For today's Handpan Maker Spotlight we'll be learning a bit about Hamsa Handpans of Los Angeles, California.
Hamsa Handpans is run by the multi-talented, modern-day renaissance man Stevan Morris. Stevan is a rare triple threat of the handpan world as a gifted handpan builder, performer (New album coming 2020!), and organizer putting on the Pantasia Handpan Gathering which happens in Joshua Tree, California each spring.
I caught up with Stevan recently to learn a bit more about the story of Hamsa Handpans.
What is your company name? And what is the meaning/inspiration behind it?
My company is called Hamsa Handpans. I was originally inspired by the imagery of the hamsa hand. The deeper I dove into it, the hamsa has many meanings across many cultures. The hamsa hand or Hand of Fatima is an ancient Middle Eastern talisman and is a prominent Judeo-Christian symbol. In all religions it is a protective energy. It is a talismanic symbol that people believed to protect them from harm against the evil eye and bring them goodness, abundance, fertility, luck, and good health. In India and southeast Asia, the hamsa is an aquatic bird of passage, which various scholars have interpreted as a goose, swan, or even a flamingo. Its icon is used as a spiritual symbol and a decorative element. It is believed by Hindus to be the "vahana" (or vehicle) of Brahma, Gayatri, Saraswati, and Vishvakarma. The aquatic bird is supposed to represent the spiritual path, the water representing secular things of the world, and just as the bird's feathers are unwet by the water it floats on, we are supposed to walk in the world but not be "wet" or affected by it. The deeper I dive into the many meanings, the more I am inspired by it! One thing was inherent to me, the word transcends culture and religion and has a deep, spiritual meaning. This sentiment is so true to what handpans have meant to my life. They have connected me to people all over the world, people with vastly different cultures and beliefs, yet we all recognize this vessel for its amazing power for positivity and connection through music.
Los Angeles, California
How did you first discover the handpan?
I first saw a video of Daniel Waples on youtube back in the day and was pretty intrigued by this new novel sound. Then I saw a video of Dante Bucci and was like "YOU CAN DO WHAT WITH IT NOW?!" I think that's when the real obsession started.
What made you decide to start building handpans?
I actually was a steel pan player in college and knew of David Beery (Founder of Dave's Island Instruments) as the local steel pan maker and was using his equipment and music arrangements in school. I started working for him after college right around the time he started making handpans as well. After a year or so working the business side I realized I was sitting on a very unique opportunity to learn from one of the world's best. Dave was gracious enough to take me on as an apprentice for the latter half of my employment there and the rest is history!
What is your goal as a handpan builder?
My goal is to continue to push this artform's quality and diversity to evolve and grow. There is so much we have yet to learn about tuning steel.
What would you say your instruments are known for?
My instruments are known for being very dynamic and expressive, nothing sterile or dull here! Lots of heart and a full, rich sound. I've also been getting some recognition for the unique finishing techniques I utilize!
What are your most and least favorite things about being a handpan builder?
My favorite thing is the people I get to create handpans for. I take real pleasure in getting to know so many different types of people and then I get to create the perfect handpan for them! What a cool connection to have with someone! Least favorite thing is probably all of the body aches and pains. I have learned a lot about taking care of my body and balance. Hammering metal all day takes its toll!
If you could only play one handpan scale for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
Magic Voyage. So approachable, versatile, robust. I've owned an 8 note MV for almost 10 years now and still find new patterns and gems hidden in it. Such a simple pentatonic scale with so many layers to explore.
What's one interesting fact about you, your company, or your instruments?
My company was started through Indiegogo. I crowdfunded the money by taking preorders and deposits and sold out of 40 spots in 1 week!
Do you take custom orders?