Primary Instrument: Percussion
Percussionist Chen Zimbalista is a force of nature. Exhibiting preternatural musical skills since he was a child, this Israeli-born performer has gone on to master over 40 exotic instruments from dozens of countries, and has proven himself equally adept at performing complex Classical compositions as he is at home with World music and jazz.
On stage, Zimbalista is an explosive, riveting presence. His energetic shows are a visceral experience that must be seen, not only heard. His disarming stage manner and raw physicality manage to engage even the most reserved audiences to become active participants in the event. He's an international 'best kept secret' -- about to electrify America.
Soon to tour the U.S. as a headliner (and to guest with Chamber Ensemble Concertante as well,) Zimbalista remains relatively unknown in America. Though, The Los Angeles Times took note of his show-stopping performance as a Guest Performer with the LA Jewish Symphony, raving that Chen ought to be a household name in this country. Zimbalista is a young, muscular, intense dynamo with charisma to burn and a precise technique that knows no stylistic bounds. He's also a showman who knows how to make an entrance. He reeled off an extraordinary solo, one with kinetic impact, a sense of direction and melodic logic and it swung like mad. Why can't all drum solos be like this…?
About Marimba & Percussion Soloist Chen Zimbalista: Chen Zimbalista has dazzled audiences around the globe with his popular solo percussion performances. He studied with Mr. Alon Bohr (Israel Philharmonic Orchestra), at the Tel?-Aviv Academy of Music, Professor Morris Lang (New York Philharmonic), and with Professor Bent Lillof in Copenhagen. Chen has performed with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Israel Chamber Orchestra, and all of the leading orchestras in Israel. In the United States, he has performed with the Detroit Symphony, the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony and the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players. Chen has won several prizes, including the Francois Shapira Prize, the Young Artists Performing Israeli Music Prize, and the first prize from the National Council for Culture and Arts for performing his work Impulse 1. Chen's unique creativity has inspired composers to write especially for him: Noam Sheriff, Menachem Weisberg, Benjamin Yosopov and Mark Hagerty. He has recorded a CD with the cooperation of the Jerusalem Music Center, as well as a solo CD, Desert Beat, on Koch Discovery. He has toured China, the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Italy, Africa, Turkey, England, France and Taiwan. Chen has performed at Festivals all over the world, including the Israel Festival, The Tel?-Aviv Museum Biannual for Contemporary Music, and Kfar Blum Music Festival, where he serves as Musical Consultant in Israel; the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival, Bahnhof Rolandseck Music Festival in Germany; The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, DC) and Art Midwest festival in the U.S.; Stresa Music Festival in Italy and Kaohsiung Arts Festival in Taiwan. A believer that music transcends all boundaries, and can demonstrate the importance of respecting and appreciating others' differences, some of Chen's most successful performances have been in Turkey, in Africa at a special Peace Concert, in Germany with the Stuttgart Percussion Ensemble as well as at the Israel Festival 2000. He has also played the opening outdoor concert for the Israel Festival in 2001. He is currently the Music Director for the Tom Tom Festival in Natania, Israel.
MULTIPLE PROGRAMS: Zimbalista draws his programs from Classical, blues, jazz and world musics. His range is evident in the variety of repertoires he delivers, from the sublime melodies of Bach to the rhythmically, hard-driving Ney Rosauro Concerto for Marimba & Orchestra to the modern works of Israeli composer Benjamin Yusopov. Chen's Classical activities include recitals, solos with orchestra and chamber music. Recitals are Solo, Duo and Trio with Piano, Cello and two percussion players. His Concertos feature Bach, Bizet, Ney Rosauro, Lena Sokolovsky, Eugene Levitas, Chen Yi, Galin, Yusupov. The music ranges from Menachem Weisenberg, Rich O'Meara, Shostakovich, Miki, Bizet, Villa Lobos to original compositions by Zimbalista. The World Percussion music concert includes two or three percussion players and piano/keyboard player. The music ranges from Japanese, Brazilian, American, Middle Eastern Improvisation to his Bach in Africa project. He has also performed at the Peace concert in Angola a collaboration with a dance company. Chen does Master Classes, as well as Education and Family concerts. His ZIMBA show is an interactive concert for audience and five performers - percussionist/drummer, dancer, singer, bass player. His ARTDUO program is a collaboration with Zahi Patish, dancer and Video artist.
Mysticism or happenstance, Chen Zimbalista traces his name to an eastern European ancestor who played the cimbalom.
More from The LA TIMES review: Zimbalista made easy work of Hadas Goldschmidt-Halfon's fascinating new percussion concerto, Knock on Wood, with its difficult two-handed polyrhythms on marimba, bongos, temple blocks and tom-toms and its gently syncopated slow movement on triangles and glockenspiel. And with conductor Noreen Green and orchestra scrambling to keep pace, Zimbalista impishly led everyone, including us, in a frantic Shlomo Gronich scherzo called Go... The Los Angeles Times, By Richard S. Ginell
Zimbalista uses his entire body to coax rhythmic sounds from his fascinating array of instruments, which range from the well-known marimba to the more obscure (and rare) handmade Zilgian Turkish cymbals, to Chinese Crotales Bells, to 15 different tambourines from seven different countries. Here's a sampling of some of the percussive objects Chen brings to life, with brief descriptions by the artist himself:
4 Marimbas- 3 in Israel 1 in Berlin
1. Musser Marimba: This is my first 4 octave marimba, that my parents bought me in 1980 (after my mom sold her car!) I now endorse Musser instruments.
2. Saito: 4,5 octave Japanese marimba that I got from the American Israel Culture Foundation.
3. Two 5 octave Musser that I got about 8 years ago. All marimbas have special rosewood bars that are from Belize in S. America.
4. An African marimba that I got as a present in Angola (after a Peace concert that we played there, in a refugee camp).
5. 2 Musser Vibes: one in Israel, one in Berlin. The one in Israel is very old & special, I bought it in NY, in 1990, from a recording studio, despite being old, it has the best, warmest sound on Earth.
6. Xylophone - my first mallet instrument that my parents bought me at age of 12 (I still use it).
Bells: A small set that I found in an old music shop in Tel Aviv…the store owner got it from the Egyptian Army band after the Six Day War! Amazing set.
Cymbals: 20-25 cymbals
A special set of two 20" Zilgian Istanbul cymbals that were hand made in Turkey before the factory moved to the US, and before they changed the production to machine made.
Gongs: 20 gongs
All different sizes & sounds, as well as a set of tuned gongs from China, Tibet & who knows where else! Sized from 10"-50". Some were found in little markets, in different countries. One gong I bought from a guy in Brooklyn when I was student at the Brooklyn Conservatory. He needed money, and it was a beautiful sounding gong, so I bought from him.
Bells & Crotales: (a bell made of heavier metal, and have different sizes, and are from China): from all over that I usually found in different markets around the globe.
2 concert bass drums
4 Kick bass drums
2 Kodo Chinese Drums
3 Duki (Indian tunable Drums)
5 tom toms (Sonor, Germany)
6 Snare Drums
15-tambourines- from Israel, Egypt, Brazil, Indian, Italia, Buchara, Maroko. Tablas-India
4 Dumbeks- from the Sinai desert & Cairo. I was on vacation in Sinai with my family, and came across a guy who asked to buy my 10 year old daughter, for 3,000 camels. I said no thanks, but I'll take your Dumbek. Then there was much haggling over the cost of the drum. But, I got it for about $120. No camels were exchanged.
20 Temple blocks, cow bells & wood blocks
2 Tympanis that my teacher, Morris Lang, built for me in NY
Around 300 marimba sticks & other percussion sticks