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Armenian Musical Instruments

My information on music comes from my late partner, Jim. His knowledge of, and ear for, music was phenomenal.

Duduk, Zurna and Dumbeg Musical Group

Duduk, Zurna and Dumbeg Musical Group

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.

I understand that outside of Armenia, very few people know of these musical instruments except for those who emigrated from Armenia or the surrounding areas. Countries in the region include Turkey, Kurdistan, and Azerbaijan. Many of them have similar instruments with similar-sounding names.

A duduk.

A duduk.

The Duduk

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 is said that the sound conveys emotion.

A dumbeg.

A dumbeg.

The Dumbeg

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 from the crude animal skin over wood or a ceramic base to the beautifully detailed ornate metal instruments.

The Zurna

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.

The correct pronunciation is "zoor na."

A young Armenian man seated, playing an oud. Published between 1860 and 1900.

A young Armenian man seated, playing an oud. Published between 1860 and 1900.

The Oud

The oud is a stringed instrument and is similar to a lute.

The correct pronunciation is "ood" (rhymes with mood).

Why Armenian Musical Instruments?

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 frolic. 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 was the first I knew that Jim was fluent in another language. (I had known him for six 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 theatrical 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 to go to New York City and study the oooooud with the foremost oooooud player. Then he asked if I knew the oooooud, to which I replied, "No, 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.

© 2012 Ellen Gregory

Tell what you know about Armenian music instruments

karen-stephens on October 25, 2012:

ood vs lute?

Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on September 19, 2012:

Surprisingly I know a lot about these instruments. They are related to traditional instruments from Middle East and North Africa and when I was making an audio version of Bible stories for kids few years ago, I was studying the authentic sounds for the background themes.

I even made couple of songs from samples of duduk, oud and dumbeg. It was great experience!

lesliesinclair on September 03, 2012:

I love the sound of the dumbeg, and enjoy seeing the other unique instruments that look like beautiful carvings, and wood turnings.

Leah J. Hileman from East Berlin, PA, USA on August 07, 2012:

I studied ethnomusicology in undergraduate school. I enjoy hearing the music from all cultures. I knew nothing about the Oud before this lens--learned something new! Thanks :)

WriterJanis2 on August 05, 2012:

Really enjoyed the music. Loved the drumming video in particular.

Ellen Gregory (author) from Connecticut, USA on August 02, 2012:

@digitaltree: What a great idea. Maybe would could bring everyone together that way.

digitaltree on August 02, 2012:

Nice Lens, the instruments sounds are cool, it made me wonder what an orchestra of all the instruments in the world will sound like, hmmm.

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on July 28, 2012:

Have to love these quirky holidays! Thanks for an interesting lens! ;-)

laughingapple on July 24, 2012:

This is a really great lens. I have heard Armenian but did not know much about the different instruments.

anonymous on July 22, 2012:

Wow! Very interesting instruments... some are completely new to me!

CapnFatz on July 22, 2012:

I don't have a dukwuk, but I'm told I sound like one when I sing.