Best Street Musician: And most accomplished cimbalom player

Michael Masley

Masley says he’s spent more hours playing on the streets of Berkeley, the city he moved to in 1985, than any other musician. While we may have to take his word on that, his credentials don’t end there. His prowess at the cimbalom, a variation of the hammered dulcimer — a string instrument whose origins go back at least two thousand years into ancient Persia — has been recognized far beyond the East Bay. A large part of that comes from his invention of bowhammers, clawlike appendages of brass and horsehair he uses to strike and scrape the instrument’s strings. His ethereal music is in rotation at NPR. He’s worked in the studio with Chris Isaak, Ry Cooder, and Tom Waits. He’s released multiple CDs to rave reviews. And he’s the subject of a much-delayed documentary, Art Officially Favored, set for release soon. Masley continues to perform frequently on Telegraph Avenue.

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