Damian Draghici
Romanian Gypsy Panflute Virtuoso
Lyrichord (www.lyrichord.com)

CD cover Draghici is an acknowledged master of this somewhat difficult to enjoy instrument. He learned folk tunes in Romania and after the revolution, tried to make a go of it in the rest of Europe. The outside world was less than kind to him, and this focused him into learning more theory, including a degree from Berklee. This American produced album is the result of his extensive technical knowledge combined with his Roma (Gypsy) heritage.

The Roma/Gypsy people have more music flowing through their veins than any other people outside of Africa. Their origins in India and their mixture of Middle Eastern and European ancestry shapes this album farther east than would be true of a non-Roma panflute player. The liner notes are folksy and revealing. Draghici himself writes about each song, what it means to him, and also gives a long history of his career. The music in this album ebbs and flows behind the panflute's lead.

"Beyond The Black Sea"
In Europe, the panflute is also played as a classical instrument. Hearing this somewhat formal instrument hanging with the Gypsy caravans and Middle Eastern bazaars is somewhat akin to listening to Mozart at a barn dance; it sounds great but the atmosphere is odd and takes some getting used to. Luckily, in Draghici's hands, it works, resulting in a new setting for this instrument.

What is most unusual is that Draghici plays in those minor Middle Eastern keys. By switching keys he successfully adds Turkish, Gypsy, Greek and Middle Eastern styles to the panflute's repertoire. From his extensive repertoire, he includes Indian, ambient, and even jazz elements as well. On the song "Gypsy Flavor," the panflute and the guitar circle each other like a bull and bullfighter. When they finally get close enough to fight they end up sedately dancing instead. "Because You Are Beautiful" is a slow, savory dance, joined by more Middle Eastern instruments to end in a circle dance. The best tracks follow rhythms set by the frame drum and clay drum The last few tracks are sparse and sleepy and backed by the drone. This works less well for an instrument with so little timbre.

Joining Draghici are Omar Faruk Tekbilek on plenty of eastern stringed instruments, Chris Cunningham on guitars, and Randy Crafton adding percussion. Sitting in are musicians from Celtic, Turkish and Indian traditions. They add a necessary volume to the recording, filling in lots of empty spaces left by the panflute. - Brian Grosjean

Audio: "Beyond The Black Sea" Damian Draghici;
© 1999 Lyrichord Records; used by express permission

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