Maestro of Duduk


Jivan Gasparian is a living legend of the world music. His sorrowful and passionate duduk is an ultimate expression of the Armenian soul. It is thanks to the efforts of this phenomenal virtuoso, that the world has been introduced to the folklore and traditions of Armenia. His concerts are ‘elegiac, sultry, nostalgic and reverent dramas’ says Jon Pareles of New York Times. Known in his home country as Uncle Jivan, he is, without doubt, one of the most emotional and sincere musicians of the world.

Jivan Gasparian was born in 1928 in Solag, a small village near Yerevan. When he was 6, he taught himself to play the duduk, listening to old masters and copying their style. His professional career took off in 1947 on stage of the Bolshoi theatre. He was then in a folk band which took part in the Arts Festival of the Soviet Republics. Joseph Stalin was in the audience that night and after the show he expressed his willingness to meet the young musician. Jivan was scared to death: he didn’t know that the tyrant only wanted to give him a ‘Pobeda’ gold watch as a present. In just a year Gasparian became the soloist of Tatul Altunyan’s Song and Dance Popular Ensemble and the Yerevan Philarmonic Orchestra.

Jivan Gasparian has won 4 gold medals at UNESCO worldwide music competitions (1959, 1962, 1973 and 1980). In 1988 English musician Brian Eno happened to hear the ‘keeper of the Armenian musical heritage’ play and invited him in London. There his first album I Will Not Be Sad In This World, consisting of ancient Armenian ballads, was recorded. ‘Without doubt it is one of the most beautiful and soulful recordings I have ever heard’, says Eno. This record, a tribute to the victims of the earthquake in Armenia, propelled Jivan Gasparian to international stardom.

Since then Jivan Gasparian has been touring the world and recording new albums (The Soul of Armenia, Heavenly Duduk, Apricots from Eden, Tribute). He has collaborated with Lionel Richie, Peter Gabriel, Boris Grebenshchikov, Brian May, Michael Brook, Derek Sherenian and other renowned musicians. In the early 1990s Jivan Gasparian moved to the USA, but then returned to Armenia to become a professor of Yerevan State Musical Conservatory, where he has educated more than 70 duduk players.

Jivan Gasparian is also given much credit for adding his magnificent duduk to Hollywood soundtracks, including those of Syriana, Onegin, The Crow, Doctor Zhivago and The Last Temptation of Christ. Hans Zimmer, who wrote the score for the famous Gladiator, confessed that he had always wanted to compose for Jivan Gasparian: ‘I think he is one of the most amazing musicians in the world. He creates a sound that has a lonely yet haunting quality and is thousands of years old – ageless’. In 2001 Jivan Gasparian was awarded the Golden Globe for the Armenian ballad ‘Siretsi Yares Taran’, the main musical theme of Gladiator.

‘The king of the duduk’s’ contribution to the popularization of Armenian folk music is unprecedented. Now you can be enchanted by the unearthly sound of this ancient instrument, featured in symphonic works, intricate jazz improvisations and along rock riffs. The Master also plays the zurna, the flute and the clarinet. He is also a composer, a singer and a poet.


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