Douduk The Sound of Armenia
Armenian folk-music has come down to us from ancient times,continually influenced by and influencing the musical cultures of other MiddleEastern peoples. It embraces work-songs as well as ritual and funeral songs.
The art of the gusans and ashugs, medieval Orientalminstrels, played an important role in the development of folklore. They used avariety of musical instruments: string-bow (kamancha and bambir),string-pizzicato (tar, saz, kanoon), wind (sring, zourna, douduk) andpercussion (dhol, tmbuk).
The music itself is fundamentally monophonic. Musicalintervals are based on the diatonic scale, like the old Greek modes as well asnon-diatonic mugam intervals. Rhythmically, Armenian music is very free; onecan hear metrical changes, asymmetric rhythms (5/8, 7/8 etc) and syncopations.
The whole of the Middle East has for a long time expresseditself in dialects of one and the same musical language, using very similarinstruments. But at the same time each nation has its primordial, maininstrument, the living essence of the soul. One of them is the douduk; it isthe quintessential Armenian instrument.
The origins of the douduk (pronounced doo-dook) predatePersian-Arabic traditions and it is much older than the Christian hymns. Thedouduk has its own special voice, of inimitable beauty: soft, with a slightlynasal timbre. Perhaps it retains the voice and soul of the apricot tree, fromwhich it is carved. Or perhaps the soul of the Armenian resides in this simplepipe with seven holes. Or maybe it reflects the passion, celebration, andsuffering of Armenia? At any rate, the douduk has a 1500-year-old history andis considered the most 'Armenian' of all folk instruments.
In the life of the people, the douduk is heard as often atweddings and other cheerful celebrations as at solemn occasions such asfunerals. For dances, the rhythmic music of the douduk usually involves one ortwo other douduks, as well as the dhol. It is equally effective as a solo orensemble instrument. The child of an ancient pagan culture, the douduk hassurvived until our own day, in the manner of an old proverb, captivating in itssimplicity and tonal beauty.
The douduk is acylindrical instrument made of apricot wood, typically 28, 33, or 40 cm inlength. It has eight or nine finger holes and one thumb hole which togetherprovide a range of one octave. The double reed, also known as ramish or yeghegin Armenian, is typically 9-14 cm in length and surrounded by a thin flexiblewood binding that slides along the length of the reed. This binding is used fortuning the douduk by controlling the opening and closing of the reed. The reeditself grows plentifully along the Arax River in Armenia.
On this recording the douduk is heard in the company of someother widely used Armenian folk instruments, the kamancha, kanoon and oud.
The kamancha appeared in Armenia in medieval times. The mostfamous kamancha-player was the eighteenth-century ashug Sayat-Nova. Until 1912kamanchas had only three strings, but a fourth string was added thanks to thegreat kamancha-player Alexander Hovanisyan. With this the range of theinstrument increased and enhanced the instrument's technical and sonicpotential. The kamancha is the primary instrument of folk orchestras, much thesame as the violin is in symphonic music. Indeed, it is very often called theviolin of the East, and is capable of producing music of contrasting character- sad, joyful and dancelike.
The oud (a type of lute) is widespread throughout themusical circles in Armenia, a great favourite of folk-music lovers. It is alsoconsidered to be the main instrument of the East. The oud originated in ancientPersia, where it was called 'babat', meaning 'tree'. At first it had only two strings and was made from turtleshell with a leather cover, but over time its shape and name changed severaltimes. Now it has five strings and as a result increased technical and sonicpossibilities. The oud plays the leading role in folk ensembles and, with arange of three octaves, it frequently plays solo parts.
Lastly, the kanoon is a delicate instrument with a voicethat may be likened to silver bells. It has been known in Turkey and Arabcountries for a very long time. In the 16th and 17th centuries it spread to theCaucasus and especially to Armenia. At first the instrument was played inKilicia (the former part of Armenia which is now located in Southeastern Turkey)only by men. But now in Armenia it is typically played by women. The kanoon hasa very wide range of technical possibilities since it has 75 strings and arange of three octaves. Musicians play the kanoon as often in ensembles assolo.
Most of the tunes presented on this album are traditionalfolk songs and dances, created by the people themselves many years ago forvarious purposes and still very popular among Armenians. All of them had andstill have some practical usage and are sung at specific events.
Thus Horovel and Vakhenam knem are typical work-songs of thevillagers. Khani vur jan im, Dzenet khahtzir ounis, Hayots akhchikner, Ser, imsirun es, Sari sirun yar, and Es me gharib blbuli pes are tender love songs,depicting the feelings and sufferings of enamoured couples. Erzroumi shoror, Gyoumrva parer,Khazakhi, and Tuy-tuy are folk dances from different regions of Armenia.
Having kept its expressive empathy with the human soul, thedouduk has now become an instrument of the world. The soulful sound of the douduk was recently in the WorldMusic spotlight thanks to musical artist Peter Gabriel. Gabriel has integratedthe douduk into several recordings including the soundtrack to The LastTemptation of Christ. Armenian douduk master Djivan Gasparyan has also recentlyrecorded with guitarist Michael Brooks for the Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator.I am sure we'll hear its mellow, feminine voice in new and unexpected contexts.
The producer of this album is the president of ARDZAGANKMusic Company, Mr Yeghishe Petrosyan - musician, singer, composer and one ofthe founders of the group Ardzagank, the very popular, almost legendary,Armenian rock band. Although continuing to pursue his creative activities, MrPetrosyan also remains deeply committed to producing young talented musiciansof various genres.