By David Amaya
It is a 60cm wide metal plate; it weighs about 4kg; and it has small holes around it.
Although it looks like a UFO that came from space, it is a musical instrument called handpan, which landed three months ago in the CBD to hypnotise pedestrians with its singular sound.
Masayuki Seki is a 30-year-old Japanese man who is exploring the handpan’s harmonious sound along Swanston St. He is not a professional musician, but fell in love with this instrument during a recent trip to South America where he saw another Japanese guy busking on the streets of a Peruvian city.
From that moment, the steel drum vibrations echoed in his head, inspiring him to travel around the world playing the handpan on the streets. He bought his first model in Indonesia at a low price but later, when he was busking in Canada, he realised that the tuning accuracy was like a secret that was only revealed in the models made by expert hands.
Still in Canada, Masayuki contacted another person who designed a new one using better materials and better technique.
Although he has travelled around 17 countries and dozens of cities, Australia is the starting point in Masayuki’s musical career, and our CBD is the first place where he started to figure out the secret sound that transmits tranquility to the fast-paced passers-by’s hearts.
Every day, if weather permits, Masayuki looks for the busiest corner of the city. He opens the case where he keeps his interstellar device and places a small note with the message “please enjoy the sound”. The sounds of the cars, the vibrations of the tram and the mixture of the languages of dozens of people from different nationalities seem to disappear when Masayuki gently strikes the surface of his handpan.
The sound spreads like a reassuring wave that attracts dozens of people to enjoy some of this melody in the middle of the chaos of the city. Then they continue on their way and Masayuki continues to play for a new crowd that quickly fills the empty spaces.
Masayuki will play his handpan in the CBD for the rest of the year. Then he will fly to a new destination. “My goal is to know 120 countries while I continue discovering new sounds,” said this traveller who still has a long way to go.