In June 1993 four members of the steelband Bernese Oil Company (original: Berner Ölgesellschaft) founded PANArt Steelpan Manufacturing Ltd. (original: PANArt Steelpan-Manufaktur AG) as a successor to the Steeldrum-Manufaktur Felix Rohner. The trademark PANArt was registered in November. The company’s purpose, indicated in the statutes, was “manufacture and distribution of steelpans and their accessories as well as additional activities in fostering of the pan culture”.
Among various reasons, the legal form of a Company Limited by Shares was chosen to give Swiss steelbands the opportunity to join the company by share purchase, thus setting up a common infrastructure for instrument sourcing and tuning services.
In the first years various pan tuners worked at PANArt. They supplied many steelbands on the booming Swiss steelpan scene with instruments, assisted in do-it-yourself projects and carried out the tuning service.
In summer 1995 an upheaval occurred. Werner Egger, Esa Tervala and Alain Hofer left PANArt and founded the steelpan manufacture Cosmopan in Worb in order to build steelpans in the traditional way. At the same time Sabina Schärer began to work as a tuner with PANArt and dedicated herself, together with the remaining Felix Rohner, to the research of the new raw form made of deep drawn and nitrided sheet steel which they called Pang.
Together the two tuners developed in the following years a systematical tuning process and built various Pang instruments in order to research the acoustical characteristics of the Pang sheet. In 1998 a patent (CH 693 319) for a method for “production of a steel pan instruments” was filed.
On the occasion of a visit of the PANArt workshop in November 1999 the Swiss Ghatam player Reto Weber expressed his desire for an instrument made of sheet metal that could be played with the hands. Spontanously Sabina Schärer and Felix Rohner came up with the idea to combine two Pang half shells. That bulky globe of 60 cm in diameter started the development of a playable instrument in the course of 2000. A first series of Hang prototypes were build in the first two months of 2001 and presented at the Musikmesse Frankfurt in March.
PANArt then focused its work completely on building and developing the Hang and withdrew from Steelpan building and tuning service for steelbands. In April 2003 the company was renamed PANArt Hang Manufacturing Ltd. (original: PANArt Hangbau AG). The company’s purpose changed to “development, manufacture and distribution of musical instruments, their accessories and of sound sculptures as well as additional activities in fostering of new music forms” in the commercial register .
Although Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer abandoned the manufacture of steelpans and no longer saw their work in the context of the steelband scene, they continued to use the name PANArt for reasons of continuity. On the foundation of the company the word PAN already had a double meaning: on the one hand as short for steelpan, on the other hand as the greek prefix pan (all, whole). This second meaning would be taken up further on. Today the name points to PANArt’s approach on the building of sheet metal sound sculptures as an integral art.
Since 2013 the PANArt team, that in the meantime was extended with Basil and David Rohner, has been engaged in developing and building further Pang instruments and the collective music played with these instruments in the Pang ensemble. This way the Gubal, the Hang Gudu, the Hang Urgu, the Hang Bal und various Pang string instruments were created. The original Hang sound sculpture is no longer offered.
Recommendations for further reading:
- PANArt’s Website
- 40 years work on the ring of steel in Bern, Switzerland
- Pang music – the new art form from PANArt
- From the Hang to the Gubal
- 10 Jahre PANArt – Excerpts from the anniversary publication [de]