How Music Saved My Life

The Journey to Create The Solos Handpan

It’s funny how life’s darkest moments can be the source of our greatest inspiration.

This is the story of how loss and depression led me to my passion, my wife, my family, and my service to the world. This story is about you — because all of us are healing from some part of our past, and all of us have profound gifts to give to the world.

Music saved my life. If you have even the smallest ear for sounds and vibrations, music can save yours too.

I was born in Kingston Jamaica. I lived with my sister and my parents in a poor town call Portmore. Our house was small, muddy and rundown. My dad was a farmer, so we had lots of animals around the house and the yard. Everything was great, I was like any other kid. I played a lot in the dirt and spent time with all the animals.

This was until I was 3 years old, when everything changed. My sister and I were outside, and we witnessed a huge fight between my parents. My dad was never one to ever hurt anyone, but he accidentally busted her lip when she was trying to get a hold of him to get his attention. My sister and I both shouted to them to stop fighting. All I could see was my dad turning his back to her, and she’s telling him “Look at what you’ve done to me”. She was bleeding a lot. We were in shock. We didn't know what to do.

After that happened, I never saw my mom again.

From that moment on, I went numb. In other words, I no longer interacted with the outside world. I was completely disengaged.

Where we were was dangerous, and my father decided to give us to my grandparents to be raised. For those years, I was numb and I did nothing. I would follow my grandmother, listen and do as I was told. I was just … there. Like a body without a drive.

New experiences didn’t work, and neither did psychiatry.

My grandmother, god bless her, she was looking for ways to stimulate me, to bring me back to being a “normal” kid. A kid that laughs and plays.

She tried various things that would be interesting to a kid. We went on trips (Cuba, England, Belgium), she signed me up for different classes. Nothing clicked. I stayed mute, numb, silent.

She then brought me to psychiatrists and other specialists. That also failed. Nobody knew what to do. My blessed grandmother never lost hope, she kept looking for something that would help. I will never stop being grateful for my grandmother for what happened next.

Something Clicked — The Music Healed My Soul

My grandmother tried one last thing. When she heard that the steel drums were coming to my school, she pretended to be me and signed me up for steel drum lessons.

I was upset because she signed me up without my consent. I went anyway. It was a blessing in disguise because when I struck a note, it struck something inside my mind. I felt my hair rise in my head, and I look down to try to find what I did, how I could get that sound again. On that day, my life changed forever.

For the first time, I had an interest.

That day was the day I discovered a passion: the Jamaican steel drum (pan). My only interest was the sound of the beautiful note that reasonated in my soul (FYI, it was a “D”).

When I talked to my grandmother, you wouldn’t believe her shock! She was thrilled. I asked her to buy me a steel drum, and she did. The rest was history.

At that moment, music was the most essential thing in my life, there was nothing. I wanted to know everything I could about it. This eventually would lead me to become one of the best players of Jamaican steel drum, and eventually to build my own unique instruments.

The Quest to Become a Master Builder

For the next 20 years, (from 7 years old to 27 years old) I would spend all my days studying, playing, performing and learning the steel drums. I then learned how to tune and build my own sound.

It all started with my curiosity. There was something special about the Jamaican steel drum. But what made this sound so special? The main builder on Jamaica was named Mr. Bernard. I went to him and asked him some questions (this is what I remember):

Pepeto: Mr. Bernard, why don’t you tune your drums like the Trinidad?

Mr. Bernard: That’s pretty simple. The vibration is not strong enough. They stretch their drums to the limit, and the sound weakens every time with no power. The other thing is they don’t believe in grooving their drums, which gives the drum elasticity and strength.

Pepeto: I did notice that it was very ringy when it was playing, and it did hurt my ears. But why do I always feel more when playing your drums.

Mr. Bernard: Real soulful sounds should never hurt the ears. The ears should always want to hear more. That is the difference.

I needed to learn how to create instruments with the deep, soulful feeling similar to the Jamaican steel drum. I started to study with my mentor.

At first, I would take any chance I got to spend hours watching my mentor build. When I was there, time stood still. I was in a flow state, and nothing else mattered to me.

I worked alongside my mentor for several years until I had learned enough about building. I felt ready to go to the next level. I felt like there was was much more I could accomplish. I decided to create my own sound.

It took many hours again, and much experimentation. I couldn’t stop. This was my mission. In the end, I was proud to create my own drum, my own sound: the Pinto steel drum.

I studied both steel pans to learn and to create something new and unique.

It was mellow, warm, soulful. This was the Pinto sound.

At that point, another miracle happened. I met my (future) wife Nathalie, and we fell in love through our passion for music. We moved to Montreal, Canada and had 2 beautiful daughters (the loves of my life). I was teaching the steel pan, and still building.

Until one day, my life changed again: the day I discovered the handpan.

The process to build the Handpan

I first discovered the handpan in 2007. It was similar, yet still different from the steel pans. I fell in love with this instrument.

My next 10 years was now set. I became a handpan builder. My goal was to build it differently and add something new. When I first heard it, I was reminded of the same ring and high pitch of the Trinidad drum. I felt this didn’t reasonate with my soul.

I wanted to transfer my past. experience to createt a special handpan that can help people heal. A unique sound that is mellow, warm and soulful to the ears.

The Solos Sound is Born

I knew I wanted a high quality instrument that was souful and has healing properties. All good things take time. The process to mastering the building of the handpan took me 5 years. The main difficulty was to get a balance between the ring tone, the harmonics and the reasonance (swelling). I kept going until one late night, I got it. The true sound of the “Solos”.

Solos is an acronym for “Sound of Love on Steel.” That’s what we are about. Finally, in 2018, I created the first version of the sound I was looking for. The feeling was there. And people noticed.

One journey is ending: the quest to craft an instrument that heals and wakes up the soul. Now, a new journey begins — to get the Solos handpan into the hands of people who will transform as they play it and transform other lives that need transformation.

The purpose of Solos is to help people heal

I believe we live in an artificial world. In this world, we are disconnected. We are disconnected from each other, from nature and from our true essence. And we become ill, sick because of it.

I want to help people heal.

I want to help people who are hurting, people who are like me. Like when I was 3 years old and I felt numb, empty, and void of emotion.

The handpan I’m building is meant to be special. I’m looking to build pans for people who relate with this story and who want to heal, connect, and feel centred. That is my journey.

I am very proud of this instrument, and I appreciate you reading my story. I love to chat with everyone who is passionate about sound, about how it can move and transform you.

I am always available for questions, please reach out, and connect with me, and share your story if you wish too.

Here’s to healing the world through music and passion,

Pepeto Pinto

Solos Founder and Craftsman

Email Pepeto at info@soloshandpan.com to share your story of healing through music!

Website: soloshandpan.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/soloshandpan

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-YzXkshNdS5xd2YkFEbT8g/

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The Solos Handpan is about flow, sharing and healing. The Solos is about more focus, creating balance and grounding you back to fundamentals.

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Solos Handpan

Solos Handpan

The Solos Handpan is about flow, sharing and healing. The Solos is about more focus, creating balance and grounding you back to fundamentals.

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