Gheorghe Zamfir is the master of the pan flute or pan pipes.

“But I’ve never heard of him.”

“Have you seen Kill Bill: Volume 1?”

“Well, yes” (if answer = “No”, go watch Kill Bill. That’s much more important than reading this writeup).

“Right. That bit where she’s on the plane, and also in the credits at the end, there’s this amazing ethereal sort of song that builds up to a really emotional climax with harpsichords and cornets and organ and guitar and percussion and everything, but which is mainly pan pipes”.

“Oh. That one. Yep, what about it?”

“That’s Zamfir.”

Gheorghe Zamfir was born in a small town in Romania in 1941. He learned to play the accordion, but switched allegiances to the pan pipes when he attended the Bucharest Academy of Music. He rapidly showed great promise, learning skills such as bending pitch that were rarely connected with the instrument. He went on to study music theory, conducting and piano at the Conservatory of Bucharest.

Zamfir began touring and recording in the 1960s, and went on to tour most of Europe with his "Florian Econonu Orchestra". He was named “Professor of Pan-pipe” in 1970. His launch into the English-speaking world occurred when a British religious program used his “Doina de Jale” as its theme. This became his only hit single in 1976.

Gheorghe’s recording career blossomed, and he released a string of albums, mostly with a classical or traditional focus. Through the ‘70s and ‘80s he staged several world tours.

In the 1970s, Zamfir produced music for several films, most notably “Picnic at Hanging Rock”. His music is also featured in “The Karate Kid” and, as mentioned above, “Kill Bill Vol. 1”.

He was exiled from Romania in 1982 for violating Communist doctrine – his records often had a religious theme, and he had publicly dedicated his songs to God. He moved to America, and the pop song began working its way into his repertoire. While he has produced some lovely renditions of popular songs, such as “Bridge over Troubled Waters” and Billy Joel’s “Just the way you are”, many of these recordings have now diminished into lift muzak.

Zamfir now lives in Canada. While his music made the pan-flute very popular, he did not really become very well known – possibly due to his poor English. He has had over 60 gold or platinum albums, a fantastic comeback for an instrument that was once in danger of dying out completely.

Ok, and despite the node Zamfir containing little of substance, it does contain this immortal line, as recorded by knifegirl in Favorite Everything Quotes, in response to the suggestion that Zamfir has sold more records than Elvis:

"Perhaps they mean to say that he's sold more pan flute records than Elvis."

And thanks to Red Pawn for identifying all those instruments in "The Lonely Shepherd" for me.

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