Max ZT

Region: Middle East, USA, West Africa

Max ZT, a hammered dulcimer player born in Chicago but currently living in Brooklyn, combines fast hands and an ear for African rhythms into a style of music that merges the influences of the East and West seamlessly.

Max ZT: “Turquoise”

Max ZT started playing the hammered dulcimer when he was seven years old after he saw it in a live performance at a folk festival near Chicago. Little did he know that his first exposure to the instrument would eventually lead to his winning various competitions, traveling the world to study music and eventually pursue a career as a performing artist.

When music blog ConcreteBeat asked Max to describe his music he said, “It’s not world and it’s not progressive.” His percussionist collaborator, Rich Stein, elaborated by adding “it’s just what you get when a couple of white boys roam the world and then you throw them together and let them make music – there’s no real definition.” The modest duo left it up to Tony Sarabia of NPR’s Morning Edition to hail Max ZT as “The Jimi Hendrix of the hammered dulcimer.”

After his initial experience with the dulcimer, Max ZT began taking private lessons with singer/songwriter Kat Eggleston and immersing himself in the American traditions of the instrument for the following 11 years. In 2000, he recorded his first album of traditional Irish and American Folk pieces on the Southport record label. Soon after the release of this first disk, Too Heavy To Carry, he found himself searching for something new, a more open style of music. The realization that he needed more freedom within his music led to the conclusion that the missing element in the traditional approach to the hammered dulcimer was improvisation.

On visiting Senegal, the young composer realized that the traditional 21-stringed Kora had a similar tuning to his dulcimer. Max ZT decided to combine the two instruments to create a uniquely beautiful and un-harnessed. In exploring this connection, Max learned West African rhythms and musical forms that he eventually interpreted and incorporated into his own musical voice. Additionally, his experience playing in Bard’s Chinese music ensemble further expanded his musical sphere.

After winning the National Hammered Dulcimer Championship in 2005, spending 5 weeks building dulcimers in Oklahoma in 2007, and releasing three cds, Max has now moved to Brooklyn, New York to work on a fourth album and continue expanding his musical knowledge.

• Too Heavy To Carry, 2000
• Many Tastes Are Loaded, 2005
• Two Roofs, 2008


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