Gheorghe Zamfir (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈɡe̯orɡe zamˈfir]; born April 6, 1941) is a Romanian pan flute musician, one of the most famous pan flautists in the world, if not the most.
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 known as "The Master of the Pan Flute".
Zamfir came to the public eye when he was "discovered" by Swiss ethnomusicologist Marcel Cellier who extensively researched Romanian folk music in the 1960s. Brought for the first time with his pan flute to western European countries in 1972 by the composer Vladimir Cosma as soloist in Cosma's original music for the movie Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire and made a big success, 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.
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 hit single, but it helped pave the way for a consistent stream of album sales in Britain.
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 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 music is heard throughout the 1984 film The Karate Kid, and his piece "The Lonely Shepherd", recorded with the James Last Orchestra, is 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). 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.
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