Djivan Gasparyan & Ensemble
Sad. Infinitely sad. That's how many non-Armenians have described the sound of Djivan Gasparyan's duduk playing. The duduk is an eight-holed (plus thumb hole) flute made of apricot wood with a cane reed. The instrument, indigenous to Armenia, produces a low, extremely melancholy sound that seems to embody the spirit of Armenian music. Ironically, within the Armenian music culture, the sound of the duduk is not considered "sad." Thanks in large part to Gasparyan, the duduk has achieved status as an important classical instrument in Armenian music culture. On this latest Network release, Gasparyan appears with a conservatory-trained ensemble consisting of four duduks, kamantcha (fiddle), tar (long-neck lute), kanon (zither), oud, kamani (described as a cross between a kamantcha and a cello) and dhol (drum). The group performs four suite-like fantasies. "Armenian Suite" is a 28 minute-long work that strings together various love songs bridged by solo improvisational pieces. "Kamantcha Blues" leads off with an improvisation between kamantcha and tar and then develops as the two instruments are joined by Gasparyan on the duduk. "Armenian Romances" string together another group of popular love songs. "Lyric Melodies & Dances for Women" link five love songs that were traditionally performed by Armenian women with a women's dance medley.
Armenian folk music shares similarities with Turkish, Kurdish, Azeri and Persian music. However, due to the historical genocide of two million Armenians in Turkey in 1915, many people in the Armenian musical culture avoid any Turkish connections. Since Armenia became an independent state, the Armenian music culture has changed the old Soviet rules about what constitutes authentic folk repertoires. Gasparyan's Ensemble, his choice of musical suites and this CD are important Armenian folk music statements. Moreover, this melancholy, soulful music is very accessible to American ears. - Aaron Howard
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