MY LIFE WITH THE PAN FLUTE

By David Osborn

Falling in Love with the Pan Flute in Grad School: Musical Rapture
I remember vividly my first encounter with the Nai, the Romanian Pan Flute, as if it were only yesterday.  I was in grad school studying ethnomusicology, and we were studying the music of Eastern Europe and the Balkans that day in our world music survey course.  Our professor, Dr. Roberto Garfias, put on a recording of Gheorghe Zamfir, the famed King of the Pan Flute, playing a haunting Doina, a rhapsodic ode in free rhythm.  Instantly, I was mystically transported into a realm of musical ecstasy and bliss, of intense beauty and boundless rapture.  I don’t quite remember clearly if there was some beautiful young Romanian maiden involved in my musical vision that day, but there probably was.  If ever there was a musical vision of heaven on earth, the gates to it definitely opened that fateful day as the shackles of my tiny mundane world were shattered and the doors of my inner perception opened up onto infinity.  Then, when Dr. Garfias announced that a Romanian master of the Nai, the Pan Flute, would soon be coming to Seattle, to the University of Washington to teach, I got so excited that I could hardly sleep that night.  I absolutely had to learn how to play the Pan Flute!           

As with all fateful days in one’s life, my initial mystical encounter with the Romanian Pan Flute was not without its foreshadowings.  The first life event that foreshadowed that fateful day was my dad teaching me how to blow on beer bottles at the tender young age of four.  Blowing on the pipe of a Pan Flute is basically just like blowing on a beer bottle – except with the Pan Flute, you have an arched row of twenty-plus pipes / bottles lined up end to end, in close proximity to each other.  Secondly, my dad used to tell me old Greek myths as bedtime stories when I was a child, and the Pan Flute definitely does have its origins in ancient Greek mythology.  I don’t quite remember whether or not my dad told me the myth of Pan and Syrinx when I was a child, but he well could have.  And the third foreshadowing is basically celestial or astrological in nature: my fateful encounter with the Romanian Pan Flute that day in grad school was star-crossed or pre-ordained.  You see, at the moment of my birth in Tokyo, Japan, Venus, the planet of art, love and beauty, was conjunct my relocated Midheaven, or at the highest point in the sky, in the heavens over Romania – so it was only natural, celestially speaking, that a Romanian art form open up to me as a career or life path, which is associated with the Midheaven in astrology.    

In a more mundane, down-to-earth sense, my fateful encounter with the Pan Flute that day had yet another foreshadowing.  You see, my father had recently been appointed to be US ambassador to Burma, and I visited him the summer before I went on to graduate school to study ethnomusicology.  It just so happened that Dr. Garfias had been to Rangoon, Burma the summer before when he was on sabbatical to do research on Burmese traditional music.  In the process, my dad hosted him at a diplomatic reception and Dr. Garfias suggested that I come to the University of Washington to study world music.  Burma, in spite of its oppressive political regime at the time – it’s still quite oppressive – had diplomatic relations with just about every other country on earth, and since there was not that much to do in sleepy Rangoon, Burma, the diplomatic community was quite closely knit.  The Romanian ambassador had a niece who was visiting him in Rangoon that summer, and she developed a huge crush on me (remember: Venus is the planet of love).  Seeing that I was really into playing flutes, she gave me a record of Gheorghe Zamfir, the King of the Pan Flute, as a gift and a token of her affection.  I listened to it, and was definitely impressed by it, but somehow, that “pre-encounter” with the Pan Flute didn’t have the full mystical majesty of my grand epiphany that fateful day at the University of Washington.  Maybe the stars weren’t quite right…


Zamfir plays Doina de Jale (The Doina of Farewell) and Ciocarlia (The Skylark)

With Damian Luca at the University of Washington
I was in grad school at the University of Washington in Seattle in the mid-70s, and at that time, Romania was still languishing under the oppressive yoke of communism as a member of the Soviet Eastern bloc; it wasn’t until some thirteen-odd years later that communism finally fell there.  Dr. Garfias was doing all he could to negotiate things and facilitate the arrival of the three musicians he was inviting from Romania to teach on a Fulbright grant, but working through all the red tape of Romania’s communist bureaucracy was difficult and exasperating.  That only made the final arrival of these musicians a great event, and the subject of much rejoicing at the UW.  In addition to Damian Luca, master of the Pan Flute, there were two other musicians who accompanied him: a violinist and a cimbalom player.  Although their names escape me, the violinist, I learned later, was one of the few Jews who were left in Ceausescu’s Romania at the time; the cimbalom player was a small, diminutive man, who had a gnome-like appearance and demeanor. 

Damian (pronounced Dah-mee-AHN) Luca (Romanian for ‘Luke’) had taken his stage name in honor of his great uncle, Fanica Luca, who was the “grand daddy” of the Pan Flute; his real name was Gheorghe Draghici.  The Draghici family is a huge family of gypsy musicians; Damian Luca’s nephew, Damian Draghici, has followed in his uncle’s footsteps and has also made a name for himself on the Pan Flute.  Anyway, the story goes that, back in the period between the two world wars, Fanica Luca looked around him and saw that only a handful of feeble old men still played the Pan Flute.  Realizing that the Pan Flute would soon die out if he didn’t teach it to a new generation, Fanica Luca approached the communist government of Romania and convinced them to let him teach the Pan Flute in music conservatory.  Fanica Luca’s own son was too weak and feeble for this physically demanding instrument, so Damian Luca stepped in as the next of kin to take up the torch of the Pan Flute.  As Damian Luca tells it, he started accompanying his uncle Fanica on his concert tours from the age of thirteen or so, and became the personal advertisement or “poster boy” for the Pan Flute, convincing parents to send their sons in for instruction on this instrument.

Dr. Garfias insisted to the Romanian government that Damian Luca be the Pan Flutist who came to teach at the UW – he explained to us that he had the most phenomenal tone and playing technique.  Besides being the original “poster boy” for the Pan Flute and hence the elder brother to a new generation of Pan Flutists, which also included Zamfir, Damian Luca told me that it was he who was the first to introduce double and triple tonguing to the Pan Flute.  In contrast to Fanica Luca, whose main approach was to stick to the sweet sounding, easy to play pieces, Damian told me, he had boldly gone where no Pan Flutist before him had dared to go, and boldly tackled even the difficult pieces, like Hora Staccato, being a trailblazer for the Pan Flute virtuosi who followed him.  But these assertions of his can easily be disproven, since, even on old recordings of Fanica Luca on YouTube, you can hear him plainly double and triple tonguing – and I believe that there is even a recording of Fanica Luca playing Hora Staccato – go figure!  But when you consider that the Pan Flute is an instrument with mythological origins, you could see these kinds of assertions on the part of Damian Luca to be a “self mythologizing” tendency – a desire to make yourself a living legend in your own time. 

As a gypsy, Damian Luca taught us traditional Romanian folk tunes the gypsy way – by ear.  This learning to play by ear, without a shred of sheet music, was especially appropriate for the Pan Flute, I felt, for a couple of good reasons.  The first reason is that proper posture is very important on the Pan Flute, even more so than it is for other wind instruments, and stooping over to read sheet music would definitely cramp your style and technique.  The second reason was that the rote memorization of songs, with countless repetitions of them phrase by phrase, was a very good way to familiarize oneself with the overall “feel” of the instrument, and in executing the skips involved in the larger melodic intervals.  Damian Luca’s English was quite rudimentary, but one thing he said about executing these larger skips or intervals still sticks with me to this day: “You gotta be sure.”  Only when these larger intervals become as natural to you as walking have you truly mastered them.  The other most memorable thing that Damian Luca told me was that playing weakly and softly may be pretty, but it wasn’t Nai – the Romanian Pan Flute.  You had to play with full feeling and intensity. 

Besides teaching me how to play the Pan Flute, Damian Luca also taught me how to make Pan Flutes as well.  We went down together to a bamboo warehouse in Seattle, and he selected a few poles of bamboo for me, of assorted diameters.  He had brought over some ready-made instruments from Romania, but these weren’t sufficient to meet the student demand for them, so he started making them in his own apartment, and he showed me how to do it.  Still, he left a lot of the making of my first Pan Flute up to me – to see how I would do on my own, perhaps.  I thought I had it all figured out, calibrating the pipe diameters according to what I saw as the classical Pythagorean note interval relationships; I even painted the pipes with enamel colored the seven different colors of the rainbow, corresponding to the seven notes of the scale - pretty clever, I thought.  However, Damian Luca, upon seeing the instrument and trying it out, assured me that it would probably wind up as a mantle piece someday – and he was right. 

Damian Luca’s own Pan Flute at the time was pretty nifty, pretty snazzy – its pipes were all marked into two halves and painted in alternating black and clear lacquer in a kind of checkerboard pattern – I’ve never seen any other Pan Flutist decorate his instrument like that.  Whereas most Pan Flutes nowadays are a full 22 pipes or three octaves, Damian Luca’s checkerboard Pan Flute had only 21 pipes, with the bottom low “G” pipe left off.  In more recent years, Damian Luca has switched over to the full 22 pipes; Fanica Luca’s Pan Flute had only 20 pipes, down to the low “B”, and this is still the treble instrument that Gheorghe Zamfir plays, although he plays many other lower and larger sizes of Pan Flutes, as the musical piece or situation demands.  Damian Luca also had a flair for the novel and off-beat, and for one concert at the UW, he quickly made a Pan Flute and painted its pipes in alternating red, white and blue – and then proceeded to play “Yankee Doodle” on it!  Damian Luca used to boast that he could play any kind of Pan Flute you handed to him, no matter how crappy or sloppily made it was – and he did demonstrate this ability on more than one occasion.  In the hands of a master, any instrument is golden.

I remember the first song that Damian Luca taught me: It was titled, La cules de cucurus, or “Harvesting the Corn”.  Also in the repertoire of pieces that Damian taught his students at the UW was the Romanian Rhapsody – the famous tune that opens George Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody in A Major.  Damian Luca used it as his opening piece at every concert, and there is a recording of him playing it as a duet with his teacher, Fanica Luca, up on YouTube.  Another memorable piece was Sanie cu Zurgalai, or literally, “A Sleigh with Bells”; Damian Luca asserted that some American recording artist had made it into a pop tune called “Johnny is the Boy for Me” way back in the oldies era, and its tune and rhythm definitely suggest this, but I was never able to find a copy of the original recording of it.  The last piece I learned with Damian Luca at the UW was a two part folk suite, with the first movement being a Doina called Strigatul Codrului, or “The Cry of the Forest”, and the second movement being a kind of Hora dance called Joaca Fetelor, or “The Dance of the Maidens”.  Damian Luca encouraged me to keep up my playing, and that I had definite talent as a performer.

Going Solo as America’s Premier Pan Flutist
One thing that Damian Luca tried to drive home in his parting words to me at the UW was that, at that time, playing the Pan Flute was virgin territory, a ground floor opportunity.  Of all of Damian Luca’s students at the UW, I had shown the most natural talent and ability.  When I left the UW and moved on in life, I lost touch with all of Damian Luca’s other pupils, so I could only assume that I was the only American who was keeping it up and doing anything with the Pan Flute.  Since I was at that time, to my knowledge, the only American playing the Pan Flute, I coined a title for myself: America’s Premier Pan Flutist.  I had been bitten by the Pan Flute making bug, and definitely did keep that up, and in later years, it became a veritable obsession.  My Pan Flute making was an evolving art, and over the years I discovered various ways to refine and improve my instruments.  Along the way, my artistic tastes, preferences and vision for the instrument also changed, and went through definite periods or phases: I was, at one time or another, into wider pipes, or narrower pipes; pipes left natural on the inside or those which had their innermost pithy layer reamed out; thinner pipe walls or thicker ones; bamboo of various types, or species; and so on…  I really tried it all.  The Pan Flutes I make now I believe to be the best Pan Flutes on earth – I am not discounting the possibility of personal bias here, as I haven’t seen anyone’s instruments that I like better than my own.  Suffice it to say that the Pan Flute is, above all, a very personal and intimate instrument, as its creation myth suggests. 

When I say that I make the best Pan Flutes on earth, I really mean it, and believe that I do – however, the caveat here is that I am definitely not the most efficient Pan Flute maker on earth.  I do not really make Pan Flutes with enough ease and efficiency to turn it into a business.  So, I do not, and have not, made Pan Flutes for others on a regular or business basis; I mainly sell old Pan Flutes that I no longer play to others if I am so inclined.  Over the years, as my Pan Flute making “bug” turned into an obsession, my standards grew ever more exacting and perfectionist.  I am “anal” and fussy about things that most Pan Flute makers don’t even worry about – like precision slatting depth and pipe spacing, for example.  When I finally finish an instrument, usually after two months or more of nerve-wracking, painstaking labor, my nerves are totally shot, and I have lost a lot of sleep.  But I am satisfied to know that the Pan Flute I have made is a “super-strad” – a Pan Flute that is perfect, or as perfect as is possible in this flawed and imperfect world of ours.  And so, I usually decline the offer to make anyone a Pan Flute, although I am eager to teach the art of Pan Flute making to others, in an effort to pass on what I have learned and discovered about the instrument. 


The song that started it all: Gheorghe Zamfir plays The Lonely Shepherd.

In my stint as America’s Premier Pan Flutist in the Pasadena / Altadena California area during the eighties and nineties, I was proud to have met and concertized with a Hungarian pianist and organist, Mr. Imre Szilas, who was the organist and choir director at a Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California.  Playing “O Holy Night” at Christmas concerts, being backed up by his powerful pipe organ and its chimes is an experience that I will never forget.  Imre also introduced me to Hungarian folksongs, and pieces by Bartok, that we performed, as well as other great music.  I found in Imre a true lover and aficionado of Romanian music, who could really understand and interpret it with feeling.  When I suggested that we play “Ciocarlia”, or, “The Skylark”, which was one of Zamfir’s show stoppers, and played him a few bars of it, he told me that it was called “Pocirta” in Hungarian, and was a piece that every self-respecting gypsy violinist in Hungary must learn how to play.  Anyway, we played both “Ciocarlia” and “Doina de Jale” at a concert, to the great delight of the audience.  If you want proof that music is the universal language, I could do no better than to use the Romanians and the Hungarians as a case in point; nationally, ethnically and historically, they hate each other’s guts, but they are avid lovers and players of each other’s music. 

The eighties was the decade in which Zamfir was really making a name for himself in the music world, and his recordings were coming out in droves, making his name virtually synonymous with the Pan Flute.  I myself avidly bought all of Zamfir’s recordings, and played along with them as I taught myself how to play many of his pieces.  I vividly remember the evening when I first invited my first wife over to my place for dinner during our courtship; her arrival seemed to be perfectly timed to the opening strains of Zamfir’s sentimental ballad, “Black Rose”, and ever after that, she was totally hooked on the Pan Flute.  It was she who insisted that the entry processional piece at our wedding be Zamfir’s “The Lonely Shepherd”, a piece which has become virtually synonymous with the Pan Flute.  Unfortunately, that was the best part of our marriage; after that, it was all downhill from there!  After a few years, the marriage was history, but the Pan Flute remained. 

The Romanian Bamboo Brothers and My Discovery of Romania
Playing the Pan Flute definitely helped me get over my first divorce, along with meditation and astrology.  It seems to me that, in its emotional and experiential essence, a divorce is a lot like a bereavement, a loss of someone who has been near to you, and that seems to apply even if the marriage was a bad one, as was mine.  I met my next girlfriend at an astrological meditation center in West Hollywood; her name was Lauren, and she was a former bluegrass banjo player who had become an acupressure massage therapist.  My dad described her as “a phenomenal combination of beauty, brains and talent.”  Whereas my ex-wife had been a great lover of the Pan Flute, Lauren was much more ambivalent about it; let’s face it, the Pan Flute is a very intense musical instrument, and its decibel level can also get quite high – it’s one of those things that you either love or hate, I suppose.  Rather than the Pan Flute itself, what Lauren really loved was the amazing expressive transformation that came over me whenever I played the instrument – she said it made me become so alive and childlike.  As for the Pan Flute itself, Lauren admitted to me, quite frankly, that she saw it mostly as a kind of musical oddity, like a musical saw. 

My final breakup with Lauren was to be under very painful and tragic circumstances.  But before we broke up, she invited me over for Christmas dinner at her mom’s house.  That was Christmas of 1989 – which was exactly the time when communism was falling in Romania.  I took my Pan Flute over to her mom’s house, because I could play most any Christmas carol on it.  At her mom’s house, I met Lauren’s brother in law, who was a bass player who had accompanied a Romanian man on the Pan Flute when he auditioned for a gig at Disneyland.  He told me that we should definitely connect, and told me to contact him via the Garden Grove Symphony, an orchestra in Orange County with whom he occasionally performed as a guest soloist.  I soon got in touch with him – his name was George, which is probably the most common men’s name in Romania.  In addition to performing with the Garden Grove Symphony, George also performed in duets with – you guessed it – a player of the musical saw!  I really enjoyed playing with George, and sharing my love of the Pan Flute with him; George was also a Pan Flute maker like myself, as well as a master wood carver. 

“David – communism has just fallen in Romania.  Let’s take a trip over there this summer.  I know a great young lady for you there – she’s like an angel!”  With that last line, George figured that he had gotten my interest, and indeed he had; unfortunately, that “angel” of a young lady, who was only half my age, turned out to be my next disastrous marriage.  George had written and recorded a piece on his latest cassette tape release which was an anthem of joy celebrating the fall of communism; he himself had risked life and limb to escape from Ceausescu’s Romania – ironically only a year or so before communism fell.  Both George and his brother Stelian played and performed on the Pan Flute, and both lived in southern California at the time; we would get together for informal Pan Flute circles from time to time to share what we knew and loved.  Stelian had also risked life and limb to escape from Romania, but his escape was much riskier than George’s; whereas George had used his brains to plan his escape during the winter, when the border guards were huddled up inside their heated guard houses and didn’t pay that much attention to their guard duties, Stelian had chosen to escape in the fall, when the weather was pleasant, guards were out and about on the prowl, and the dry autumn leaves rustled beneath one’s feet with every step.  Nevertheless, Stelian made it, and attributes his escape to a miraculous intervention from God. 

Both of these Romanian Pan Flutist “bamboo brothers” claimed to be born again Christians, but in their respective approaches to the spiritual life, they seemed to be worlds apart, and somewhat akin to the biblical brothers Cain and Abel.  The Abel brother was Stelian, who took his religion very seriously, being very devout, even fundamentalist, in his approach.  Since finding Jesus, he told me, he had traded in what he described as the deluded, satanic joy of the Romanian folklore pieces he used to play for the holy, divine joy of Christian songs and hymns.  Needless to say, Stelian has dedicated his music to Jesus Christ, and is active in musical ministry.  On the other hand, the more Cain-like brother was George, who was more reasoned and reserved in his religiosity, and who had more than a little of a roguish streak in his character.  Regarding his brother’s rejection of all music except songs and hymns that were explicitly Christian, George would argue that all the great composers, like Mozart and Beethoven, had been divinely inspired when they wrote their music, so why reject it?  I had to agree with him on that one. 

Of the two brothers, it seems like Stelian has been the most committed and persevering in his work with the Pan Flute, as it appears from his internet presence.  Stelian, who has since changed his name to Paul Goldheart, sells his music and recordings online, and he also sells bamboo Pan Flutes he has made on e-Bay.  I have remained in touch with George from time to time, and he now lives in the Ozark mountains with his wife and many children.  George has found a particular new species of cane or bamboo growing in the Ozarks, from which he now makes Pan Flutes, a couple of which I have seen.  As for me, I get my bamboo imported from China at various bamboo dealers located in or around Huntington Beach, California.  Stelian was, before he left Romania, professor of Pan Flute at a music school in Targoviste, some fifty miles northwest of the capital of Bucharest, called Scoala Populara de Arta, or the Popular Arts School.  On my first trip to Romania, I met one of Stelian’s former pupils from that school, Marian Ionescu, who later followed in Stelian’s footsteps to become a great Pan Flute teacher in his own right (see the Marian Ionescu page in this section for his bio).

My first trip to Romania was in the summer of 1990, which was the first summer after the fall of communism.  The whole country was broken, it seemed, and a layer of dust lay all over everything, which had fallen into disrepair.  Pan Flute-wise, I found a great friend and bamboo brother in Marian Ionescu, and spent hours with him playing the Pan Flute, talking about it, and listening to recordings from his extensive collection.  After my initial visit, I returned to Romania, connecting with a local yoga organization that had connections for me to study with Gheorghe Zamfir.  George rented me his cabin or casuta in Gura Ocnitei, the little village in which he had lived before escaping from Romania, which turned out to be right across the street from Marian’s house.  I shipped some Pan Flute bamboo over from the States to Marian Ionescu, and together, we spent many hours making Pan Flutes.  Another thing that Marian Ionescu did, for which I will be forever grateful, was to be my teacher of Romanian history, as we were both history buffs.  “The forest is a brother to all Romanians,” Marian would tell me, as the forest had often provided cover for Romanians seeking to thwart the advances of invading armies.  The main reason the Pan Flute survived in Romania, says Ghorghe Zamfir, was the strength of its indigenous pastoral life and traditions.  From ancient Greek mythology up to the present, there has been a very close connection between the Pan Flute, Nature and the pastoral life.

Through my connection with a yoga organization in Romania, I was able to get an introduction to study with Gheorghe Zamfir, the King of the Pan Flute.  I took a few lessons with him on an informal basis, and he was very kind and generous in sharing with me his knowledge and expertise.  He even let me sit in on one of his recording sessions, which was very enlightening and instructive.  What Zamfir emphasized was the importance of the initial blowing attack, of presentation, posture and stage presence; and also cleaning up one’s technique and execution of musical phrases, as well as not admitting a particular piece into your repertoire until you were confident that you could really do a great job in playing it.  In addition to these informal lessons during my first two year period of living in Romania, I was also considering entering into music conservatory to study with Zamfir in Bucharest one year; I was wavering in my resolve to do it, for various personal reasons, and as fate would have it, that was the year that 9/11 happened, which delayed my return to the US by over a week.  After the 9/11 attack, my friend Sam, who had told me the news, said to me, “You see?  There are some definite advantages to living in a backwater country like Romania.”

My Dad’s Death – And a Pan Flute Rebirth
I had my differences with the yoga society in Romania during my two year sojourn there, and so, rather than become a yoga teacher in their organization, I opted to take a more independent route and go to India to take a yoga teacher’s training course at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Ashram in Kerala.  Upon returning to Romania, things quickly started to unravel between me and the yoga society, and I soon found myself returning to the US – this time to New York City, where I stayed at the Sivananda Yoga Center there.  While I was at the Sivananda center in downtown Manhattan, I took it upon myself to record a cassette: “Syrinx: The Soul of the Pan Flute”.  It was an entirely self-done, homespun affair – me playing the Pan Flute, accompanying myself on the guitar, and it didn’t take that long to finish.  The title track, “Syrinx”, is none other than Debussy’s immortal piece for solo flute, composed to re-create Pan’s first mournful tune on the Pan Flute; of all the tracks on that album, that is probably the one I am the most proud of.  The rest was an eclectic mix of diverse tunes: Bach’s Aria in D; the Japanese pop tunes “Sukiyaki” and “Kimi to Itsumademo”; “The Swingin’ Shepherd Blues”; “El Condor Pasa”; and “The Skye Boat Song”, a Celtic piece that I arranged for four part choral Pan Flutes.           

I was planning to return back to California to visit my parents, but just a day or two before my planned departure back home, I got word that my dad had had a serious bicycle accident, and had been taken to the intensive care trauma unit at a nearby hospital in San Diego.  When I returned back to San Diego, I found my dad in a vegetative, semi-comatose state; he never really recovered from that accident, and passed away about six weeks later from complications.  My dad’s death was absolutely devastating for me; it seemed to me that everything great, good and noble that I could ever hope to be, every good quality I had, I got from my dad.  Without a doubt, dad had been the heart and soul of our family, and now he was gone.  I was totally in limbo for a few weeks, like I had suddenly been cast adrift on an endless stormy sea, with no lifeboat in sight.  Then, as the fog cleared, I resolved that I would work on creating a Pan Flute CD.  In the grief of my bereavement, I made some mistakes.  After an initial bad experience with another studio in town, I finally found a real musical partner, a real maestro, in Richard A. James of San Diego, who became the MIDI orchestrator for my new CD. 

In the process of rebuilding my life after my dad’s untimely demise, I threw myself heart and soul into my new CD, “Reverie”.  I wanted to make “Reverie” a real masterpiece, and as a result, I got quite ambitious with many of the tracks: Michiyo Miyagi’s immortal “Haru no Umi” (The Ocean in Spring) – I don’t quite know exactly how he did it, but Richard James did a flawless koto simulation; “The Queen of the Night Aria” from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” (boy, how I struggled with the coloratura passages on that one!); Johann Pachelbel’s famous “Canon in D”; and the title track, Debussy’s “Reverie” had its accompaniment masterfully arranged for synthesizer by the incomparable Mr. James.  This was definitely my classical, “high brow” release; years later, Ernesto Pomareda, the guitarist and leader of my Andean band, commented that, although “Reverie” was definitely more high brow and technically more sophisticated and demanding, my first recording, “Syrinx”, as humble and homespun as it was, was definitely more commercially marketable in his opinion. 

Richard James was a real maestro; here was a guy who really knew music – backwards, forwards, upside down, any way you could envision it – and his musical mastery was a great inspiration to me.  As flawless as the technical mastery of your solo instrument may be, as a musician, and especially as a musical visionary and entrepreneur, that vision that underlies all your musical efforts can only be as good as your underlying general musicianship.  And so, I feel that every flutist should have a good understanding of musical theory and composition, and should also be able to play an accompaniment instrument like the guitar or keyboards.  I was just as involved in the arranging and orchestrating of the background tracks to “Reverie” as Mr. James was, since his job was basically to follow my direction and vision.  Richard James became somewhat of a musical father figure to me as we had long discussions about music, both in theory as well as in practice.  After my initial costly mistake, Mr. James reminded me that I urgently needed to develop a better business sense and acumen, and gave me some explicit and practical tips for how to do so.  Business decisions are one thing, said Mr. James – but artistic decisions are something else – there, there’s no absolute black or white, right or wrong, but what you choose to do definitely has a major impact on everything else that follows.

With Andean Bamboo Brothers on Fisherman’s Wharf
Of all the metropolitan areas in the United States, the San Francisco Bay area, perhaps more than any other, has become a beacon for world music, with vocalists and instrumentalists of many world music traditions making a home there.  And the ‘90’s was the Golden Age of Andean music in San Francisco, with Andean bands setting up every hundred yards or so on Fisherman’s Wharf.  An ethnomusicology professor I once knew, Gustavo Gil, once remarked that one of the world music genres with perhaps the most universal appeal was Andean music.  And the teaming up of strings and flutes that forms its backbone is another near-universal combination that has been a favorite in many musical traditions.  On advice from a locational astrologer, I relocated to the San Francisco Bay area after I had spent my initial year or so recuperating from my father’s death.  The locational astrologer told me that I would find fellow musicians there who would become like brothers to me – and he was right.  In retrospect, I don’t think that he made that assessment so much from his knowledge of locational astrology per se, but rather from the knowledge that the Bay area was a Mecca for world music.    

I remember that the first day I was in San Francisco I strolled down to the wharf, my Pan Flute in my backpack, and started to meet some of these Andean musicians who were later to become my bamboo brothers.  “Hey man – you’re a Tiburon – you’re a shark!” was Condorito’s own particular way of complementing me on my musical ability with the Pan Flute.  Miguel Sisniegas, who was nicknamed Condorito for his condor-like beak-shaped nose, was probably the greatest Andean flute virtuoso I have ever known.  He confided to me that he had always loved the Romanian Pan Flute, and had wanted to learn it, but alas, in Peru where he grew up, there was no one around who could teach it.  Another Andean brother who I met quite early on was the incomparable Ernesto Pomareda, who was nicknamed Gordito (Chubby); a talented guitarist and Charango player, and the leader of a band called Friends of the Andes, which I was later to join.  I drifted around for a year or so, trying out different things, before I finally acquiesced to playing Andean music on my Pan Flute – perhaps it was a kind of misguided purism that I felt.

Ernesto was quite persistent in getting me to join his band, Friends of the Andes, and in the end, I relented.  That would mean that I would have to learn a whole new repertoire, and Ernesto was generous in his tips and guidance for me.  He gave me cassette recordings of the major songs in his repertoire, and told me to pay special attention to learning and memorizing their musical form.  Those tips paid off, and before long, I was a fully functional member of the band.  The original lineup for Friends of the Andes when I joined that year included some colorful, memorable characters, like Williams Sepulveda, an Andean flutist from Bolivia, who had traveled the whole world playing with various Andean bands.  The nickname he gave himself was Waiquicha (meaning an indigenous Andean shaman) – “Just call me Waiki,” he would tell his gringo fans.  Another fitting nickname for Waiki could have been “The Snake”, since he often whipped his tongue out like a snake when he was playing the Quena.  We also took on a refugee from another Andean band for a time, a flutist who wasn’t that good, but who really looked the part and cut a fine figure, with long, flowing obsidian black locks of hair cascading down his shoulders, and stark, chiseled indigenous features forming a handsome profile. 

Everyone on the wharf had a nickname, myself included.  When I first arrived, it was Cajeta (initially proposed by Waiki), but I soon got a new one: El Loquito (the crazy one).  You see, when I first arrived in the Bay area, I needed a place to stay, and Condorito found me a place as the roommate of one of his fellow band members.  While I was cooking and chopping up some garlic in the kitchen one evening, my new roommate stiffed me on paying his fair share of the phone bill.  I exploded in anger right then and there, totally crushing the clove of garlic I held in my hand.  What can I say?  I absolutely hate cheats!  “The story has traveled far and wide on the wharf about what you did to that poor clove of garlic,” said Ernesto, pulling me aside.  “Why don’t you become the patron saint of Gilroy, California, the Garlic Capital of the World?”  Anyway, the next year, Friends of the Andes downsized, and it became just three of us: Ernesto, accompanied by his guitar synthesizer and a drum machine; me on my Pan Flute; and Rojelio Rangel, an Andean flutist from Mexico and a consummate master of his art.  We called Rojelio “Rocketman”; he was an intrepid Aries, and whenever we took a break, he would take off like a rocket for parts unknown.  With Rojelio on board we started to play Mexican favorites like “Guadalajara”, “La Bikina” and “La Bamba”.

My hat goes off here in a heartfelt salute to Ernesto Pomareda, my Andean brother par excellence – a fine human being, an incomparable musician and my musical soul mate.  Ernesto and I had what seemed to be musical telepathy; many is the time when we just played a piece spontaneously, for the very first time up on stage, performing and arranging the piece right on the spot.  Pieces that we added to our repertoire in this way include “Amazing Grace”, “Black Orpheus”, “Never on a Sunday”, “Vasija de Barro” (an Andean piece), and many more.  There were pieces that just Ernesto and I played – pop, jazz and light classical numbers – while the Andean chuys took a break.  One of the pieces of newly emerging computerized musical hardware that Ernesto invested in was a “little black box” – an amazing little device that let him arrange background tracks for many pieces we did very quickly and easily.  He even arranged pieces like the jazz ballad “Tenderly” and of course, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”.  Anyway, he could also plug this little black box directly into our band’s amp system to flesh out the accompaniment, or just let the black box provide the whole accompaniment.  Many was the time when Ernesto simply turned on his little black box, the initial plinkety piano notes of “Tenderly” began to play, and the other band members would go on break, leaving me behind to play as the token gringo. 

One of the things I did in the Bay area, both before and after signing on with Friends of the Andes, was to make Pan Flutes, both for the Andean flutists as well as other musical clients about town.  Rojelio, as well as other Andean flutists on the wharf, would make Quenas (Andean vertically blown flutes) in their spare time and sell them “at the table” along with our recordings.  A couple of years after I arrived in the Bay area, Lark in the Morning, a purveyor of ethnic musical instruments, opened up a store at The Cannery, and I promptly put one of my handmade Pan Flutes there on consignment.  And guess who bought it?  None other than Neil Young!  When I came by to collect my consignment check, the clerk at the store told me that they didn’t know who the heck he was until he took out his credit card with his name on it.  In addition to voluntary tips, the main source of our income was from the recordings we sold “at the table”.  We called “El Condor Pasa”, the Andean tune that Simon and Garfunkel made famous, “comida time”, or “meal time”; we would end each one of our sets with it, and the tourists would line up in droves to buy our recordings.  In an impromptu Spanish lesson, Rojelio told me that the most important Spanish phrase to know at the end of the day was “Pagame!” or “Pay me!”  Anyway, I am proud to say that I made better money being a Pan Flutist with an Andean band than any other job I have ever had in my life. 

The Condor is definitely the guiding spirit, the totem power animal of all Andean musicians.  Ernesto told me that he had played in an Andean band named Condor up in Oregon, along with Rojelio and Condorito (Miguel Sisniegas) before a crisis of bad faith and bad luck with that band sent him and his Andean brothers packing down to San Francisco.  We had a piece that we played, called Vuelo de los Condores, that I had an interesting sales pitch for:  “The next piece we are going to play is called Vuelo de los Condores, which means, ‘The Flight of Many Condors’, as opposed to ‘El Condor Pasa’, which is the flight of only one condor.  We do have this piece, Vuelo de los Condores, available on CD for sale at the table – so when you buy this piece, you are getting more Condor for your money!”  In addition to playing with Friends of the Andes, which was my “bread and butter” when it came to making a living, I also did other gigs on the side for spare cash, like busking in the metro, even playing there with a Russian accordionist; from playing with him, I got a lot of good Russian pieces into my repertoire. 

Music is the universal language, and the spirit of music pervades the whole world, transcending all borders.  The intrepid street merchants of Andean music, setting up even on street corners, have probably had a presence on just about every continent except Antarctica – and maybe even there as well, since it is only a stone’s throw away from the tip of South America.  We played at all the big tourist venues on Fisherman’s Wharf – Girardhelli Square, The Anchorage, and The Cannery, to name a few.  “Haven’t we seen you in Paris?” or, “Haven’t we seen you in Berlin?”, tourists would ask us, and we had to shake our heads in response.  Of all the Andean musicians, Ernesto told me, the Otavalenos, or Ecuadoreans from the Otavalo region of Ecuador, were the most intrepid and enterprising musical entrepreneurs; they were even known as the Jews of South America.  He told me that their motto was, “Eat quick, s#*t quick, then back to playing, because time is money!”

The Pan Flute – and Andean Flutes
One way you can tell what country an Andean pan pipe player is from is by what side he plays his pipes on.  Every single panpipe player from Ecuador, it seems, plays their instrument with the low pipes on their left – I have yet to meet an Ecuadorian who plays on the other side – but those from Bolivia or Peru usually play with the low pipes on their right.  One thing’s for sure – once you learn one way, it is next to impossible to go back and learn to play the other way.  “The only one who is fully ambidextrous in playing panpipes is a Bolivian named Carlos Crespo,” Ernesto told me once.  Since the Andean panpipes, or Zamponas, are pretty narrow in their span, having two rows of pipes, they are held pretty much equally between the two hands, and which side you play them on depends pretty much on which side the low pipes were on in your first instrument.  With the Romanian Pan Flute, which side the low pipes should be on in your own personal instrument depends on which hand you write with, with your dominant hand grasping the low pipes firmly, like a gun.  The other, non-dominant hand holds the small end of the instrument very lightly, to execute the vibrato and ornaments.  Some Ecuadorian players have told me that they play with the low pipes on their left because the low notes are on the left on a piano – but I have personally seen Maestro Zamfir accompany his students on the piano and then pick up his Pan Flute, with the low pipes on his right, without missing a beat.

In promoting their music and dealing with the public, the Andeans have called all their assorted varieties of panpipes – the Antara, Rondador, Sicus, Toyos, Zamponas, etc…, Pan Flutes, but actually none of them are really the authentic Romanian Pan Flute, which is a modern, acoustically perfected musical instrument.  In calling their indigenous species of panpipes Pan Flutes, the Andean flutists are giving their public something that they have heard of, something they can easily latch on to and identify with; they are also riding on the coat tails of Zamfir’s phenomenal popularity.  Maestro Zamfir himself is an admirer of the Andean flutes and their indigenous music and traditions, and his concerts in Peru and elsewhere in the Andes have been warmly received.  But it must be remembered that the Andean panpipes are different musical instruments – at least as different as a Mandolin is from a Guitar – and that they have their own distinctive playing techniques, musical repertoire and musical traditions.  In playing with these various Andean flutes, panpipes or otherwise, I have found that the flute that comes closest to the Pan Flute’s overall character and tone quality is the vertical flute, or Quena, and duets work very well between them; the various Andean panpipes, especially the bigger, longer sized ones, are best played in a kind of call-and-response counterpoint with the Pan Flute to highlight the musical contrasts between the two.

Seeing the phenomenal popularity of Zamfir and his Romanian Pan Flute, Andean flutists have started to make their own instruments that are more authentically Pan Flutes in the Romanian style, but which still fall somewhat short of the authentic Romanian instrument.  The exception to this general rule would be certain Peruvian Pan Flute makers, who can be found on the internet.  And in evaluating the authenticity of these South American made Pan Flutes, I am discounting the whole left side / right side conundrum – you can be certain that the Ecuadorian Pan Flute makers will make their instruments with the low pipes on the player’s left side.  The Ecuadorian Pan Flute makers make their instruments out of a wonderful acoustical wood with a beautiful sound, which might be Purpleheart, or at least something close to it.  In seeing these instruments, I have asked the Ecuadorian Pan Flutists who play them why the same species of bamboo (Aulonemia quecko) that is used to make the Quena, which has the advantage of exceptionally long internodes, is not also used to make Pan Flutes, and they tell me that, for some reason, Quena bamboo doesn’t yield a good sound when used for the Pan Flute – even though I have seen “Rocketman” Rojelio make his own Pan Flutes out of bamboo that I am pretty sure was of that species, with great sounding results.  If I had to give one single critique of the Ecuadorian made Pan Flutes, aside from the whole left / right thing, it would be that their frames or bases are too thick and heavy, making for less mobility and ease of playing.  Why carry around all that dead weight?

Revisiting Damian Luca in Brussels, Belgium
After the fall of communism in Romania, and even before it, there was a great diaspora of Romanians, and Romanian Pan Flutists, seeking greater personal and artistic freedom, as well as greater material fortune and fame, to the nations of Western Europe, collectively known as “the Occident” in Romania.  Zamfir made Paris his base of operations, and Simion Stanciu or “Syrinx”, known as the Paganini of the Pan Flute, made his home in Switzerland; Damian Luca, on the other hand, settled in Brussels, Belgium.  Still other Romanian musicians and Pan Flutists settled in nearby Holland.  The only major Pan Flutist who stayed behind in Romania, it seems, was Radu Simion – and he, I heard, was the one who was most favored by Ceausescu and the communist regime.  When I first started to learn the Pan Flute back at the University of Washington in Seattle, its Romanian homeland was still languishing under the oppressive yoke of communism.  And so, I returned to Damian Luca for Pan Flute lessons in the spring of 2002 under conditions and circumstances that were decidedly more free and upbeat. 

Damian Luca and I talked about many things, both musical and otherwise, that spring.  He and his wife found an apartment nearby for me to rent during my stay there.  It reeked of cigarette smoke from the previous occupant, but I burned incense, opened the windows and tried the best I could to air it out.  My apartment was on the second floor, and down on the first floor was a Middle Eastern herb store and some Middle Eastern food wholesalers – it seemed like the part of town in which I lived could be nicknamed Little Baghdad, as Brussels was then host to a large Muslim population, mainly from Morocco, I heard.  Those were tense times politically, and the Bush administration in the US was gearing up for the Iraq War.  “The US has spy satellites that can not only see a man on the ground from way up in space, but they can also tell whether or not that man has shaved in the morning,” Damian Luca mused.  “Then why can’t they spot Osama Bin Laden and take him out?”  Those initial years of the new millennium were also the time when the internet was really coming into its own.


Damian Luca plas the "Gypsy Love Song", Cantec Moldovenesc.

Damian Luca was now getting on in years, and starting to reflect on his life, and what it all meant.  Above all, he compared and contrasted his own life with that of his bamboo brother Gheorghe Zamfir.  Zamfir had enjoyed tremendous fame, fortune and acclaim as King of the Pan Flute, whereas he had also enjoyed definite and solid success as a Pan Flutist, albeit on a more modest scale.  I spent many hours with Damian Luca philosophizing about his own life versus that of Zamfir.  Indeed, the whims of fate and fame can be fickle, but through it all, Damian Luca seemed to be quite pleased with where he ended up – as one of the top performers and recording artists on the Pan Flute, as well as a kind of elder statesman and professor emeritus of the Pan Flute, who was still quite active as a teacher.  Damian Luca taught in various music schools in Belgium and nearby Holland, and would take me with him to observe his classes and teaching methods, as well as his students and how they were progressing.  Damian Luca was of the opinion that I should return to the US and start my own Pan Flute school.

Damian Luca told me that his main objective in his lessons with me that spring would basically be to strengthen the very base or foundation of my playing – mainly to firm up my embouchure and my jaw control – which would improve everything I did and played on the Pan Flute.  He prescribed a strict regimen of basic scales, exercises and tone work -what musicians commonly refer to as “”woodshedding” or basic practice.  With this new and improved foundation, we tackled pieces that I had formerly only dreamed of playing, like “Hora Staccato”, or “Monti’s Czardas”.  Another piece we studied was a piece that I had fallen in love with when I first heard Damian play it at the UW in Seattle – Cantec Moldovenesc, or the Moldavian Song, AKA Cantec de Dragoste Moldovenesc, or the Moldavian Love Song – but heck – I just call it the Gypsy Love Song.  The piece, Damian told me, was first played by a gypsy violinist, and he had adapted it to the Pan Flute.  We also played some of his own compositions, which he had recorded on his albums, “Gypsy Feelings” and “I Love Panpipes”. 

Damian Luca was quite a prolific composer, and quite proud of his abilities in that department.  “Give me a sequence of four notes – any four notes – and I can make a song out of it,” Damian would boast.  As a gypsy, Damian Luca was heir to the Lautaresc style of Romanian folk music – the style of the gypsy musicians, or Lautari.  The gypsy Lautari may use the same outer forms as the white or “gringo” Romanian folk musicians, but their inner feel was totally different.  Above all, the gypsy Lautari are very famous for their own distinctive Horas.  In addition to being a prolific composer, Damian Luca also had a sense of humor in his composing.  Tinerete fara Batranete, or, “Youth Without Old Age” was a quick, upbeat Sirba in which the melodic line was always rushing forward without stopping – and hence the name.  And it was one of the pieces we studied.  If I had to encapsulate Damian Luca’s overall approach to Pan Flute teaching in one short phrase, it would be “Everybody loves a song.”  Damian Luca had written a series of “Easy Tunes” in several graded volumes, from beginner to advanced, with each tune incorporating certain technical problems or challenges on the Pan Flute.  Included in his curriculum of Pan Flute Tunes were songs he wrote about his dog, as well as his life, and many of them were quite lyrical, and a joy to play.  Make it fun – that’s the ticket! 

Damian Luca, as the elder statesman and professor emeritus of the Pan Flute community in Holland and Belgium, took issue with the way many of the more recent arrivals on the Pan Flute scene were teaching the Pan Flute.  Through years of disciplined practice and personal experimentation, he told me, he had come to the definite conclusion that it’s mainly the Pan Flute that needs to move, and not one’s head and neck, when moving from pipe to pipe, especially when executing the larger skips or intervals.  Yet there was a guy running a popular Pan Flute school in Switzerland who was insisting that his students move their heads and necks, and not their instruments, even to the point of having his students hold their Pan Flutes stationary while placing their elbows on easy chair armrests to force them to only move their heads and necks!  Not only is that way of playing poor or faulty technique, it is also way too costly in terms of bills paid for chiropractic neck adjustments! 

Damian Luca’s various dissatisfactions with the way that Pan Flute teaching, and the whole western European Pan Flute community, was going led to another dark episode in the recent history of the Pan Flute: that of what I call the “Pan Flute Wars.”  As I said, the internet was really coming into its own at the dawn of the new millennium, and for the Pan Flute community, that meant Pan Flute chat groups on the internet.  The first Pan Flute chat group to be established, to my knowledge, was Pan Flute World, which was run by Brad White, the “Aloha Cowboy” of the Pan Flute, a Pan Flute teacher and entrepreneur from Hawaii who happened to be visiting nearby Holland when I was with Damian Luca in Brussels.  The chat group seemed to center around a certain Romanian Pan Flute teacher who had achieved a degree of prominence in the Pan Flute community, which seemed to be sheltering him and providing him with support.  In Damian Luca’s opinion, this Romanian Pan Flute teacher was an impostor who couldn’t really play; and so, Damian Luca and his long time friend, Dan Herford, decided to take action. 

The action that they decided to take was in starting their own internet Pan Flute chat group, Pan Flute Page, which they said would be an online chat community in which Pan Flute enthusiasts would have better role models to emulate in bona fide master teachers and players of the instrument.  When I told Damian and Dan that I had quietly joined Pan Flute World I was suddenly conscripted, rather like a military paratrooper, and parachuted down into the middle of an incipient conflict.  Damian Luca wrote a rather judgmental letter that he addressed to those who he saw as the wayward, “wannabe” Pan Flutists and Pan Flute professors of Pan Flute World – “you know who you are” – announcing that he and Dan Herford were starting their own Pan Flute chat group under the guidance of real Pan Flutists and Pan Flute teachers.  And they got me to translate Damian’s letter into Romanian, then post it on Pan Flute World.  “Hiroshima!” “Nagasaki!” I exclaimed as we posted Damian’s inflammatory letter on Pan Flute World’s message board, with Dan looking over my shoulder.  Indeed, the initial atomic bomb of Pan Flute Wars had been dropped.  To this day, I still resent the way I was used in this manner. 

Okay – we’ve got our new and improved Pan Flute Page, and at least on paper, we’ve got some real, bona fide master players and teachers in our group.  So, c’mon guys – step up to the plate, let’s get involved!  I sent out postings of encouragement to these master players and teachers, but to my great disappointment, they didn’t get online, and didn’t share their great personal knowledge and expertise – not even Damian Luca!  The best I can figure is that these master Pan Flutists came up in the ranks of the Pan Flute in an age that preceded that of the internet, and – who knows? – they probably weren’t really computer friendly or literate.  One thing that they did do, however, was to participate as guest teachers at master classes and seminars organized and held in Switzerland by Michael Dinner, a great Swiss Pan Flute maker and player, and a great and helpful member of our chat group, in collaboration with Dan Herford.  Dan also used Pan Flute Page as a vehicle through which to organize and promote his brainchild, the Esprit de Fanica Luca Pan Flute Festival, which he held in Bucharest, Romania.  The Pan Flute talent that was showcased there was nothing short of phenomenal. 

Anyway, the Pan Flute Wars raged for a while online, and there were certainly some bitter and acrimonious attacks and exchanges between the two internet chat groups.  But eventually, the Pan Flute Wars fizzled out.  And that seemed to be the tendency of Pan Flute chat groups in general – they tend to run out of steam, and hosting them and stoking the fires to keep them going seems to be a fine art.  One guy who perennially seemed to be starting Pan Flute chat groups was an American who had his own Pan Flute school in Vermont, Douglas Bishop.  The central focus of the groups he started was to get away from what he saw as a “Eurocentric” orientation to the Pan Flute, and to be more open and accepting of what he saw as “other Pan Flute forms”.  To be Eurocentric, or not to be?  The whole question, to me, seems to revolve around how one defines the Pan Flute, and what I have called the Pan Flute’s identity crisis.

Damian Luca’s own attitude towards the internet seemed to be ambivalent at the very best.  I remember him calling the internet a mahala, which is a colloquial Romanian word for any place or scene that is wayward, chaotic or lawless.  He also talked about his nephew Damian Draghici and his website, and how it seemed like everyone with a website had to proclaim themselves as cel mai mare si cel mai tare, or, “the biggest and the baddest”.  One thing about the advent of the internet is that it has greatly democratized the whole business of music production and promotion, opening the field up to the little guy and the independent musical entrepreneur.  And “old guard” musicians and recording artists like Damian Luca who could not avail themselves of this independence when they were coming up through the ranks may have secretly felt at least a little envy and resentment for those of the younger generation, who were “going for it” and realizing their artistic vision in ways that they themselves had not had.  And the whole episode of the “Pan Flute Wars” seems to be one nasty way that this clash of ages and technologies manifested when it came to the Pan Flute.        

Conclusion: The Incredible World of the Pan Flute
The most amazing thing about the Pan Flute seems to be its incredible versatility of musical expression.  In my life as a Pan Flutist, I have played, in alphabetical order, the following styles and genres of music, to name a few: Andean, baroque, blues, classical, folk, funk, impressionist, jazz, Latin, opera, pop, rock, salsa, and much more.  I even played heavy metal on the Pan Flute once, but I don’t recommend it!  I have even fantasized about doing an “Around the World with the Pan Flute” video, with the player wearing various hats and costumes as he plays ethnic tunes from around the world, East to West.  Coming in a close second to the Pan Flute as a flute with awesome expressive capabilities and versatility seems to be the Japanese Shakuhachi – and I have been blessed to play that flute as well.  Yet the Pan Flute can easily slip into an East Asian mood as well, as was amply demonstrated by Gheorghe Zamfir on the soundtrack to “The Karate Kid”.  Wanna go out to the wild, Wild West?  Zamfir even did the famous “whistle call” phrase from the theme song to “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.  In fact, I once heard that Zamfir was the world’s most pirated recording artist – which is a great testament to the sheer universality of the Pan Flute’s appeal, albeit in a negative and dubious way.    

To borrow the terminology of Douglas Bishop, there has been a great diversity of different “Pan Flute forms” manifesting across a wide variety of world musical locales and cultures – from ancient Greece to ancient China and Japan, to South America and the Solomon Islands, and even beyond.  The internet chat group “Pan Flute World” truly represents a whole world of Pan Flute enthusiasts, from China, Japan and Korea in the East to Holland and the US in the West, and everywhere in between.  And each of these national and ethnic subgroups within Pan Flute World has their own distinctive musical aesthetics and approach to the instrument.  To demonstrate just how musically versatile the Pan Flute really is, there is even an Egyptian Pan Flutist who plays the intricate microtones of the Middle Eastern Maqqams on his instrument.  Indeed, the Pan Flute has something to say to music lovers around the world.