All you wanted to know about the pantam

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There are many instruments in this world. Percussion, brass, string, wind – the list could go on and on. But what about the pantam? This is the magical instrument that has brought music to life all around the world. So how do we understand so little about it? Don’t worry; now is the time to dive in headfirst to find out all you wanted to know about the pantam.

What is a pantam?

If you’ve never heard of this magical instrument before, then you are in the right place. A pantam, or handpan as it is also known, is similar to a steel drum. However, there’s a difference. A pantam is two half shells that have been stuck together, and have several different points on the outside that will create different notes depending on which ones you hit.

Where did pantams come from?

To answer this question, we need to take a trip all the way back to the Second World War. British Colonial Lords banned the locals in Trinidad from using African drums, and they were keen to find a replacement. They started to use discarded oil barrels as the first steel pans. These instruments grew in popularity until they were invited to England back in 1951 to play at the Festival of Britain. From there, steel pans spread all across Europe, gaining more and more fans along the way.

Dominating Switzerland

It wasn’t long before steel pans were invading Switzerland. 1965 to be precise. After a few years in the country, the instrument soon became part of the local income and steel pan factories began to crop up all across the land. The technological advances meant the creators could look into the best materials to use for the purest of sounds. This was something that was going to pave the way for the pantam.

From steel pan to pantam

So how did a steel pan suddenly turn into a pantam? That was all thanks to a percussionist named Reto Weber. Reto wanted many steel pans that he could play all at once. It was something that had never been done before, but the musician was determined to achieve his goals. Although the first prototype went well, it was far too large for one man. It was back to the drawing board. Finally, the world was greeted with the hang – or hand, in English.

Making the pantam

Sabina Schärer and Felix Rohner were just two of the musicians inspired by the hang, but they had their own ideas. It was time to put their heads together and create an instrument that could play many different notes as well as giving the same twang as the steel pan. The pair began their adventure in 2001, and by 2003 they had created the instrument they had been dreaming of. At last, the pantam was complete. Now, the instrument is celebrated all around the world, but can all be linked back to its Swiss roots.

It seems as though the pantam has a lot more to it than we ever thought possible. Who knew there could be so much to such a beautiful instrument? It seems as though even the musical wonders of the world have plenty of history, too.

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