle sounds, and not to mention large investment, are all at risk if abused. Hangs are made in only short runs, and there is a qualification process. With this in mind, the builders want to make sure that each of their hangs are given only the most exquisite care.
What does a hang sound like? Without hearing one, it is hard to convey the ethereal beauty that is created by a hang. So let’s begin with how it looks. Shape like a UFO, with little divots all around, hangs look other worldly. The sound that pours forth from them is just as nebulous. Similar to a steel drum in the attack of the sound, the overtones ride on a lustrous liquid cushion. Each note is silky smooth to the ear, but when playing a piece of music, hangs lay down an otherworldly and undeniable groove.
It is the hangs ability to groove that I believe ties it in with drums. Much more often than not, the hang will not be a melody instrument, but a groove instrument. Most of the time I’ve seen hangs played as a solo instrument, but would love to see them incorporated more into a band setting. One great example of this is Portico Quartet. But when will Dara incorporate a hang?