Music special: Tracking UFO sounds in Goa

What happens when a city-based musician and filmmaker duo meet a Belarus-based handpan player in Arambol?

As sunlight pierces the thick foliage in a remote corner of Goa, 29-year-old Pasha Aeon, a Belarusian musician sits under a banyan tree and drums the OMana handpan. The serene setting complements the rustic rhythm emanating from the UFO-like steel instrument. The performance is part of a YouTube video titled, The Zen In Steel, produced by The Two Room Apartment, a project started in 2014 by city-based music aficionados Sehran Mohsin and Donny Lama. The two-minute video, uploaded two months ago, is part of the producer duo’s series in discovering hidden musical talent while travelling across India. “We met Pasha at a restaurant in Arambol where he was teaching the handpan to students. The idea was to discover the instrument through the eyes of a master player. Pasha knows his music. What impressed us was when we saw him play the 5/4 beat, which, most musicians these days don’t attempt,” shares Mohsin.

Pasha Aeon (centre) with the band, Three Pandas And The Moon

While Aeon found music was his calling when he picked up the guitar at the age of 12, and later, the piano, he discovered the handpan only in 2009. “Earlier, I would play a similar instrument called Steel Tongue Drum. Then, I learnt how to play the handpan from YouTube and my previous music experience helped me understand its rhythm and melodies,” he recalls.

“Today, there are over 70 masters who make the instrument; mine was created by master Roman Reva (OMana is a brand). There are hundreds of musicians across the world who play the handpan. In fact, I spotted nearly 20 handpan players in Goa,” recalls the musician, who has performed across venues in the sunshine state with his band, Three Pandas And The Moon, for months together. While it began as an improvisational music project in 2011, the band, which also features a guitarist and bansuri player, has recorded five albums. “Our music is based on ethnic inspirations, with flavours of modern chill-out grooves. We are planning a concert in Mumbai next year,” says Aeon, who will soon travel to Italy and Russia to perform.

To listen to Pasha Aeon, log on to:

Is it a flying saucer?
A 21st century invention, the handpan refers to a group of instruments modelled on the Swiss instrument, Hang, built in 2000.

A still from The Zen In Steel
A still from The Zen In Steel

Two half-shells of nitrided steel sheets are glued together at the rim, creating a UFO-like shape, with a hollow inside and notes hammered in the steel.

What is The Two Room Apartment?
With a name derived from a two-room apartment that Sehran Mohsin (30) and Donny Lama (33) shared in Andheri while working at MTV as directors, the project took off in 2014 when the duo quit their jobs, sold their belongings and backpacked across India to collaborate with musicians.

Donny Lama and Sehran Mohsin
Donny Lama and Sehran Mohsin

“Since we had eight years of filmmaking experience, we decided to make short films, scouting for hidden musical talent,” shares Mohsin. Armed with a DSLR, sound recorder, laptop and their instruments, the duo’s first short, Little Mozarts, featured a school in Kalimpong that teaches violin to the underprivileged. Since then, they have made 10 short films, including BlackBird — a memoir about Puran Gongba, who left the love of his life to learn a song by The Beatles — and Song Of The Plants, featuring two girls from Croatia and USA, who sing a song that they believe was sung to them by plants.

Log on to: thetworoomapartment

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