Duduk: The Sound of 3000 Years

If you’re a fan of ancient music, as I am, you should get to know the Duduk. The duduk is an ancient Armenian wind instrument with an unusually deep and melancholic timbre. In Armenia, it is also called the Tziranapoh, which means an apricot pipe. It bears this name because it is made exclusively of apricot wood (like many other Armenian folk instruments). It is significant to note that the duduk is about 3,000 years old [1]. The first mentions of it were found in ancient manuscripts in the state of Urartu, which was located in the Armenian Highlands.  This is approximately the 8th century before the birth of Christ. From this, we know that that instrument is very old and practically did not undergo any changes during its entire history. In recognition of its unique heritage, 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 Melody

The sounds of the duduk often evoke a strong emotional response. As the great Armenian composer Aram Khachaturyan said, “duduk is the only instrument that can make me cry”. The famous duduk player Jivan Gasparyan added,  “In its tiny holes (the duduk) bears the cry of Armenia’s bitter past”. At the same time, those are not the tears of sadness, but rather from encountering profound beauty.

The instrument is commonly played in pairs, where the first player plays the melody, and the second plays a steady drone called dum, the combination of which creates a richer, more haunting sound.

Duduk Music in Films

In modern times, duduk music has been used in a number of films, most notably the Sergei Parajanov masterpiece, “The Color of Pomegranates” (1969) which tells the story of the 18th-century Armenia poet and troubadour, Sayat-Nova. The film has been voted by many polls as one of the greatest films ever made. [2]

More recently, composer Peter Gabriele used the soundtrack of great Armenian dudukist Vache Hovsepian for the movie “The last temptation of Christ” (1988). Other movies featuring duduk music include “Gladiator”, “Troy”, “Yevgeny Onegin”, “Ararat” and “The House of Russia.”


For a taste of duduk music, here are two videos. The first is a short piece (‘Prelude’) played by … The second, longer work, is the haunting soundtrack for the 2006 film Bab’ Azîz (by the Tunisian film director, Nacer Khemir) with the music composed by Armand Amar.


[1] In 1993, the archeologist F. Ter Martirosov found double-barreled pipe during a dig at Benjamin-this too dated from 1000 B.C. which may have been the antecedent of the duduk.

[2] See https://parajanov.com/top100films/ and  https://parajanov.com/sayatnova/

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