September 01, 2019 at 22:22

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The story starts way back in 2016 when I was doing my masters in Computer Science. October 2018 was the month when I started again but first I will tell how I got to know about Handpan.

The first time I saw an handspan was at a get together in Delaware which Alex Twingin invited me to. I met Alex through Rohit Chibber who was doing his PHD in Physics and also played Guitar. Rohit used to jam with Alex as he had a tabla. When Rohit came to know that I play tabla, he introduced me to Alex so we could jam together.

Group of handpan players

The music night was at a house where I didn’t know anybody. I still remember I biked to that place in the night and I was not able to find the place. When I found it, I was afraid to go and walked in with some people who came to attend it. After some time, somebody wanted to show what project they are onto. This guy came, sits and had a round thing in his hand. I had no idea about what was it. He told that he got his instrument from Russia after 3 years. I was like whattt. He waited for three years to get the this. After a while he started playing it. My mind was blown because he was playing with hands and hitting the metal like thing and it was producing melodies. After his performance, I touched the pan and it felt weird having the oval curves which produces sound and the rest was just plane metal.

I went home and didn’t look into it. I should have and I would met my musical family 3 years ago not today but I guess everything has its time. I forgot about it until I somehow started listening to Anoushka Shankar, the Sitar player. I saw many of her videos as her songs were touching me. Then in one of her video, one of the guy was playing the same instrument I saw back then and it sounded very nice. This was the same one which I saw in 2016 and it was going so well with the tabla. I decided to research about it.

I got to know that these are called Handpans and they are really expensive. Slowly I started listening to more Handpan videos. I was interested in how handpans are made and can I build one for myself. I don’t know how many videos I started watching of how handpans are made. They required special tools and knowledge also.

When I went to India in December 2017, I met Nishant's friend in Mumbai whom I talked to about Handpan and she wanted to buy one. She saw someone making it in the Dharmshala and selling it for 1k. I contacted her again when I wanted to buy one as I was visiting India. I got connected to that person, he sent me some stuff but then it didn’t work out for some reason as I wasn't sure should I buy a handpan which I don’t know how to play and how the different scale works.

In the meanwhile, I kept on with watching Handpan videos. I read a deep blog post of how to buy a Handpan from Sylvain. It was very in depth. I also came across some of his beautiful videos where the playing was soo simple but heart touching. It was soothing.

So continuing from the above, I decided to find people around me who play handpan. I couldn’t find a group around me but what I did found out somehow about Hangout, USA. They were doing handspan gatherings for the last 3 years. And they were suppose to have one this year in mid July. I was soo excited and pumped to attend the event. I gave my information to notify me when the tickets will be available.

After that I continued watching Handpan videos for couple of months and in between I used to check the status of Hangout, USA whenever I got a thought about it. Slowly months passed and it was April. I was getting anxious as there was no information posted about the event. In between I even contacted them through their contact page and emailed them separately but no answer. I checked my email so many times thinking the site might have changed and I might have got the email somehow but missed it. Finally decided to open a tab on my phone on the Chrome mobile browser. Everyday I used to refresh that page as to see if anything changed or if there was an update to the page. I was hoping for something. Like if its happening or not or what happened.

Now it was June 2019. Its been 60 days of refreshing that page everyday and now I started suspecting that something is wrong. I really wanted to attend the Handpan gathering this year so I searched again on Google about Handpan gatherings in US. In one of the search results, Saraz blog popped up with all the major handpan gatherings happening in the world. Their I found out that Hangout, USA was canceled and scheduled for 2020. I got disappointed. Really very disappointed. Most of them happened already or they were out of USA. One of them was Steel Mountain but I was not sure if I could take vacation in September because I am flying to India in October 2019.

Sadly I thought maybe this is not the year and gave up on getting a chance to go to Handpan gathering. On July 15th I came pretty late from work. After coming, I opened facebook and what I saw was a post from Handout, USA. It said their house burned down in April (very sorry for that) and also they were having a grand daughter (very happy for that) and that’s why they were not able to organize it. But there was one more thing. In the post it said, hope to see some of you at Reminiscence if you are coming. I paused for a second, and thought what was that. The next second I searched on google, and the first result was about the gathering. I was surprised and happily shocked. As I opened the page, it said the gathering was on July 25 - July 28 2019. I was excited but as soon as I opened the tickets page, it said Sold Out and see you next year. Felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel and a big stone dropped in front of it and everything dark again.

I thought for some time. The website where the tickets were sold was of a person who tunes the Handpan and was helping in organizing it. I remember I messaged him at 2 am in the morning hoping he would message me back. I slept. When I woke up, I went straight to Facebook to see if he messaged me back but nothing. I went to work, waited all day for him to reply but didn’t hear anything from him. After coming home around 9 am, I researched more. I found his instagram page. I thought may be because my message goes in others folder, he might not have seen it so I decided to message him on Instagram. I wrote I was waiting for Hangout, USA for months and it got canceled and how badly I wanted to come. This event popped up and I really want to come. Slept for the day.

Next day which is July 17, 2019, first thing I again did is to check my facebook and instagram. Can you guess what happened. No message at all. I was really very anxious and now I literally started to loose hope. By the end of the day, I had given up. I thought maybe he doesn’t want to message me so he is ignoring me. I consoled myself that maybe not this year Pranjal, next year it will happen.

Suddenly on July 19, 2019 I receive a message at noon on facebook. It was Josh who replied. I literally had goosebumps and writing and thinking about it right now also gave me a shiver goose feeling. I couldn’t believe it. He asked me if I wanted to come. I thanked him to getting back to me and said yes I really really wanted to. He said let him figure out if he can arrange something. After few hours he returned back to me and said that I have to have my own tent or rent a car and sleep in it. I didn’t even gave a thought about this because what I just heard was I can go. It is possible. He then opened one ticket for me and I purchased it the next minute. Everything done super quick. He also told me to bring my tabla. I was like how does he know about it and then he told me he himself plays tabla and also checked my profile. I was soo happy that because I shared my videos publicly, it actually helped me. Maybe this might have helped me in someway. Book the flights which were very expensive as I had to go the next week but I didn’t cared much about it. Booked the car also. All set and ready to go. I still couldn’t believe what happened and pinched myself as if it was a dream.

I messaged Dan, my CTO about taking vacation on next Thursday and Friday. As always he said enjoy and be back with new energy to start new project.

The flight was at 8 am on Thursday. I didn’t wanted to use Uber or Lyft as I already had spent a lot on travel to go to North Carolina. I decided to use public transport. So for that I needed to wake up by 4 am to leave home by 5 am to catch the train. That day I came home at 9 pm. I could have slept by 10 pm as there was not much to pack. Just my tabla bag and the shoulder bag which had phone charger, four t-shirts, sleeping shorts and t-shirts, laptop, GoPro, toiletries, slipper and a book. I just didn’t want to do it and started watching Tour D France videos. I don’t know but when I saw the time, it was 1:30 am. I was like nooooo I had to sleep. I quickly packed my bag and set multiple alarms on my watch. I shifted schedule by 25 minutes and slept at 2 am.

I woke up at 4:25 and reached airport by 6:20 am after doing morning rituals. I was on time. This was the first time I was carrying tabla on board in flight. Many thoughts were going in my mind that how would they scan tabla and will they allow me or not. Finally when I had to put tabla in the scanning tray, I told them that its an instrument. They gently made it sidewards. Both of my bags needed additional checking but the shoulder bag was just a mistake so the person gave me back quickly.

Now it was tabla's turn. She opened it and scanned for drugs all over the place. She asked what is inside it and I laughed inside. I said there is nothing. She then asked does it open. I was like nooooo. I also had baby powder and she scanned that as well and asked why do you need a baby powder. I said, it is used to control sweat in palms while playing the instrument. She put everything back very gently and said you are all set. I was like this was not bad at all and didn’t take too long.

After that went to gate, answered Slack and wrote last emails to everybody whom I had to catch up with. I was in the Group 9 and by then the airline's overhead space was filled so they said tabla has to be checked in. I told its an instrument and I cannot do that. They said I should have told them before. But then they gave me a Vallet for it. I just had to pick it from the gate again while leaving the plane in North Carolina. I then boarded the flight. Instead of sleeping as I only slept for 2 hours 25 minutes, I started my laptop. I wanted to actually write points about the business idea I have but instead my I saw there was internet so tried connecting it. It got connected but google was not working. Ofcourse I had to pay for it but instead the American Airlines page said that I can watch Captain Marvel. I have watched it before but again decided to watch. This is how plane journey went and didn’t sleep again.

Afte reaching airport, I went straight to car rental. I got an upgrade as the Economy car I selected was not available. Got a mid sized car. Started driving to Gerton, NC. In between I tried calling Ashish as it was his birthday but he didn’t pick up. By now I was very hungry. I saw IHOP in the middle and decided to do brunch over there. After that I was thinking should I sleep in the car or not. How comfortable it would be. Then I decided to get tent from Walmart and the sleeping bag and thought I would return them on my way home.

I reached Gerton, NC by 2 pm. That place was up the mountain. It was called Laughing Waters and somebody founded it and built a big house there. I think it was the one of the nicest ideas. Met Josh and his wife at the house door and checked myself in. Everyone was given this sweet Reminiscence cup to drink water from. Dope idea to not waste glasses and it had a lock which could be attached to the bottoms. Got my stuff from the car and set up my tent in the campground. As I went inside, there were many people interacting with each other and some Handpans were out to play (I didn’t knew initially that I can play them). It felt like they know each other so well. One of them said hello to me. And then everyone introduced themselves in the small group. One of them seemed like I have seen him before. I don’t know why.

Gathering agenda for first day

One of the guy was playing Handpan in the hall. It was very soothing. His name was Matt. I just watched him playing. More people came and I was just felling the vibe. I met Grason outside when I was setting up my camp. He was also paying beautifully. After some time JD started playing with Grason too. Those were the small jams people do all the time. Because I am writing now I don’t remember what happened in which sequence. The dinner was around 7:30 pm. I joined a table. They were all talking and that where I got to know the guy I told seemed familiar was none other than Sylvain. Can you believe it. I never thought I would meet him and here he was in front of me. I heard some more jams after the dinner but I was really sleepy and tired by now. Filled my bottle and went to sleep in the tent. Didn’t even changed my clothes. Slept tight that night and made the right choice to buy the sleeping bag as it was chilly and it would be soo cold in the car.

Next day I woke up around breakfast time. Changed my clothes at that time and finally wore shorts. It was breakfast time. David is the one who is a Handpan maker and also makes delicious food. Last nights food was soo delicious and todays breakfast too. I had breakfast with Jared and another person(Don't remember his name at all. Will refer as OP). Had a very interesting conversation with them. Jared was a Mechanical engineer and OP was a school teacher and he had this time off from his summer vacation. OP told how he got introduced to Handpan and how he was telling about stories about the kids he work with who knows only sign language. Jared on the other hand interviewed for a job he really liked and looking forward to work for. I have best wishes for him. I hope he gets it. After that OP shared his Handpan for me to play. It was a Halo. When I played it for sometime, I had this weird tension in my mind. Music can really change you mood. Its the waves that gets produced and changes your mind very quickly. It somehow gave me anxiety. Meanwhile Jared and OP was talking about something the whole time which I don’t know :DD. Then one of the OP's friend joined us and OP asked him to share his Hang with me. Hang is the first ones to be build by the original Handpan builders.

His friend said he just got it tuned even though he didn’t play it much past year. I was super excited to see it, hold it, play it but on the other hand super careful to not throw it off. After playing for 2 minutes, I kept it back. Then I met Max. He was in the hall. He took a heavy sound Hangdrum (I don’t know the exact name. It has leaf structures on it) and a Handpan and walked outside. We found Jenna on the front porch playing Handpan. We decide to join her. We played for a bit and decided to move to stairs. We all had different instruments. We started jamming again. This time is was really sounding very nice and I was totally into it. Then Parker joined us with Goblet Drum (Took from google. Don’t know exact name again). Chris joined us with snacks. I haven’t met formally anyone of them but they just joined us. This was the best part and never thought the jam of two people will emerge like this - by many people enjoying our playing on and off, 4 players playing and one eating snacks and enjoying.

Handpan players playing on stairs

After the magical jam, we had some snacks. Then I formally met Parker and Chris. Again I don’t remember what happened. I might be watching some other jams in the hall. Till now I didn’t got chance to play tabla so I and Parker decided to jam together with Handpan, tabla. After jamming a bit, Max joined us with Calabash. I have seen Calabash on youtube video of Sona Jobarteh and saw how that person was playing so had some idea how to play it. Max and Parker were both hardcore musicians and had some playing experience with tabla and knowledge about it. We decided to play all three one by one and recorded it on GoPro. Many people sat beside us to just watch it. Then Corewin also joined with an interesting instrument. The jam lasted for at least an hour and my GoPro died in between.

After taking the dinner, an open mic was happening in the night. It is where anybody can perform what they want. I wanted to perform but thought I will perform tomorrow as I had zero practice with Handpan. All the performers were just mind blowing. Rebecca was a handspan builder and she was a great host. She was encouraging everyone to come and play. She even gave a small performance so that someone can get encouraged by it. After the performance people started again jamming. This time I wanted to just play by my own. I took a handpan out of the house and started experimenting with it. Because we were surrounded by trees, in night there were some animals who used to make sounds that too very loud. That loud sound with creek flowing and Handpan playing was just perfect.

After playing for sometime, I went in to switch the Handpan and Charles asked me if he can jam with you. I was like yeah why not. After than we jammed for long time outside. It was very pleasing and relaxing. He was playing Frame Dum. After jamming we just sat there. Charles knew soo many things about India and its culture. I was impressed by the knowledge he had and he also really wanted to travel to India. We were talking about differences in culture in US and India. Then we talked about many personal stuff as well. That was some very deep conversations and we didn’t even realized when it was 1:30 am. It was cold too but didn’t feel that. We went inside and there it was Sylvain, Aaron and Josh sitting and just completed a jam.

They started with another jam and this time I joined them with my tabla. I really wanted to play tabla with Aaron and Sylvain. It started beautifully. There were some people at that time also watching us. These people live and breath for jams specially Danny. The jam got fast. We were improvising soo much. It felt amazing when it ended. I thanked them for this pure jam. Everyone left except me, Josh, Sylvain and Aaron. They started talking about how the Handpan making was changing and big players were participating in the process. It was good and bad both as the instrument were not be that high quality and it will just become an ordinary instrument for everyone. But there was one more interesting point that it will depend on how a new person was exposed to this pure instrument and the community. If someone like me is joining this gathering then I would always want a high quality one because that’s how I started with. Also it is our responsibility to preserve the pureness of this community and the originality of the Handpan. We ended our conversation at 3 am and after everyone left, I switched on my wifi after a long time. There I saw that Srishti had something very important for me to talk about so I called her and it was indeed. I slept at 4 am that night.

Next day after waking up I was soo hungry so I rushed towards house to have breakfast. There was already a jam going to start and Grason asked me to join. I didn’t even washed my face and sat down and started playing tabla. We started with I think 4 people and slowly slowly more people joined and at the end we were 10 jamming together. I cannot even explain how mesmerizing and mind blowing it was. There were two flutes also in the jam being played by lovely Jenny and Rebecca. They were just out of the world. The melodies were soo nice. It went for a long time. When we ended the jam, everyone were just looking at each other and I believe they were all feeling the same as I was.

Few things were left in the breakfast. I just eat that. I was just soo into the zone. While eating, Grason told me if I wanted to see some cool stuff. I went down and saw an electro instrument that I had never seen before. It was a percussive instrument which can produce different sounds but in a very unique way. It had delays and many other things which I don’t know the technicalities for. Parker and Grant tried that and I was just listening. I went up again.

After sometime I heard them playing and it felt like Indian classical to me so I went downstairs again and I just started speaking simple konokols with them. It matched soo perfectly and sounded good as well.

Pranjal Singi playing

Then they started playing more so I got Goblet Drum from above and started jamming with them. Then after some time Hope came downstairs and she got Cajone and started playing. Crystalina and Shoe joined us as well. Then somehow Rebecca came downstairs with her flute and joined. The jam just got at another level. I was matching Aaron on Handpan or with Hope on Cajone many times. If was soo many impromptu stuff happening. At last Jenny also joined us. You can imagine what would have happened now. We jammed for over an hour. I was sweaty after that but this jam again went into one of the amazing jams and coolest jams I have ever done with people. Many of the amazing jams list are filled with the weekend jams I was doing in the gathering. We high fived each other after wrapping the jam. I was in ecstasy.

People jamming together

We came up and there was some snacks ready for us. Thank you David again. I ate in the hall. In meantime, Chris asked if I wanted to come to river. I said yes. So me, Max, Parker, Chris and Jenna were going. It was 10 minutes drive from our place. We took with us Calabash because it sounded nice in the water. After reaching and going in the water, we started playing Calabash. We all were surrounding it because it was floating and not stable. It was sounding really nice and we could do some tricks as well. The water was perfect but it was cold for others. I just love cold water. Can’t help I know. They were not ready to take cold water on their body so I started splashing water on them. Hahahaha. In return Jenna splashed at me but got a little hurt on her fingers by Calabash.

We saw we could sit on stone. I swam to get there and these guys walked :D. The water was soo refreshing. We saw one girl was jumping from that stone. I wanted to do that. As we climbed the stone, I started persuading everybody to jump. One by one everyone agreed but not Max. He didn’t wanted to. It took a little more effort by everyone and then he said yes. Perfect moment. Everybody watching us from the shore and cheering for us as we were about to jump. 1 2 3 - we decided to jump on 3. Here we go. 1 2 and jump. Big splash. Amazing. Everyone then swam to the stone back and sat. I wanted to do it again. I jumped in the middle again. Came back on the stone. Saw Chris was talking to a guy who was also sitting there. He said ohh you play tabla. I was like how do you know as I didn’t see him in the gathering. Then he said Chris told me. I think he played Base Guitar though. So I said one for the music and lets jump. He got ready in no time and 1 2 and splash. After some more splashes for me, we headed back to the car, took video of us and came back to our gathering place.

People on the stone posing after enjoying in water

Their on the deck, Charles was making special tea with hot water. He had this tool kit to make it. Bunch of people sat around and we had tea. Then after that went to change. I was trying to transfer GoPro data to laptop but it was not working and while doing that Bobby came to me and asked have I met Rusty. He was an experienced tabla player and god father of this community. I met him and wanted to jam with him. We decided to jam the same moment. We went outside and I played tabla first and then he played. Bill joined us and Josh took video of that amazing memory. After the jam, it was time to have dinner and again it was super delicious. Thank you David again.

People having tea on the deck

Sat outside with Aaron, Jenny and many others. I made a deal with Aaron that he will give me 7 groves to work on when I will receive my handspan and I will show him next time we meet. Then we played Chopsticks together. I haven’t played it with more than one person. Max, me, Jenna and Chris started playing. It was fun and then Jared joined us. Super duper fun.

People playing chopsticks

After that relaxed in the hall and then it was time for Open mic. Max gave a really nice performance with a sound track where he recorded each instrument. Aaron performed on the electro instrument he had. He is the brand ambassador. He nailed on this as well his Handpan piece. He is just too good. Whichever handspan he touches, first of all it sounds fantastic and second, what he play can just be watched for hours. I and Max joined the female group with shakers. That was such a perfocrmace by all of them. Then Bobby helped showcase first gen Hang which Rebecca played, second gen Hang which Danny and Jenny played, Rusty showed us different kind of Hang and at last Sylvain showed us the Halo 2019. Thanks for showing us.

People playing various instruments

It was 11 pm by this time. I chilied on the couch for sometime. Then Max was leaving as they had to leave for NY early morning. That time it hit me how hard it would be to say bye. I guess I hugged him four time. I don’t remember what I did after that. After some people left, Parker, Aaron, Josh, Jenny, Rebecca, Nate were left. We were just talking. Rebecca brought glowing sticks and switched off the lights. Then she started doing fun stuff. Omg I can’t even tell what all we did with those glowing sticks. I think now it was 4 am in the morning. Danny and some people were still awake and jamming upstairs. Went up and stood with them for some time. I could see a billion stars in the sky as it was soo clear with no pollution. Finally went to sleep at 5 am but put an 8 am alarm because Chris and Jenna also said they will leave early. I wanted to say bye to them as well.

Fun stuff with glowing sticks

I woke up at 9 am. I was like please they should not leave and they did not. But its good as Sylvain was leaving and I hug him as well. I can’t explain how happy I was to meet him. After that we had breakfast together outside on the deck with Crystalina playing handspan for us. Finally Hope came to say good bye. Exchanged number, of course mandatory hug and took a picture. Then I decided to take pictures with everyone I can who were their at that time. Chris and I wanted to have one last jam together. Parker and Jenna also joined us. They had Handpans and I was on tabla. It was soo peacefully jam. Parker showed something he was working on. Maybe we will record his Handpan groove with tabla.

Jenny writing in a book

Then final good byes to Chris and Jenna with hug. Slowly everyone started leaving. It was a totally different feeling and hard to explain. I didn’t know these people 4 days back and now I was not feeling good when they were leaving. Meanwhile Jenny wrote in the house book kept to share the experience. I was still wondering what to do after leaving from here because my flight was at 8 pm from Charlotte. I still hanged there till last. Grason, David and David’s daughter left in the car. It was just me, Aaron, Jenny, Josh and Josh’s wife there. Josh did some final poses for the picture. I said good byes to everybody with hugs and left towards Ashville. It felt wrong. My heart didn’t wanted to go from that place. Don’t remember when I felt like that last time. My conscious mind was driving but my actual mind was still there. I ate at Oliver Garden. Even the music played over their reminded me of Handpan and all the people and I wanted to jam with again.

Josh posing

Reached back to airport, returned the car and went to checkin. After the checkin, I really want to say what was going inside me. I recorded a raw video there to share with everyone on the facebook page. It somehow helped me calm down. I couldn’t upload it by mobile browser.

Boarded the flight at around 7:40 pm and reached home by 12 am. I was tired and really sleepy but I was also missing them. Finally I uploaded the video and then slept.

I am soo fortunate that these all series of events happened and somehow I could go to this gathering. I think it was meant to be. I didn’t know something was missing from my life until this happened. I guess this fills a missing piece in my life which I was not even sure I was looking for. It just somehow drove me towards it. These people will be connected with me for life now.

Love from heart on Handpan


Thank you
Thank you Josh for making this happen.
Thank you David for delicious food everyday.
Thank you Aaron for always ready to help and lessons.
Thank you Max, Parker, Jenna and Chris for Wonderful friendship.
Thank you Rebecca and Jenny for mind boggling flute melodies.
Thank you Bobby for taking care of us.
Thank you Sylvain to share your experiences and your playing.
Thank you everyone for amazing jams.
Thank you everyone for everything.

I found a family……..

Peace

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