Gheorghe Zamfir

born on 6/4/1941 in Gaesti, Romania

Gheorghe Zamfir

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Gheorghe Zamfir

Gheorghe Zamfir (Romanian pronunciation: [eore zamfir]; born April 6, 1941) is a Romanian pan flute musician.

Zamfir 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 (additionally to the fundamental tone) from each pipe by changing the embouchure.

He is arguably known as "The Master of the Pan Flute" (see Criticism).[1][2]


Zamfir came to the public eye when he was approached 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, he 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.

In 1966 Zamfir was appointed conductor of the Ciocirlia Orchestra, one of the most prestigious state ensembles of Romania, destined for concert tours abroad. This created the opportunity for composition and arranging. In 1969 he left Ciocirlia and started his own small band (taraf) and in 1970 he had his first longer term contract in Paris. Zamfir discovered the much greater freedom for artistic adventure. His taraf consisted of: Ion Dragoi (violin), Ion Laceanu (flutes), Dumitru Farcas (tarogato), Petre Vidrean (double bass) and Tony Iordache (cymbalum). This taraf made some excellent recordings (CD Zamfir a Paris). He changed the composition of the band soon after. Efta Botoca (violin), Marin Chisar (flutes), Dorin Ciobaru and Pavel Cebzan (clarinet and tarogato), Petre Vidrean (bass) and Pantelimon Stinga (cymbalum). It is said that this change was made to increase the command of Zamfir and have more artistic freedom. Laceanu, Dragoi and Iordache were mature musical personalities. A turning point was the recording of Zamfir's composition "Messe pour la Paix" (Philips). His taraf joined a choir and a symphonic orchestra. This was evidence of the growing ambition. While the Philips recordings of that time were rather conservative, Zamfir preached revolution in the concert halls with daring performances. Some say that this short period was the highlight of his career. In 1979 he recorded "the Lonely Shepherd" with James Last. Zamfir put himself on the world map and since then his career became highly varied, hovering over classical repertoire, easy listening and pop music.

Zamfir's big break in the English-speaking world came when the BBC religious television programme "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 UK hit single, but it helped pave the way for a consistent stream of album sales in Britain. His song "Summer Love" reached number 9 in South Africa in November 1976.[3]

After nearly a decade-long absence, Zamfir returned to Canada in January 2006 for a seven-city tour with the 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 favourites.

In 2009, Zamfir was sampled by Animal Collective in the song "Graze" on their EP Fall Be Kind.

In 2012, Zamfir performed at the opening ceremony of the 11th Conference of Parties to the Ramsar Convention at the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, Romania.[4]


One of his most notable contributions was to the soundtrack for the classic Australian film Picnic at Hanging Rock. His first appearance in 1972 as soloist interpreter in a movie soundtrack was in Vladimir Cosma's "Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire" with a very famous and successful melody known all over the world. 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 (Polydor Germany 2371 856), which also featured Zamfir on the track "Nadjenka". The panflute was played by Gheorghe Zamfir, who had a contract with the Philips record company. An agreement was made that Philips could release "The lonely shepherd" as a single (45 rpm) on the Philips label.

His song Frunzuli Lemn Adus Cântec De Nunt (Fluttering Green Leaves Wedding Song) appears in the Studio Ghibli film Only Yesterday.


Although Zamfir is considered the most important person to popularize the pan flute worldwide, he has also received significant criticism, mostly for his propinquity with easy listening and kitsch.[5][6] His personality often put him in disputes with other pan flute players such as Dalila Cerntescu, Simion Stanciu or Damian Draghici.

Personal life

Zamfir was born in Geti, Romania on April 6, 1941. Although initially interested in becoming an accordionist, at the age of 14 he began his pan flute studies with Fnic Luca at the Special Musical School no. 1 in Bucharest. Later he attended the Ciprian Porumbescu Conservatory. He currently resides and teaches pan flute in Bucharest. His son, Emmanuel Teodor (who resides in Montreal, Canada), is also a drummer/musician.

Cultural references

  • Zamfir is mentioned in the television show King of the Hill in the episode "Propane Boom (Part 1)". Hank claims that Zamfir has sold more records worldwide than The Beatles.
  • Zamfir is mentioned in the "Weird Al" Yankovic song Achy Breaky Song, which is a parody of Billy Ray Cyrus's Achy Breaky Heart.
  • He is also mentioned in the show NCIS in the episode "Family Secret", when DiNozzo discovers that McGee has Zamfir music on his iPod.
  • He is also mentioned in the television show "Sports Night" during an episode.
  • He is referenced by Bill Engvall in Blue Collar Comedy Tour: One for the Road
  • Thirty Seconds to Mars often references 'Zamfir pan flutist' as one of their favorite musicians in interviews.
  • A parody of Zamfir, "Yablo, Master of the Ocarina", was featured in a television commercial for Sprite.
  • Zamfir was mentioned in an issue of MAD which spoofed Rube Goldberg inventions; one in how to neutralize gangsta rap in turning on one's TV, "which will probably be showing a Zamfir commercial", culminating into a chain reaction that causes climate change activists to chant and drown out the offending music.
  • A sample of Zamfir's "Ardeleana" from the album Les Flûtes Roumaines is featured in Animal Collective's 2009 EP Fall Be Kind.
  • Zamfir is mentioned in the book "The Silence of the Lambs" novel by Thomas Harris.
  • "Cantec de Nunta" is featured in the 1991 Studio Ghibli film Only Yesterday.


Zamfir has written an instructional book, Trait Du Naï Roumain: méthode de flûte de pan, Paris: Chappell S.A., 1975, ISBN 88-8291-286-8, and an autobiography Binecuvântare i blestem ("Blessing and Curse"), Arad: Mirador, 2000, ISBN 973-9284-56-6.


  1. King of the classics
  2. Contemporary Musicians | Zamfir, Gheorghe
  3. Retrieved 11 October 2013
  4. IISD RS @ Ramsar COP11, Bucharest, Romania: Highlights for July 6
  5. Biography at Allmusic
  6. Kill Bill: Volume 1 review at Amazon

External links

  • Official Website
  • Official Facebook Page
  • Zamfir at All Music Guide
  • Gheorghe Zamfir at the Internet Movie Database
  • Henk Jansen: Zamfir and his artistic success
This page was last modified 17.03.2014 12:06:04

This article uses material from the article Gheorghe Zamfir from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.