The ancient sound of the duduk

A sound that you have likely heard in hundreds of motion pictures and television soundtracks, but are unaware of the instrument is that’s making the sound. 

The duduk is an ancient Armenian double-reed woodwind instrument made out of apricot wood. 

Djivan Gasparyan is the man who made the duduk gain worldwide attention. He passed away in 2021. Now, his grandson is carrying on his legacy.

Jivan Gasparyan Jr. took an interest in music at the age of seven. 

He started with piano and vocals. The duduk came into his life many years later.

"I started when I came to America in 1998 when I was 15. I wanted to become a doctor, but my grandfather changed my life," said Jivan Gasparyan Junior, duduk player.

His grandfather was Djivan Gasparyan, an Armenian musician and composer, known around the world as the "Master of the duduk."

"He made this instrument world known. Before this instrument was played in Armenia on sad occasions, he took it out of Armenia and showed it to the world. He started to play with symphonic orchestras, did collaborations with musicians and artists, here in America, he started with Lionel Richie, Peter Gabriel and Bryan May," said Jivan Gasparyan Jr.

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Djivan has more than two thousand recordings. His music has been in a number of Hollywood soundtracks, including Gladiator. 

"When I saw him record the soundtrack for Gladiator with Han Zimmer— I was with him at the time— the place, the music and everything got into me — I said this is what I want to become, I want to become a musician to do what I love to do," said Jivan Gasparyan Jr.

On that day he was so inspired, that he decided to carry on in his grandfather’s footsteps.

"It has 3,000 years of history, it’s made of apricot wood, it has one octave, few notes, it’s very simple, but it has different technics — the sound of it is really close to human’s voice," said Jivan Gasparyan Jr.

It isn’t easy to master the instrument. It takes years of practice to get the technic down. Jivan practiced every day. Finally, after four years his grandfather finally approved of his playing.

"I started to travel with him around the world, it’s been twenty years already, I have been traveling with him and playing different concerts — from small places to opening the concert for Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday, which was an amazing event in London—where I saw all my dream artists," said Jivan Gasparyan Jr.

They had a deep bond. They spent every day together.

"He was my master, he was my father, my grandfather, my brother, my friend, he was everything in one person — the relationship was just amazing," said Jivan Gasparyan Jr.

The last time they played together was overseas at a huge concert in 2020.

"Every time he would play the melody he would play in a different way, he would improvise so much. He was a big improviser of music. He would go on stage and create music for two hours — he would improvise a concert," said Jivan Gasparyan Jr.

Djivan dedicated his life to the duduk.

Now, Jivan Jr. is dedicating his life to carrying on his grandfather's legacy.

Jivan is working on opening a duduk academy with his grandfather's name in Los Angeles, called, "The Djivan Gasparyan Duduk Academy School." to pass on the art of the duduk to future generations. 

He is also working on completing an academy in Armenia. 

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