Pan in to the beats

Rare instrument

Pan in to the beats

Muki Sablania is not your usual musician. His liking is for obscure instruments and such is his passion that he makes them too. The handpan player and master creator does not have any formal training in music but that didn’t stop him from wowing the audience at the ‘Bangalore Festiville – Colours Edition’, where he performed recently. He talks to Rajitha Menon about finding his musical calling.

How did an advertising professional turn into a musician?
We used to have informal jams in our office where people would sing and play the guitar and I would drum on the table. One day one of my colleagues came up to me and said that I was quite good. He showed me a video of Daniel Waples, the handpan player, and that is when I fell in love with the instrument.

And then?
I tried buying the instrument but it is very rare. So I tried making it myself. I failed to make the handpan but I made a variety of other instruments out of wood, earthen pots, steel utensils and so on. I finally bought a handpan for myself from a person in UK.

Which of these instruments do you play now?
I mostly play the handpan. And I mix all the others, depending upon the artistes I am collaborating with. It is very experimental music so there are no rules.
 
How do you manage work and art?
I am still working so I play only on weekends or at events. Otherwise, I get up at 7 am and practice for some time. And whenever I get back from office, I practice for half an hour. That is to calm me down – the sound makes me go into a meditative zone where I can forget everything; from Bengaluru traffic and office politics.
 
What are some of the reactions you get?
Strangely, most people don’t talk to me after a performance. They are more interested in touching my instrument and experiencing it themselves.
 
Does that irritate you?
Yes. This instrument is very fragile and delicate. If it has even a slight damage, it will have to be sent all the way back to the UK because no one here has any idea how to fix it. However, once I make sure the people are not wearing any rings or bracelets, I let them go ahead and touch it.
 
You took a break from a lucrative corporate career to pursue this. How did your friends and family react?
Not many people knew I was doing this. My wife, also an advertising professional, supported me. I kept banging hammers and all every day while making instruments and she told me that even though I seemed mad, I could go ahead if it made me happy.
 
Any memorable incident?
This happened at Dharamsala last year. One night, I was sitting outside a cafe, engaged in a informal jam with a friend. I saw an Israeli girl moving about slowly. I asked her to join in. Initially hesitant, she then started dancing. So impressed was I by her performance that we made a video project of that. Just before I left she told me that I was sent to her by God. She had been in an accident and had not danced for seven years until that day.

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