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The 10 Greatest Handpan Albums of All Time

In the history of recorded music, the handpan art form is but a grain of sand among the millions of albums recorded both in recent history and the distant past. However, that’s not to say that in this instrument’s brief 20-year history we haven’t been blessed by our own plethora of beautiful, innovative, unique, and captivating music.


As a true handpan nerd, I’m a fan of all kinds of handpan music and have listened to literally hundreds of handpan albums. And while ranking art of any kind is nearly an impossible task by the very nature of individual artistic expression, there is no doubt that certain albums have risen above the rest to stake their claim in the halls of handpan history.


As the title of this article is the ten “greatest” handpan albums of all time, it's important that we first take a moment to establish our rubric for how we are defining “greatest”. While there are certainly more scientific ways we could approach this analysis, it is important to remember that this list, no matter how much you may agree or disagree with it, was constructed largely by personal opinion and there is no one true way to say that any one work of art is “the best” or even better than any other. With that said this list is not at all based on popularity. If it were then this article would just be a list of the most streamed handpan albums.


If “most popular” is how we are defining “greatest”, then the “greatest” car ever made would be the Toyota Corolla and the “greatest” food ever would be rice! Instead, the three words that came to my mind most in creating this list were 1.) “Important” 2.) “Impactful” and 3.) “Influential”. All of the albums listed below were no doubt popular but more importantly, each left a lasting and tangible mark on the direction of the handpan art form, Whether that was seen in inspiring new handpan players, influencing the direction of the handpan, or leaving an impression that has lasted to this day. So, without further ado, let’s dive into my list of the ten greatest handpan albums of all time!


 

#10. Lisn - Hang in Balance (Daniel Waples)


It would be difficult to have a top ten handpan albums list without listing the incomparable Daniel Waples. An early adopter of the hang Daniel rose to internet stardom as a street performer in the early 2010s for his viral hits like the classic “Solo Hang Drum in a Tunnel” video. Daniel’s light and folksy melodies made his music both incredibly catchy and instantly recognizable. His 2013 album “Lisn” is the perfect capture of the essential Daniel Waples taking all of his classic street melodies and weaving them into a beautiful studio polished tapestry of handpan, violin, and percussion.


Why it’s in the top ten?


To say Waples is a legend in the handpan art form would be an understatement., His music and videos were without doubt the spark of inspiration for possibly thousands of future handpan players. In addition, his playing style wrote the book for what handpan music was in the late 2000s and early 2010s. His light and jovial style coupled with his folk-like melody writing made his music iconic and nearly every handpan player in the world will recognize a few of the melodies off of this incredible album.


Favorite tracks:


Petit Son

Lago

Bello Revive


 

#9 Ephemeral - David Charrier


Yet another hero of the early handpan revolution is the world-renowned David Charrier. David began his handpan music career alongside his cousin, the equally talented Sylvain Paslier. The pair are widely known for their 2010 album “Keona” and their viral “Hang Insomniac Jam” video. As a solo artist, David has grown to become an in-demand performer and well-known teacher as the founder of Master the Handpan.


Why it’s in the top ten?


2016’s Ephemeral represents the perfect transition from the old to the new era of handpan music. While David’s playing style and PANArt hang recall the time of the “classic” handpan sound the compositions on this album are written and produced in a new and refreshing way that bridges the sound of where the handpan was to the sound of where the handpan is going.


Favorite tracks:


Handpanophone

Ephemeral



 

#8 Reminiscence - Dante Bucci


Dante was both an incredibly skilled handpan player as well as an innovative and groundbreaking songwriter of the early handpan era. For me, Dante’s music represents the first glimmer of the shift in the style of handpan music from the folksy head-bobbing rhythms of artists like Daniel Waples and Hang Massive to the back-beat heavy rock and pop influence that set the stage for artists like Dan Mulqueen and Adrian Portia. Dante tragically passed away in 2014 and despite his absence on this earth his music still continues to inspire handpan players the world over to this day.


Why it’s in the top ten?


Reminiscence is the only EP on this list and despite only being 5 tracks this album definitely packs a punch. Most notably this album is one of the earliest (and best) experiments of using the handpan in a typical “rock band” setting. And while many others have gone on to use the handpan in similar settings, no one has ever quite had the feel like Dante did. If you ask any handpan player which handpan albums are in their top ten, Dante’s name (and this album in particular) comes up again and again. Not only was Dante an influence and inspirer of many future handpan players but he also consistently inspired many of the biggest names in handpan music today. There is no doubt that Dante’s fingerprint was left in the music of several of the world’s greatest handpan players, even some on this list!


Favorite tracks:

Hangfunk

Fanfare



 

#7 Real Music for Unreal Times, Vol. 2 - Kumea Sound


Kumea Sound, the alias of Finnish handpan player, composer, and artist Lauri Wuolio gave us this masterpiece in 2020 as a follow-up to the 2015 album Real Music For Unreal Times. Describing the immense and deep beauty of this album is a near-impossible task. In this album, Wuolio has escaped the threshold of the handpan to create some of the most soul-stirring music I have ever heard, not through the mere magic of the handpan, but through the mastery of sound itself. In what could be loosely described as “futuristic chamber music” (think Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, or Balmorhea) Wuolio combines guitar, piano, voice, lyre, a full strings section, and synthesizer into a captivating blend of acoustic and electronic elements.


Why it’s in the top ten?


This album without question raised the bar for what handpan music can be and ushered the handpan art form into the future with the conclusion of the millennia’s second decade. For me, Wuolios's creativity and innovation in this album have not only revolutionized handpan music but also moved the entire handpan art form into a clear and powerful new direction.


Favorite tracks:


A Quantum of Joy A Theory of Love Read my full review of this album here!



 

#6 Bigger Than Home - Manu Delago


While there was no question in my mind when I began this top ten project that Manu Delago’s music would be included in this list the difficult question was, which albums would be included? A quick browse through the Austrian-born percussionist/composer’s Spotify profile will show you the immense breadth of work this handpan legend has produced. And perhaps not surprisingly it is ALL incredible. Manu was not only a very early adopter of the handpan (hang) but the young virtuoso has continued to innovate and reinvent himself over the course of his nearly dozen albums.


Why it's in the top ten?


Bigger Than Home showcases the very best of what Manu Delago's music is supposed to be. In this album, Manu rides the line between the familial sound of his PANArt hang and the daring experimentalism of the avant-garde in tracks like Coincidence and Metronome Disease. This album sticks out to me as it takes the handpan into new, unfamiliar, and even somewhat unusual settings in a way that had not been seen up to this point in handpan history. To me, Manu’s music has always been a fine wine, it needs time to be best appreciated. Manu is without a doubt pushing the boundary of what handpan music is more than anyone else in history and many listeners might not “get it” upon first listening. However, I think this in itself is a testament to the boldness and courage his music has that has not only carried him forward but the entire handpan music culture as well.


Favorite tracks:


Bigger Than Home

Metronome Disease

A Long Way

Medina II

Überhang



 

#5 Touching Souls - Kabeção


Moving into our top five we meet Kabeção. Kabeção’s rise to the top of the handpan world was meteoric; launching into the handpan scene virtually unknown, Kabe quickly staked his claim as one of the top handpan players worldwide. Touching Souls was Kabe’s first full-length handpan album (if we exclude the much lesser known “Cosmic Seed”) and he has released three additional full-length albums since.


Why it’s in the top ten?


Touching Souls is an absolute MONSTER of an album, weighing in at 19 tracks split across two discs for a ridiculous 2-hours and 19-minutes of absolute shredding. Kabe is no doubt a heavyweight when it comes to technical ability and his handpan chops are on full display throughout the Touching Souls album. However, if this album were just a smoke show of blazing-fast handpan playing it would not be ranked as my fifth greatest handpan album ever. No, The real magic of this album (and Kabeção’s music in general) lies in Kabe’s ability to tightrope walk between technical mastery and emotional appeal. Each track on this album is just as touchingly beautiful and emotionally stirring as they are technically impressive. Which is saying something, because this guy has chops! As an entirely solo album, this beautifully recorded gem has a timelessness that has inspired and will continue to inspire handpan players for many, many years.


Favorite tracks:


Scorpion Bite

The First Grain of Sand

Sun of God

Espelhos No Mar

The Pirate



 

#4 Made In Silence 2 - Manu Delago


If anyone deserves the right to two spaces in my top 10 all-time greatest albums list, it is without a doubt, Manu Delago. While there is no doubt that any of Manu’s albums would easily find a spot in my top 50, top 20, or even top 15 lists, I believe his 2010 album “Made In Silence 2” easily deserves the spot of #4.


Why it’s in the top ten?


I think above all else this album screams creativity. In this album, Manu wastes no time in showing off his uniqueness as a player as demonstrated within the first 20 seconds of the album’s opening track “Mode 2”, in which he uses three unusual and advanced techniques (note singing, harmonics, and ding bends) to set the tone of the next 51 minutes. To truly appreciate the gravity of this album it's important to recognize the context in which it was released. This album was released in 2010. 2010! At that time hardly anyone had ever seen a handpan let alone had ever played one! And in spite of this Manu was absolutely lightyears ahead in his playing. The advanced techniques mentioned above were so commonplace for Manu by this point that they had become synonymous with his music. This is best demonstrated in Manu’s absolute handpan workshop of a piece “Two Handfuls of Sound”. Here Manu intertwines ten independent handpan parts (all played by him) into a whirlwind of sound. On this track, and throughout the album, Manu’s ability to pull strange and wide-ranging sounds from his instrument gives him an immense palette from which he orchestrates his handpans into nearly orchestra-like roles. For an example of this, listen for the low thumping bass melody in “Two Handsful of Sound", that’s a handpan! As is the theme with Manu, this album was years ahead of its time and its groundbreaking creativity served as the tutorial for many would-be handpan players.


Favorite tracks:


Two handsful of sound

Mono Desire



 

#3 Kinesthesia - Dante Bucci


Rounding out our artists who claim two spots in the top ten we have, again, Dante Bucci. Excluding Dante’s Christmas EP (which is also delightful) Dante only ever released two handpan albums. The fact that both made this top ten list is all you need to know about this late handpan legend.


Why it's in the top ten?


In Kinesthesia, Dante picks up right where he left off in 2008’s Reminiscence EP., Only this time it’s even bigger, better, and more toe-tapping than ever before. The album starts out energetic with the iconic “Fanfare” duet of handpan and electric bass, this is Dante Bucci at his “Dante Bucciest”. Throughout the album, Bucci flexes his range from the serene sounds of “Waltz” and “Waves of the Danube” to the hard-driving grooves of “Outbound” and “Flageolet”. Above all, Dante had a feel for the handpan like no one else, and no matter what song he was playing, it always sounded like Dante.


Favorite Tracks:


Fanfare

Flageolet



 

#2 Beats for Your Feet - Hang Massive


Wearing the silver medal we have none other than handpan legends, Hang Massive. Without question, no one has steered the ship of handpan culture for longer than this infamous European duo. First joining forces in 2011 the two rose to internet stardom with their mega-viral “Once Again” music video which has to date been viewed an absurd 58 million times. And while their early viral success was exciting, the two proved to be more than a one-hit wonder, continuing to release album after album to critical acclaim. Today the pair continue to tour to sold-out audiences around the world and are in-demand performers at music festivals across the globe.


Why it’s in the top ten?


Beats for Your Feet was THE sound of handpan music for many many years. Their hypnotic “four on the floor” style influenced literally thousands of handpan players around the world and their “Once Again rhythm” has become so famous it has practically become a stereotype of what handpan music is. The songs off Beats for Your Feet are simple, in fact, they are incredibly simple, but this is where the real magic of this album lies. In Beats for Your Feet Hang Massive has shown us that all handpan music needs to be, is nothing more than two friends, two handpans, simple melodies, and a groovy rhythm.


Favorite tracks:


Once Again Omat Odat From the View



 

At last, we have reached the number one spot, the greatest handpan album of all time…

#1 The Path of the Metal Turtle - David Kuckhermann


If you ask any handpan player today who is the greatest player of all time, David’s name will come up again and again. And this is not without reason, the Grammy-nominated virtuoso has performed with some of the world's top talents including Dead Can Dance. As an educator, David has released several instructional courses for frame drums, cajon, udu as well as other percussion. Additionally, he is the founder of Handpan Dojo, the online handpan education academy.


Why it’s in the top ten?


To me, this album is deserving of the G.O.A.T. ranking for one simple reason. This album was YEARS ahead of its time. Released in 2012 David pulls out every trick in the handpan book for this mind-blowing album. It’s important to remember that in 2012 there was no Master the Handpan, Handpan Dojo, or Planet Handpan. There were no books, there were hardly any YouTube tutorials, and there were definitely no handpan teachers. David’s virtuosity and range in technique are baffling by today’s standards and in the handpan world of 2012, much of what David was doing was of his own invention. This album was more than just inspiring for the handpan world, it literally wrote the book on advanced handpan technique. Throughout the one-hour journey, Kuckhermann tastefully intertwines his world percussion experience into the universe of this new medium through traditional rhythms, borrowed techniques, and the mind-bending speed and coordination only a master percussionist could have. As impressive as this album is, perhaps the most impressive element of it was that Kuckhermann had only been playing handpan for one year at the time of its recording! One year! Over a decade later this album still stands out as one of the greatest works of handpan history and will no doubt go down as one of the most impactful, influential, and important handpan albums of all time.



 

So there you go, ten albums that have defined the handpan art form! Which one is your favorite? Listen to our full playlist of all ten below!



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