January 20, 2016

First Stirrings of a New Duduk Master

Arsen Petrosyan: new torchbearer for the Armenian duduk

Arsen Petrosyan: new torchbearer for the Armenian duduk




Arsen Petrosyan

Pomegranate Music


Although the origins of the duduk date back almost 1500 years, up until the late 1980’s it was considered an obscure local ethnic instrument from the tiny country of Armenia nestled within the Caucasus Mountains. Made from the wood of an apricot tree, the duduk is a double-reed woodwind flute whose most famous interpreter is Djivan Gasparian. World music champion Peter Gabriel also has incorporated the duduk into his recordings (“Passion”, “Us”) and live performances thus broadening the appeal of the instrument. The duduk today is a widely used in many television and movie soundtracks where a soulful or mournful sound is needed. Many musicians outside of Armenia (Pedro Eustache, Levon Minassian) have now adopted the duduk into their portfolio of wind instruments due to the widening marketability of the instrument.

‘Hazar Ernket,’ Arsen Petrosyan (duduk) and Osherov Kirill (tombak). A studio version of the song is featured on Petroysan’s debut album, Charentsavan: Music for Armenian Duduk.

Arsen Petrosyan is a young duduk master living in Charentsavan, Armenia who is considered a musical prodigy. Within Armenia he is quietly talked about as one of the potential heirs to the duduk throne Gasparian now occupies, Petrosyan playing has been characterized as “sensitive, nimble, and noble” by his mentor Gevorg Dabaghyan (Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble/Shoghaken Folk Ensemble). Indeed, on his debut album Charentsavan: Music for Armenian Duduk, released by the Oakland, CA-based record label Pomegranate Music, Petrosyan has crafted an ambitious program spanning over 1000 years. From the haunting piece “Havik” composed by Armenian monk, mystic and poet Grigor Narekatsi (951-1003) to the instant new ethno-folk classic “Lullaby for the Sun” written by oud legend and Night Ark/The Secret Trio founder Ara Dinkjian (1958- ), Petrosyan’s roadmap through Armenian musical history takes the listener on a rewarding sonic journey.

Lullaby for the Sun

SELECTED TRACK: ‘Lullaby for the Sun,’ ‘the instant new ethno-folk classic,’ Arsen Petrosyan, from his album, Charentsavan: Music for Armenian Duduk.

Recording in just under three weeks in Yerevan, Armenia during the summer of 2015, Petrosyan worked with noted classical/world music producer Raffi Meneshian (SoloDuo, Hover Chamber Choir of Armenia, Gor Mkhitarian) to create a slightly refreshed folk sound that incorporates instruments such as the harp, udu drum, acoustic guitar, tar, kanon, and dhol within the texture of the recording. Additionally, “Charentsavan” features pieces sourced from Armenian villages and regions that now lie outside of the Armenian Republic such as Mush (Eastern Turkey), Kessab (Syria), Javakhk (Georgia), and Palu (Central Turkey). Many of these songs had been collecting dust in former Soviet archives on the verge of becoming lost and neglected until Petrosyan revived and recorded them for this album.

Following in the line of historic album releases focusing on the duduk such as the Brian Eno 1989 re-release of Djivan Gasparian’s I Will Not Be Sad In This World (Opal Records), Charentsavan: Music for Armenian Duduk continues the recorded Armenian legacy of this ancient instrument in the hands of a new duduk master.

(Review courtesy World Music News Wire)