Hang Massive: India And Beyond
It’s the morning of Holi as I, with the trepidation of a baby bird learning to fly, decide to step out beyond the womb-like safely of my little blue house and into the rainbow coloured war zone that is the world on that particular day. Nothing short of The Extraordinary could compel me to leave my house on such a potentially messy morning – but I, armed with the certainty that Extraordinary is precisely what awaits me, decide to do it anyway.
“I’ll be waiting outside the gate” Danny says to me on the phone as I approach my final destination in Ashvem, Goa. I peer out the car window looking for an Englishman who looks like he might also play the Hang – and lo and behold, there he is, with a smile as warm as the Goan summer sun.
A peculiarly ethereal little instrument that resonates with traces of the Indian Ghatam and Trinidadian steel pan, the Hang tends to captivate anyone who encounters it. Originally created by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer in Bern, Switzerland, who founded the company PANArt Hangbau AG, the instrument has garnered a cult like status and following over the years – due perhaps to the impossibly long waiting lists, the fact that prospective owners must be invited to meet the makers in person to get their instruments, and the fact that production was suddenly ceased in 2013. “I first encountered the Hang in 2006 at a festival in Slovenia” remembers Danny, “One year later I went to Switzerland – at that time you could just call up the people who were making it and go get one, there was no waiting list or anything. By the next year suddenly there was a 2 year waiting list”.
Danny Cudd, along with fellow Hang artist Markus Johansson, comprise Hang Massive – a widely renowned act that has garnered a huge online following over their years of playing together, often busking on the streets of Europe. The duo have been living in Goa for the past nine years, setting up an impressive studio space in Ashvem a stone’s throw away from the beach. “We have a mixing room, a room for recording, it’s been a couple years in the making and constantly being upgraded” Danny tells me as we sit down with Markus on the terrace.
“Danny and I met in Arambol and started to hang out from there,” smiles Markus, “when we first started to play together in the streets we had some ideas. Over time they started to take shape in a very organic way – one of us would bring an idea to the table, the other one would do what they felt. Very rarely do we sit down and say ‘ok we need to find something’ – it’s all very natural, organic”.
Having recently released their latest album Distant Light exploring collaborations with several other musicians, the act find themselves experimenting with different genres and sounds not necessarily expected of the Hang. “We had many ideas of what we thought would happen – then in the end something different happened,” laughs Danny, “A mix of the old and new – some fat beats, nice vocals, good sound quality and sound design – for some people it was way different to what they thought it was supposed to be”.
With fans all around the world, Hang Massive’s online popularity has translated into tour dates and sell out shows around the world. Having achieved their fair share of success, what at this point would be a ‘we’ve made it’ moment for the act?
“For me, right now – this very moment” replies Markus without hesitating, “Equally as if I had pondered it yesterday – it would have been that specific moment. I don’t see an end destination to anything – just an ongoing opening, to continue to share with people, having an attitude of gratitude”. Danny nods in agreement, “Everything changes so rapidly, you can’t hold onto anything really” he shrugs, “One minute – success. The next – absolute failure. Fame, glory; total oblivion. I think if you’re aiming to get something and hold onto it through what you do, it’s a pretty unrewarding unsatisfying way of trying to do things. You’ll never reach that thing”.
We reflect on the thought, interrupted only by the sound of birds chirping and a rooster who seems to think it’s dawn. “Do you like coffee?” asks Markus, before proceeding to prepare with delicate precision an espresso topped off with a generous dollop of butter – my first butter coffee. “I like to roast my own coffee beans, sometimes in an old popcorn machine” he says, serving up the artistically crafted delight. Truly Extraordinary.
Hang Massive kick off their Blue Frog tour this weekend – presented by Urban Beat Project – live at Blue Frog Mumbai on April 15th, Blue Frog Bangalore on April 16th, and Blue Frog Pune on April 22nd.
Photo credits: Hang Massive