The Great Duduk Master Has Passed

The entire world music community has lost a true living legend, Armenian duduk master Djivan Gasparyan has died at the age of 92.

The duduk is exclusively and internationally known as the instrument of Armenia. Made out of apricot wood with a handmade double reed (similar to the oboe) this instrument is played by thousands of musicians throughout the world, but none as famous as Gasparyan who brought global recognition to the instrument.

Djivan Gasparyan, born in 1928 in the Solak village, which is in a province located in the central part of Armenia, has a list of accomplishments unparalleled in the Armenian musical community. A four time medal winner of the prestigious UNESCO award, a WOMEX award, he began playing the duduk at six years old.

At 21, he joined the popular National Armenian Song and Dance Ensemble of Tatul Altunian. It was during this time that Gasparyan made a name for himself throughout Armenia. Receiving several honorary recognitions from the 1960-1970s in Armenia, Djivan would eventually teach close to a hundred duduk students at the Yerevan Conservatory.

Gasparyan was a Grammy nominated musician that took the duduk from its humble mountainous beginnings, birthed several centuries ago, to the front steps of every major musical stage throughout the world. He performed and collaborated with some of the most famous artists, most notably, Peter Gabriel, jazz legend Branford Marsalis, and Queen’s guitarist Brian May. Countless symphonies have featured Djivan’s duduk playing and he played for thousands of different audiences throughout his career. He even had a vodka named after him.

Gasparyan would take the duduk to new heights making it one of the most well-known world music instruments performed today. You can hear the duduk in motion pictures and television shows on a regular basis – all because of Gasparyan. His film credits include The Crow, The Siege, Gladiator and Blood Diamonds. He is on over thirty different recordings

Hans Zimmer, famed Hollywood composer, when describing a certain music sequence he was writing for the Oscar winning motion picture Gladiator, said “I always wanted to use this one instrument in the Moroccan sequences called the duduk….there was one player that is amazing a 72-year old man called Djivan Gasparyan. I want to write this for him, I want this to be about him”.

(left to right) Djivan, Manvel Khosrov Mnatsakanyan, Mher Mnatsakanyan, and grandson Djivan Gasparyan. (Photo courtesy of Mher Mnatsakanyan)

He has inspired thousands of Armenian and non-Armenian musicians to perform the instrument and today. “I was fortunate and lucky enough to have had a chance to work and tour with Maestro Djivan for three years. We lost a giant today” said Armenian duduk master musician, Mher Mnatsakanyan.

As the great Armenian-American novelist William Saroyan once said, “Dear Djivan, this is not music, but a prayer.”

UPDATE: Please check out my good friends (Mark Gavoor) blog about his personal reflections on Djivan Gasparyan. CLICK HERE.

This entry was posted in Armenian, art, Duduk, film, music, world music. Bookmark the permalink.

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