Radim Zenkl was born in Opava, Czech Republic. He grew up in the town of Ostrava (about 200 miles east of Prague), where his father teaches classical music at the University of Ostrava. Zenkl began his musical studies with piano and singing, then later on classical guitar. In addition to classical music, his early influences were folk music and Czech unique "tramp music". He began playing the mandolin at thirteen.
The discovery of bluegrass music came by listening to records that were smuggled in via those that had escaped from this communist country. The sound of a bluegrass mandolin initiated the spark that launched a decision to play music as a career at the age of seventeen and subsequently led Zenkl beyond bluegrass to an eclectic array of styles. Zenkl's choice of mandolin came as no great joy to his father, who claimed that the instrument had no "real" repertoire, fueling his desire to create one of his own. He started transcribing music from other instruments and later on began composing.
Radim's style features progressive original and eastern European traditional music flavored with bluegrass, jazz, new age, flamenco, rock, classical and other. The US Mandolin Champion is at the cutting edge of the mandolin's future, designing new instruments within the mandolin family and creating new playing techniques which sound like two instruments simultaneously. Besides collaborating with the top musicians of the acoustic music scene, Radim has built up an extensive repertoire for solo mandolin, mandola and Irish bouzouki. He has recorded eight solo CDs (released on Acoustic Disc, Shanachie and Ventana) and has appeared on more than sixty other recordings.
Zenkl went on to record two CDs for David Grisman's record label "Acoustic Disc". Galactic Mandolin (1992) is comprised of 13 original solo works, each in a different tuning. Czech It Out (1994) features original and Czech and Slovak traditional tunes on solo mandolin, mandocello and mandolin banjo.
On several occasions in 1995 he substituted for Mike Marshall in the classical group Modern Mandolin Quartet.
In the same year, Zenkl signed a recording contract with Shanachie Records and recorded String & Wings, which was released in 1996. Included in this CD are improvised duets with 20 different artists such as Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, David Grisman, Tony Rice and Rob Wasserman among others, featuring 20 different acoustic string instruments. A new CD entitled Restless Joy was released in November 1999.
Today, Zenkl's virtuosity and innovation have placed him at the forefront of the modern acoustic music scene.
Empty Sea Studios (View)
6300 Phinney Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103
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