New musical instrument captivates Donegal listeners

New musical instrument captivates Donegal listeners
By Carolyn Farrar @dgldemocrat

A year after musician, storyteller and broadcaster Harald Juengst heard a German street busker playing an instrument he had never seen before, Harald is playing the handpan at gigs in Donegal.

“I played on the streets in Dungloe, and adults and children said they had never heard it before,” Harald said. “They were very much affected by that sound.”


Gigs with Fior Uisce

Known as Harald Mór in his adopted home village of Ranafast, Harald has played the handpan this summer at gigs with Fior Uisce, the Donegal trad group made up of John Michael O’Donnell, Joe Greene and Anne and Tony Croke. Harold, who is from Duisburg, Germany, plays bodhrán and cajon with Fior Uisce when he’s in Donegal.

The metal handpan looks like an upturned wok dotted with concave circles, and is played with the hands. Harald’s handpan is tuned to D minor across eight different sound fields, and he can use it to play percussion or melody, as well as harmonies and chords.

The handpan is similar to the hang, an instrument developed in the early 2000s by Felix Rohner of Switzerland. Harald said when Felix was asked about his creation, he called it more of a “sound sculpture” than a musical instrument. “Everyone can take from it what he wants.”

Harald said the instrument is “open to plenty of different styles”, and its haunting sound can be used as a complement to meditation or yoga, as well as when playing Irish trad, rock or jazz.

“Everybody is affected by the sound of that instrument,” he said. Harald said he sometimes takes the handpan to the beach or out to a waterfall.


“I sit there and get inspiration from the environment, and occasionally people pass by and just sit down with me and listen to it,” he said.

Harald spent €2,500 for his handpan, which he bought from a Berlin maker at the end of January. He said when he introduced it to his friends in Fior Uisce earlier this summer, “the lads were stunned” with the sound and the musical options the handpan offered.

Our picture shows Harald playing the handpan