national instrument of Armenia is a popular
item at souvenir places such as vernissage.
Duduk's tender and fragile sounds are spreading
throughout the majestic Armenian mountains, telling
our history in the echo lost far beyond.
"This 35 centimeter-long small instrument
contains the history of the one entire nation,"
believes world-known duduk player, Jivan Gasparyan.
The deep and velvet sounds of the duduk come
alive when Armenian melodies are played. Even
cheerful melodies are tinged with grief when sounded
in the unique tone quality of duduk.
The Armenian duduk is made exceptionally from
the wood of the apricot tree. Duduks made from
apricot trees growing in the mountainous areas
of Armenia are even more prized.
"Apricots of the mountainous parts of Armenia
are sweet and have the unique taste and wood of
apricot trees from those areas sound sweet and
unique as well," says Liova Manukyan, a duduk
maker and master with 30 years of experience.
The musical ancestors of the duduk existed as
long ago as 4,000 years ago. These musical instruments
were found in Egypt, however, its use was more
widespread in the Caucasus.
It takes several hours to craft this Armenian
delicate musical instrument from unshaped pieces
of wood. Duduks have eight holes and one thumbhole.
The instrument is 12 millimeters in diameter and
the holes' distance from each other are made in
accordance with the notes. If the note is lower,
then a hole is made deeper, and vice versa. A
ghamish (a tube made of reed) is placed at the
end of the duduk and it plays the role of mediator
between the player and the duduk itself.
You can purchase hand-crafted duduks at vernissage,
the popular outdoor craft market held every weekend
in Yerevan, from masters who make the instruments
themselves. If you are lucky, you can catch them
in their spare time relaxing and playing the duduk
for a break from Vernissage's bustle.
Prices vary from $10 to $25 per instrument. Cheap
duduks are not tuned correctly and are for non-professionals.
The more expensive duduks can be used as professional
instruments. Duduk master Samvel Grigoryan assures
that the process of making duduks lasts several
hours, however, for tuning the duduk correctly
it can take several days. "I'm sitting next
to a piano for hours or check the sounding of
new duduk with a tuning fork," says Grigoryan,
who is a musician with 25 years of experience
and has become a duduk craftsman.
Stepan Hakobyan, another duduk maker at Vernissage,
comes from a family who inherited the art of making
duduks from their grandfathers. Hakobyan says
it takes only three hours for him to turn a piece
of wood into a duduk.
takes an apricot tree and a specialist to
make a duduk.
"It's not hard to make a duduk, however,
new things have just appeared such as notes and
tuning. I'm trying to tune it a little, but whatever
you do, the duduk will sound good anyway."
Selling duduks is seasonal. More instruments
are sold in September when many children need
them for their music lessons. In the winter and
summer months on weekends, only an average of
two duduks are sold.
Gevorg Dabaghyan and Jivan Gasparyan are among
the best players of Armenian duduk. Gasparyan
is considered the face of Armenian duduk. His
recent contributions to film scores such as "Gladiator"
have brought new attention to the largely-unknown
wind instrument. In concerts across the world,
Gasparyan and Dabaghyan have presented an ancient
instrument to new audiences.
"Once when I was 10, I heard the duduk and
I fell in love with it. After the concert I approached
duduk player Margar Margaryan and asked him to
give me a duduk. He replied, "Go, learn something,
find a job and become someone."
But the sound of the duduk had pierced the soul
of young Jivan too deeply. He became someone with
the help of this instrument.
"I gathered bottles and handed them over
for recycling," Gasparyan recalls with a
nostalgic smile. "Then I went to Margar Margaryan
holding a lot of 20 kopecks (coins) in my palm.
I gave these kopecks to him and told him to give
me a duduk.
"He didn't take my money, of course. He
silently kissed my forehead and gave me a duduk.
I saw him several months later and played the
duduk in front of him. His eyes filled with tears.
"He took a better duduk out of his pocket,
gave it to me and said 'Continue playing, you
will become someone'."