Discovering Serenity with Gheorghe Zamfir’s “The Lonely Shepherd”

Zamfir Greatest Hits

Zamfir Gold Greatest Hits album (Photo credit: Gheorghe Zamfir)

Credited for making the pan flute an unlikely instrument of music, Romanian-born Georghe Zamfir has been doing so, eloquently, for over fifty years, and continues to amaze audiences all over the world with his talent. There’s something to be said for gifted instrumentalists; they don’t have the power of lyrics and a human voice to make their music appeal to an audience. So their ability to convey the appropriate emotion for a particular song and tell an engaging story through their instrument alone has to be, well, pretty darned amazing. 

The first time I became aware of Zamfir was during of my freshman year at university, when my brother first brought home a cassette of one of his eponymously-titled albums. We were cramming for our mid-term exams like crazy all week, trying to finish papers by the next day’s deadline, and quickly realizing that caffeine was pretty ineffective for pulling all-nighters. Stress abounded in merciless abundance. Before I had even taken out the cassette, I briefly noted that the artist had a rather exotic and “cool-sounding” surname. That alone made the cassette worth playing.

This was my first encounter with that erudite creature called international music. If there’s a cachet to listening to (and liking) it, I was not unaware of it then. It didn’t matter; it was love at first sound with the James Last-penned “The Lonely Shepherd”. I was immediately hooked on Zamfir’s other instrumentals as well, which span a gamut of styles, from romantic and contemplative (“Danny Boy”, “Somewhere My Love”, “She”, “Memory”, “Ave Maria”) to dramatic (“Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”, “Chariots of Fire”), and stir an equally rich range of spine-tingling emotions. Longing. Joy. Discovery. Acceptance. Sorrow. Zamfir made the stresses of university life recede into the background–at least, temporarily. His music gave me a place to go when I wanted peace and solitude.

Fast forward (quite a few years later) to present day. In fact, it was not until quite recently, when a fellow WordPress blogger embedded a Youtube video on her blog post that showed the visceral glory of Mother Nature in all her moods while “The Lonely Shepherd” played in the background, that I was taken back to the time of my first acquaintance with Zamfir.

“The Lonely Shepherd” is Zamfir’s signature piece, and a hauntingly romantic one that never fails to make me recall the hectic memories of my university days. “The Lonely Shepherd” is my favourite song, because it evokes personal images of the bucolic: sweeping and desolate expanses of wild meadows, and snow-capped mountain tops extending to the infinity of the skies. A pent-up yearning for a simpler time. A balm with which to soothe the weary soul, when going off the grid is a necessity. It paints a world of deep, emerald greens and sapphire blues; and a place of raw beauty and serenity that I can take with me, wherever I go.


9 thoughts on “Discovering Serenity with Gheorghe Zamfir’s “The Lonely Shepherd”

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