FolkWorld #75 07/2021
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Music Performed on Armenian Duduk

Music Performe on Armenian Duduk
Armenian duduk master: Arsen Petrosyan has recently emerged as one of his generation’s main proponents of the Armenian duduk. Following in the footsteps of established duduk masters such as his mentor Gevorg Dabaghyan, and Djivan Gasparyan, Petrosyan has carved his own path through diverse collaborations with the likes of Genesis’ guitarist Steve Hackett, Emirati composer Ihab Darwish and oudist Omar Bashir, among others. With both of his ensembles, A.G.A Trio and the Arsen Petrosyan Quartet, he has performed throughout Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus. As a solo artist, Petrosyan has also toured extensively in North America. Born and raised in Charentsavan, Armenia, where he still resides, Petrosyan’s more immediate familial roots are from the ethnic Armenian enclave of Javakhk (in the Republic of Georgia), while his ancestral homeland is in Erzurum (now in modern-day Turkey). He received his Master’s Degree in Music (Duduk concentration) at the Komitas Conservatory of Yerevan in 2016.

Arsen Petrosyan
Liner Notes by Raffi Meneshian: Arsen Petrosyan’s second solo album, entitled Hokin Janapar: Music Performed on Armenian Duduk, was born under unexpected circumstances. Recorded within two months, as the sessions were wrapping up at the end of September 2020, Petrosyan and his musical collaborators were greeted with horrifying news that the ethnically-Armenian Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) had been attacked by neighbouring Azerbaijan. As a result, his generation of men and women were immediately summoned to protect historic Armenian lands that were within complicated geopolitical boundaries. Petrosyan slept in the studio while the post production work took place as his team raced against time. When he left the studio – recorded master in hand – Armenia had become a different place. Hokin Janapar is a diverse collection of eleven pieces that spans different eras and genres within Armenia’s historical timeline. Petrosyan’s program, although varied, does share a common chord – that of the Armenian duduk. Often regarded as one of the more emotive instruments in the global woodwind family, the duduk cannot be performed in a passive manner. To emit a sound from this double-reeded Armenian woodwind, made of apricot wood, one needs to blow what feels like their soul into the instrument. Since his debut album (Charentsavan, Pomegranate Music, 2015), Petrosyan has been collecting material by going back and reflecting on some of the pieces that meant the most to him personally. Whether they be tunes his father used to hum, or melodies that caught his attention from ethnic minorities such as the Hamshens, or songs that simply piqued his emotions. Hokin Janapar, meaning ‘my soul’s journey’ in Armenian, is Arsen Petrosyan’s nostalgic exploration into music that has stirred his soul, which also reflects the continued odyssey of the Armenian nation. Petrosyan’s historic Armenian roots are from Erzurum (now in modern-day Turkey), while his more immediate lineage can be drawn from the ethnic Armenian enclave of Javakhk (now in modern-day Georgia). A resident of Armenia, Arsen Petrosyan is more than just a duduk player. He is, in part, the beneficiary and carrier of a cultural legacy that spans several millennia. The pieces on this album aren’t just songs, rather, they are a document of a nation and culture that refuses to die.

Arsen Petrosyan "Hokin Janapar: Music Performed on Armenian Duduk", ARC Music, 2021

A.G.A Trio

Artist Video Meet the A.G.A Trio |

The duduk (/dˈdk/ doo-DOOK; Armenian: դուդուկ IPA: [duˈduk]) or tsiranapogh (Armenian: ծիրանափող, meaning “apricot-made wind instrument”), is an ancient Armenian double reed woodwind instrument made of apricot wood. It is indigenous to Armenia. Variations of the Armenian duduk appear throughout the Caucasus and the Middle East, including Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, Turkey, and Iran. It is commonly played in pairs: while the first player plays the melody, the second plays a steady drone called dum, and the sound of the two instruments together creates a richer, more haunting sound.

Djivan Gasparyan

The unflattened reed and cylindrical body produce a sound closer to the English horn than the oboe or bassoon. Unlike other double reed instruments like the oboe or shawm, the duduk has a very large reed proportional to its size.

UNESCO proclaimed the Armenian duduk and its music as a Masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005 and inscribed it in 2008. Duduk music has been used in a number of films, most notably in The Russia House and Gladiator.


The word düdük is of Turkish origin (Ottoman Turkish: دودوك düdük), itself derived from Persian tutak. In Armenia, the instrument is also known as tsiranapogh (ծիրանափող).

This instrument is not to be confused with the northwestern Bulgarian folk instrument of the same name (see below, Balkan duduk). Similar instruments used in other parts of Western Asia are the mey and balaban.


The duduk is a double reed instrument with ancient origins, having existed since at least the fifth century, while there are Armenian scholars who believe it existed more than 1,500 years before that. The earliest instruments similar to the duduk's present form are made of bone or entirely of cane. Today, the duduk is exclusively made of wood with a large double reed, with the body made from aged apricot wood.

The particular tuning depends heavily on the region in which it is played. In the twentieth century, the Armenian duduk began to be standardized diatonic in scale and single-octave in range. Accidentals, or chromatics are achieved using fingering techniques. The instrument's body also has different lengths depending upon the range of the instrument and region. The reed (Armenian: եղեգն, eġegn), is made from one or two pieces of cane in a duck-bill type assembly. Unlike other double-reed instruments, the reed is quite wide, helping to give the duduk both its unique, mournful sound, as well as its remarkable breath requirements. The duduk player is called dudukahar (դուդուկահար) in Armenian.

The performer uses air stored in their cheeks to keep playing the instrument while they inhale air into their lungs. This "circular" breathing technique is commonly used with all the double-reed instruments in the Middle East.

Duduk "is invariably played with the accompaniment of a second dum duduk, which gives the music an energy and tonic atmosphere, changing the scale harmoniously with the principal duduk."


Vardan Hovanissian & Emre Gültekin

Vardan Hovanissian @ FROG

Armenian musicologists cite evidence of the duduk's use as early as 1200 BC, though Western scholars suggest it is 1,500 years old. Variants of the duduk can be found in Armenia and the Caucasus. The history of the Armenian duduk music is dated to the reign of the Armenian king Tigran the Great, who reigned from 95–55 B.C. According to ethnomusicologist Dr. Jonathan McCollum, the instrument is depicted in numerous Armenian manuscripts of the Middle Ages, and is "actually the only truly Armenian instrument that's survived through history, and as such is a symbol of Armenian national identity ... The most important quality of the duduk is its ability to express the language dialectic and mood of the Armenian language, which is often the most challenging quality to a duduk player."

Balkan duduk

While "duduk" most commonly refers to the double reed instrument described on this page, by coincidence there is a different instrument of the same name played in northwestern Bulgaria. This is a blocked-end flute resembling the Serbian frula, known also as kaval or kavalče in a part of Macedonia, and as duduk (дудук) in northwest Bulgaria. Made of maple or other wood, it comes in two sizes: 700–780 millimetres (28–31 in) and 240–400 millimetres (9.4–15.7 in) (duduce). The blocked end is flat. Playing this type of duduk is fairly straightforward and easy, and its sound is clean and pleasant.

In popular culture

The sound of the duduk has become known to wider audiences through its use in popular film soundtracks. Starting with Peter Gabriel's score for Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, the duduk's archaic and mournful sound has been employed in a variety of genres to depict such moods. Djivan Gasparyan played the duduk in Gladiator, Syriana, and Blood Diamond, among others. It was also used extensively in Battlestar Galactica. In the TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender, its computer-altered sound was given to the fictitious Tsungi horn, most notably played by Iroh and often being featured in the show's soundtrack. With many of the members who worked on ATLA now working on The Dragon Prince, the duduk regularly appears in its soundtrack as well. The sound of the duduk was also used in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for a lullaby which Mr. Tumnus plays on a fictitious double flute and in the theme song of the Dothraki clan during the TV adaptation Game of Thrones.

The 2010 Eurovision Song Contest entry from Armenia "Apricot Stone", which finished 7th in the final, featured prominent duduk played by Djivan Gasparyan.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia []. Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization.

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

Date: June 2021.

Photo Credits: (1) Armenian Duduk, (2) Djivan Gasparyan (by Wikimedia Commons); (3)-(4) Arsen Petrosyan, (5) A.G.A Trio, (6) Vardan Hovanissian (unknown/website).

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