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Armenians on the Internet

Pateel Mekhitarian
Staff Writer

Music is an essential part of life for the Armenian people. Many traditional folk instruments have been played for centuries and are still played today. These include the duduk, saz, kamanche, dumbeg, oud, kanun, and many more. All of these instruments express rich rhythmic melodies and harmonies, which have all been greatly influenced by Komitas, an Armenian priest and famous composer. Komitas continually chose harmonies that would respect the modal nature of the Armenian melody. Latter composers of Armenian music referred to Komitas as a key source for determining which melodies coincide with the Armenian traditions.

The duduk is an instrument dating back 1,500 years. It is best described as a double wind instrument made of apricot wood with a sound that has a humanlike voice quality. The duduk has a cylindrical wooden pipe, with nine holes, equally spaced throughout the wood (8 for finger holes, and one for the thumb). The music that it produces is unique, with a warm, soft tone. The duduk is used for slow lyrical tunes, such as folk songs and also faster dance-tunes.

In addition to the duduk, the kamanche is a popular instrument among Armenians. The kamanche is a bowed spike fiddle and contains four metal strings. The body consists of a wooden hemisphere covered with thin sheepskin. The instrument bridge runs diagonally across this sheepskin membrane. Kamamches are most similar to the size of a viola and are played in the upright position, either by resting it on the knee when sitting, or held in front of the player when standing. This instrument also has a bow, made of horse-hair, known as the doksar.

The kamanche dates back to the 15th century Persia. This unique instrument is made ornately, often with mother of pearl, bone, or ivory. Similar to the kanun, there are variations of the kamanche, depending on the country. Tuning and structural alterations occur with cultural influences depending on the country. Other than Armenia, the kamamche is popular in the traditional music of Iran, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

The instruments used in modern Armenian culture date back centuries, however are still valued and cherished today.  For the Armenians, music is an approachable way to express its history, its people, and its current situation. For images or more information on numerous Armenian traditional instruments, visit http://www.face-music.ch/instrum/armenia_instrum_en.html.