He is a pan flute player, songwriter and teacher who
has been dubbed “Zamfir, Master of the Pan Flute”. He was born in Gaesti, Romania and
showed an appreciation and aptitude for music from a young age.
He took his further studies at Bucharest Academy of
Music from the time he was fourteen after his father had noticed his
interest in music. His interests had initially been on playing the
accordion but this changed and he concentrated his studies on the pan flute
(aka the Pan pipes). His
ability on the instrument was astounding and he graduated from the Academy
in 1961. He then went on to
gain further education at the Bucharest Conservatory with degrees being
awarded in 1966 and 1968. He
later achieved his doctorate there in 2005.
Such is his talent that he has expanded the instrument
by adding more pipes to it to change the sound, range and the technique of the
performance. He released his
first album in 1966 and caught the attention of Marcel Cellier who was a Swiss
musicologist and organist very interested in researching the folk music of Romania. He went to Switzerland to meet him and in 1969 they
performed several concerts as a duo.
From 1966 to 1969 he was a member of the folk ensemble Ciocarlia. From 1969 onwards he embarked on a
In 1970 he performed several concerts in Paris where
he introduced the four types of pan flute that comprised soprano, alto,
tenor and bass, which had been his own creation. In 1972 he was asked by Vladimir Cosma to perform a solo
for the soundtrack he had composed for Le grand blond avec une chaussure
noire. This led to him being
asked by many other acclaimed movie composers to perform on their
soundtracks. These include Home
Fries, Karate Kid II, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Once Upon a Time in America
and Picnic at Hanging Rock.
In 1973 he signed to the Philips label and began to
release his own singles with hits coming later in the 1970s that include
the 1976 “Summer Love” and “The Lonely Shepherd”. He reached an even wider audience when his albums were
featured on television commercials aired by CNN across the United States in
the 1980s. In 1982 he
emigrated to Montreal, Canada, when he was exiled from Romania having been
accused of violation of the Communist doctrine.
The 1990s were just as active for him with countless
concerts in many countries and his performances in Turkey led him to the
country naming him “the most
popular composer and artist of the 20th century”.
His international popularity over the course of his
career is such that to date he has sold more than 40 million recordings
from the release of more than 200 albums, of which 90 of them have reached
platinum or gold status. The
group Animal Collective also sampled his work recently when they used it in
their 2009 digitally downloadable song “Graze”.
As an author and teacher he currently teaches in
Bucharest and has published his autobiography and an instructional book on
the pan flute.