Gheorghe Zamfir (born April 6, 1941) is a virtuoso Romanian pan flute musician and composer who is known for playing an expanded version of the traditional Romanian-style pan flute (nai) of 20 pipes to 22, 25, 28 and 30 pipes to increase its range, and obtaining as many as eight overtones from each pipe by changing the embouchure. Zamfir was born in Găeşti, Romania on April 6, 1941. Although initially interested in becoming an accordionist, at the age of fourteen he began his pan flute studies with Fănică Luca at the Special Musical School no. 1 (Bucharest Academy of Music) in Bucharest. Later he attended the Ciprian Porumbescu Conservatory. He currently resides and teaches pan flute in Bucharest. His wife’s name is Marie-Noele. His son, Emmanuel Teodor, who resides in Montreal, Canada, is a drummer.
Zamfir came to the public eye when he was “discovered” by Swiss ethnomusicologist Marcel Cellier who extensively researched Romanian folk music in the 1960s. The composer Vladimir Cosma brought Zamfir with his pan flute to western European countries for the first time in 1972 as the soloist in Cosma’s original music for the movie Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire. This was very successful, and since then, Zamfir has been used as soloist in movie soundtracks by composers Francis Lai, Ennio Morricone and many others. Largely through television commercials where he was billed as “Zamfir, Master of the pan Flute,” he introduced the folk instrument to a modern audience and revived it from obscurity. In the United States his commercials were widely seen on CNN in the 1980s.
Zamfir’s big break in the English-speaking world came when the BBC religious television program “The Light of Experience” adopted his recording of “Doina De Jale”, a traditional Romanian funeral song, as its theme. Popular demand forced Epic Records to release the tune as a single in 1976, and it climbed to number four on the UK charts. It would prove to be his only hit single, but it helped pave the way for a consistent stream of album sales in Britain. After nearly a decade-long absence, Zamfir returned to Canada in January 2006 for a seven-city tour with Traffic Strings quintet . The program included a world premiere of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for PanFlute and string quintet arranged by Lucian Moraru, jazz standards, and well-known favorites. Most recently, Zamfir has been sampled by Animal Collective in the song “Graze” on their EP Fall Be Kind.
One of his most notable contributions was to the soundtrack for the classic Australian film Picnic at Hanging Rock. His music has also been heard on the soundtracks of many Hollywood movies. He was asked by Ennio Morricone to perform the pieces “Childhood Memories” and “Cockeye’s Song” for the soundtrack of Sergio Leone’s 1984 gangster film Once Upon a Time in America. His performance can be heard throughout the 1984 film The Karate Kid, and his piece “The Lonely Shepherd”, recorded with the James Last Orchestra, was the theme from the 1979 television series ‘Golden Soak’, a British/German/Australian co-production. It is also featured in Quentin Tarantino’s film Kill Bill Vol. 1. The melody “The lonely shepherd” was written by James Last and first released on his album “Memories from Russia”, released 1977 which also featured Zamfir on the track “Nadjenka.” His song Frunzuliță Lemn Adus Cântec De Nuntă (Fluttering Green Leaves Wedding Song) appears in the Studio Ghibli film Only Yesterday.
My collection includes the following pieces by Zamfir:
Concerto No. 1 in G for Panpipes and Orchestra.
Rhapsodie du Printemps, Roumanian Rhapsody for Panpipes and Orchestra.