January 15, 2010

Duduk as the proud of Armenia

One of my friends asked me about "duduk" or "balaban", so, I decided to prepare an article for those of you who don't know much about this magical Armenian instrument yet.

History of Duduk

The Duduk is one of the oldest double reed instruments in the world. It's origins can be traced back to the times of the Armenian king Tigran the Great (95–55 BC). The instrument is depicted in numerous Armenian manuscripts of the Middle Ages. The name of the instrument is pronounced "doodook" in Armenian.

Duduk is one of the unique instruments that has Armenian origin. Because of its uniqueness, throughout the centuries, the duduk has traveled to many neighboring countries and has undergone a few changes in each of them, such as the specific tuning and the number of holes, etc. Now variants of duduk can be found in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Persia, and even as far away as the Balkans.

The duduk now is very popular in Europe, Asia and Ameriaca. Before I continute just enjoy this breathtaking performance by Pedro Eustache (Venezuelan musician) (Duduk), Samvel Yervinyan (Armenian) (Violin), & Armen Movsessian (Armenian) (Violin) at Yanni live concert.

Besides the changes in construction, the name has also been changed in some countries. The Armenian word "duduk" changed to "duduki" (in Georgia), it is also referred to as "mey" (in Turkey) and "balaban" (in Azerbaijan and in parts of Central Asia).

While other countries may use the wood from other fruit and/or nut trees when making their instruments, in Armenia, the best wood for making duduks has been found to be from the apricot tree (apricot is "Prunus armeniaca" in Latin which means "Armenian plum").

It is known as the best material for duduk for it's unique ability to resonate a sound that is unique to the Armenian duduk. All of the other variations of the instrument found in other countries have a very reed-like, strongly nasal sound, whereas the Armenian duduk has been specifically developed to produce a warm, soft tone which is closer to a voice than to a reed. It should be noted that in order to further accentuate these qualities, a particular technique of reed making has evolved, as well.

Recent appearances of the duduk in various movies and TV soundtracks ("The Last Temptation of Christ", "The Crow", "Zena, Warrior Princess", etc...) has accentuated its evocative and soulful side.

It may surprise some to find that it is also quite capable of a wide range of melodies, including rhythmic dance tunes. May be because of this wide range of expression, combined with the depth and power of it's sound, that the duduk has truly become a part of everyday life in Armenia. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that no wedding, festive occasion or family gathering would be complete without duduk music.

It may also surprise you when you know that Armenians use duduk for both funeral and wedding ceremonies.

Duduk-the instrument

Originally the duduk is made from two pieces: a large double reed made of reed/cane and a body made of wood. This is the form that is still in use today.

The reed, called "Ramish" in Armenian (pronounced as "rah-meesh"), is basically a tube made of reed/cane that has been flattened on one end (and left cylindrical at the other), whose shape closely resembles a duck's bill. It can be anywhere from 3" to 4.5" long, and 3/4" to 1 1/4" wide depending on the maker and the key of duduk it corresponds to. The fact that the opposite sides of the tube come together, and thus produces the sound, makes this a double reed. Because the reed expands as it is played, a small bridle is used to regulate the aperture of the reed. Connected to this bridle is a small cap that is used to keep the reed closed when it is not being played.

The Armenian duduk itself is a cylindrical tube made of apricot wood, and as the photo shows, it has eight playable finger holes on one side of the instrument (#2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 in the photo), with a single thumb hole on the back for the top hand (#3 in the photo). There is a tenth hole (#11 in the photo) that is needed for tuning, and depending on the maker it can be located on the top or on the bottom of the instrument (Master Karlen, "MKS", and Master Souren, "SAM", put their holes on the bottom, while Master Ruben, "RR", puts his on the top). While you hardly use this tenth hole, the benefit to having the hole on the bottom is that you will be able to play that note either by pulling the instrument to your stomach (with all of the holes closed) if you are standing, or by using your knee if you are sitting.

The Armenian duduk is a deceptively simple instrument. It's range is primarily a single octave, with a couple of notes above and below at either end. It is untempered and diatonic, and it is available in a range of keys (depending on the maker). What makes the instrument so difficult is that all of the chromatic intervals are made by half-holing each note, you do not use any "forked-tuning" when playing the duduk. To make this easier, however, the holes have been made relatively large compared to the overall size of the instrument. This allows for more "play" between the notes, and it contributes to the rich, full sound of the instrument. Keep in mind that this also means that you have to blow harder to get that sound, as well as work harder in order to keep the notes in tune...something that is very difficult in the beginning, but well worth it in the end!

Famous Duduk Players
As Duduk is a national Armenian instrument the best Duduk players are Armenains. One the best duduk players is Jivan Gasparyan.

The story of Jivan Gasparyan's life is fantastic, as he managed to turn from an orphanage boy to the best duduk player in the world and to the first Armenian who was nominated for GRAMMY Award.

He is also "Golden Globe" and "Womex Lifetime Achievement Award" winner.

He wrote soundtracks for such world known films as "The Last Temptation of the Christ", "Gladiator", "Calendar", "Doctor Givago" and many others.

Jivan Gasparyan also cooperated with Lionel Richie, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Boris Grebenshchikov, Erkan Ogur and other famous performers.


Vladimir Presnyakov & Jivan Gasparian

Erkan O─čur & Djivan Gasparyan - "Mayrig" ("Mother")

Find out more at: http://www.gasparyanjivan.com/

Gevorg Dabaghyan is also known as one of the best Duduk players in the world.

The professionals say, though, the technique for playing the duduk may take years to perfect, when you finally get there, you will have attained a level of direct control and expressiveness that no other instrument can give you, which is probably what drew you to the duduk in the first place!


Find out more at: http://www.dabaghyan.com/

How to keep Duduk

It was very interesting what a simple and brilliant method Armenians use to keep the duduk.

The reeds should be allowed to dry out, and they should be left out in the open after they have been played. Duduk players often store them in sun-glasses cases with holes (3/8") drilled in them for ventilation. If they are stored moist in a closed container, they will soon mildew and get moldy. Remember to always loosen the bridle and keep the closing cap on when they are not being played.
The Armenian Duduk itself only needs to be lightly oiled on the outside every so often. You do not ever want to put oil inside the duduk, as this will change it's sound. For this you can use the method that has been used for hundreds of years. To do this you need a hammer, 3 or 4 walnuts , and a nice piece of cloth. Put the walnuts in the cloth , wrap the cloth tight, start hitting the walnuts gently until you see the oil of the walnuts spreading on the cloth.
Using the cloth, gently apply the oily cloth on the duduk. You can use this cloth several times until the oil on the cloth starts to dry out. Walnut contains natural minerals, vitamins, and oil , this will preserve your instrument for many years. you can also use almond oil, or any other neutral, non-vegetable based oil (vegetable oil will go rancid on you).

You can store your duduk many different ways , one thing you need to remember is not to let your duduk under the sun or expose your duduk to heat, moisture, or liquids. You can store the duduks in a closed compartment, such as gun cases, brief cases, or something that has cushion that will prevent the duduk from damaging when transporting the duduk. Or you can use soft cloth to wrap the duduk.

Here you can watch how Master Karen makes duduks.

Duduk is the proud of Armenia.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice post about Duduk, made me more interested to listen to this instrument and know more about it!


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