Marching to his own drum

HandPan artiste Daniel Waples talks about making India his home and his hopes to inspire rhythm enthusiasts

July 01, 2016 04:13 pm | Updated October 18, 2016 12:48 pm IST - Bengaluru

All hands on the pan Daniel Waples believes in the healing power of rhythm Photo: Bopanna Yohaan

All hands on the pan Daniel Waples believes in the healing power of rhythm Photo: Bopanna Yohaan

A typical Bengaluru concert on a weekend is usually filled with jarring guitar riffs and heady drums, turntable-driven EDM or even a mellow acoustic set. Music lovers got to experience a different kind of music at the recent Daniel Waples and Thaalavattam concert at Humming Tree.

Daniel had the crowd swooning under his spell during his set with the junkyard percussionist, Montry Manuel. This summer, the duo goes to 10 cities across the country. The Englishman catches up with MetroPlus ahead of the show to talk about his love for all things Indian and the healing power of rhythm.

“I was a musician from the beginning,” says Daniel. “It came quite naturally to me. During my childhood in London, I played the snare drum for a military marching band, then picked up a guitar and spent a few years mastering that. Now I travel the world playing the HandPan.”

A HandPan is from the percussion family. While at first sight, it may seem like a shield from Game of Thrones, it is a specially-crafted instrument. “I saw one in 2005 at a music festival. But had to wait till 2007 to get my own. I travelled to India a month after I got it. So when people ask me where I learnt to play, I must say India.”

Daniel relied on jam sessions with friends and practice to get the hang of the HandPan. “There was no YouTube back then so there were no videos for me to learn from. In a way that was good because I was able to develop my own style without trying to sound like somebody else. I’m nowhere near the most technical, neither am I the best-looking nor the youngest and the fastest. But, I try travelling as much as I can to spread happy vibes. If I can influence others to play the instrument, I’m making a difference in my own way.”

The HandPan has come to be associated with an alternative form of healing. But Daniel begs to differ. “Essentially, any instrument or a certain genre of music that speaks out to you can help you mentally. Reggae, for instance, always calms me. You can meditate to anything. You only have to allow the sounds around you to harmonise with your being. You have to tune in. Otherwise you’ll go crazy.” Citing an example closer to home, he says, “The auto drivers in India are always relaxed. With all the chaos and traffic around them, they continue chewing their paan without a care in the world. That, to me, is harmonising with the environment.”

On his collaboration with Thaalavattam, Daniel recalls his first meeting with Montry at the Ozora Music Festival in Hungary in 2014. “One night he comes up to me and introduces himself. We spent that night jamming around a fire. We swapped contacts and the next time I came to India I contacted him and that’s how this collaboration started. We’ve only played together at gigs, so we’re thinking of going somewhere quiet to spend some time recording.”

The 32-year-old, says, “I been to 50 countries with the HandPan. For the last 10 years, I’ve not had a fixed address. I’m basically homeless.” Daniel says travelling can get a bit disorientating. “It can take a toll on your health. I’m looking forward to slowing down in the next year or two. Maybe go to America and spend some time on the construction of new instruments. That’s the plan.”

For now, he has no plans of slowing down. With many more cities left to play in, Daniel is even planning his next trip to India in October. “India has practically become the closest thing I have to a home.”

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