Paul Hanmer began classical piano and theory lessons in 1970. After two years of study at the University of Cape Town, Hanmer left to work with guitarist Paul Petersen. In 1987 Hanmer moved to Johannesburg where he was influenced by bands such as Sakhile and Bayete. In Johannesburg Hanmer formed “Unofficial Language” with Ian Herman (percussion and drums) and Peter Sklair (electric bass). The trio recorded ‘primal steps’ in 1994 featuring Sklair’s song “Tender Mercies”, and a second album, “Move Moves” in 1996. Hanmer has recorded with Tananas, Miriam Makeba, Ray Phiri, McCoy Mrubata and Pops Mohamed and formed part of Tony Cox’s “Cool Friction Band” in 1996. In 1999 he performed and recorded with Sheer All Stars, and produced Gloria Bosman’s debut album, “Tranquility”.
Sheer Sound released Hanmer’s first album as a leader, “Trains to Taung” in 1997. The album features Denis Lalouette, Jethro Shasha, Louis Mhlanga, Basi Mahlasela, Neil Ettridge and André Abrahamse.
Since then he has recorded five more albums:
- Window to Elsewhere (1998)
- Playola (2000)
- Naivasha (2002)
- Water and Lights (2005)
- Accused N° 1: Nelson Mandela (2006)
- The Essential Paul Hanmer (2008)
A duo album featuring Hanmer with McCoy Mrubata entitled “The Boswil Concert” was released in June 2011.
Hanmer has written a string quartet for the Sontonga Quartet and a Clarinet quintet for Robert Pickup, principal clarinettist with the Zurich Opera. In addition he has composed a suite of duets for double bass and cello for Leon Bosch of the Academy of St Martin’s in the Fields.
Hanmer’s SAMRO (Southern African Music Rights Organisation) commissions include:
- Elegy: 24 Maraisburg (cello and paino)
- Zimnastics for Gentlefolk (viola and piano)
- Yet Another Look (violin and piano)
Hanmer has also written “Trackways” an orchestral song-setting of texts by Nils Aslak Valkeapää, for Gothenburg-based singer Eva Rune.