Armenian Musical Instruments
Uncommon Music Instruments from Armenia
July 31st is Uncommon Instruments Awareness Day. Who knew? (I guess the people who created it know.)
When I first heard about Uncommon Instruments Awareness Day the first instruments that came to mind were the Armenian music instruments I learned about from my significant other, Jim. I heard of three of the instruments from Jim and the fourth by chance from a stranger we met. That is in itself a whole other story, which of course I will tell you later in this narrative.
My understanding is that outside of Armenia very few people know of these musical instruments except for the people who emigrated from Armenia or the surrounding areas. Countries in the area include Turkey, Kurdistan and Azerbaijan. Many of them have similar instruments with similar sounding names.
The Duduk - A Woodwind Music Instrument
The First Armenian Instrument I Learned About
Jim had a cold and was resting, when I heard a noise. I asked Jim what it was and he answered: "That's my duduk".
"What's a duduk?"
He told me that when he was little and had a cold, if his nose whistled, his mother would say that's your duduk. He went on to explain that it is an Armenian musical instrument.
He added that it is typical in Armenia to have duduk, zurna and dumbeg musical group. He indicated it is similar to the way the United States would have a fife and drum group of musicians.
The gentleman at the extreme right of the intro photo is playing the duduk. It is similar to an oboe and usually made out of apricot wood.
It is pronounced "doo dook".
It it said that the sound conveys emotion.
This type of goblet shaped drum is prevalent throughout African, the Middle East and parts of Asia.
The prevailing Armenian spelling is "dumbeg", but you will see other spellings depending on the country of origin: doumbek, doumbeg, dumbek, darbuka...
Once you hear the dumbeg, you will recognize the sound. If you have seen a belly dancer -- this is the music that comes to mind.
The dumbeg varies in appearance from the crude animal skin over wood or a ceramic base, to the beautifully detailed ornate metal instruments.
The zurna is a wind instrument. Again, this type of instrument is not unique to Armenia and has various spellings in the countries surrounding Armenia
To my mind, the Zurna sounds like the music you hear when someone is charming a cobra.
It is pronounced "zoor na".
I Promised You a Story in the Introduction. Here We Go.
Jim took me out to dinner, for my birthday, at a very nice restaurant called the Golden Lamb Buttery in Brooklyn, Connecticut.
Before dinner most guests sit out on the deck, overlooking a beautiful meadow where lambs, donkeys, and cats frolick. I looked over and saw a man who reminded me of the comedian Marty Allen. He was an elderly gentleman, with a ton of black curly hair.
The waitress announced that the first hayride was leaving so, Jim and I got up to ride. I realized as I was walking that Jim was not beside me. I turned and found him talking to the man who looked like Marty Allen, in a language I didn't understand. This is the first I knew that Jim was fluent in another language. (I had known him for 6 years at the time.) Later, I found out that Armenian was Jim's first language as a child.
I walked over to them and learned the gentleman stopped Jim, as he thought Jim looked Armenian.
The man had a very dramatic and interesting way of saying everything. He indicated that he was a member of an Armenian band and played the oud.
However, he would say oooouuuud. As a child, his father would put him on a train in Long Island so he could go to New York City and study the oooooud with the foremost oooooud player. Then he asked if I knew the oooooud. "No", I said, "I just learned about the duduk, dumbeg and zurna".
"Ahhhhhh", he says while waving his arms, looking to the heavens, with a look of ecstasy, "the duduk, dumbeg and zurna". Sigh.
A Music Instrument Similar to a Lute
The oud is a stringed instrument.
It is pronounced ood (rhymes with mood).
© 2012 Ellen Gregory