Jivan Gasparyan is recognized as the most accomplished and influential musician in the history of the duduk.
But more than a musician, he is an icon, a living embodiment of the history of Armenian traditional, folk music. He has become a true cultural hero of his culture.
Jivan Gasparyan is a musician, who during his seventy years of professional career has earned global recognition for an unassuming instrument, turning the shepherd’s flute into a rising star of Hollywood.
Despite his talent and commitment to world music, he has changed the parameters of the duduk placing it with new musical connections, thus sounding out all its possibilities and making it a universal instrument.
“There are two sides to Djivan Gasparyan’s great achievement; he mediates the Armenian traditions with his duduk, while at the same time liberating the instrument from various ghettos, such as the exclusive reproduction of the traditional repertoire , its exclusive accompaniment by other duduks, and the cultivated prejudice of it being a low class instrument unsuitable for concerts. Djivan Gasparyan made an important contribution to the duduk becoming a concert instrument. he brought about the emancipation of the duduk, with other solo instruments, in collaboration with the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and Russian National Symphonic orchestra. In more than a dozen concerts he played the solo part dedicated to the duduk by the composer Avet terterian in his Third Symphony. Yet perhaps the combination with string quartet is more suited to the intimacy of the instrument. he sounded out this potential with the avedis String orchestra, the Kronos Quartet. His own Duduk Quartet in turn sounds like a classical wind quartet in which an oboe holds the traditional bordum tone ( dham). Gaparyan places the duduk in ever new musical connections, thus sounding out all its possibilities and making it a universal instrument. The broad stylistic range into which he immerses himself with his duduk is particularly evident in the most extensive of all musical genres, world music. This Armenian has played in played in studio productions with the oriental multi-instrumentalist Abaji and the Pakistani Sufi-legend Nustrat- Fatih Ali Khan, the Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi and the Monghol world music performer Sainkho, the Israeli guitarist Amir Perelman, the Indian -Iranian ensemble Pangea, the flamenco guitarist Jessie Cook, the Kronos Quartet, and Queen guitarist Brian May, jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis and Canadian guitarist, producer Michael Brook, Russian national Orchestra and LA Philharmonic Orchestra, Armenian Symphonic Orchestra, and string quartets.” / from “The Soul of Armenia” double CD Network Medien GmbH
Jivan’s powerful music sounds like freedom with groove, it has the message of joy, which achieves harmony through conflicts. His music possesses tremendous emotional and intellectual depth.Its impact on the listener is so immediate and direct that no prior knowledge of the instrument is needed to appreciate its power.
Jivan Gasparyan was six years old, when he started to play the instrument intuitively, without knowing any notes. His first instrument was the gift from the well-known musician Margar Margaryan.
Jivan was attracted by the sounds of duduk performed by the maestros of that time accompany ing the silent movies with sad or cheerful music depending on the scenes. Duduk was looked upon as a poor people’s musical instrument , primarily played by shepherds, at weddings and funerals. Many years later, Jivan ‘s duduk began to appear in many soundtracks such as “Dead Man Walking,” “Storm and Sorrow,” “Onegin,” “Calendar,” “The Crow,” Jerry Goldsmith ‘s “Russia House,” “Blood Diamond,” “Syriana,” “The Gladiator,” “Siege,” “Doctor Zhivago,” “Frescos,” “Druzhba Isusova,” and many others. Jivan himself could have never imagined, that the instrument he got as a little boy would make him so famous.
Many years ago, a Russian journalist asked Jivan, if he had made the duduk famous or the duduk had made him famous…
He still doesn’t have the answer…
Whichever it is, they have always been unseparable like true friends. However, duduk is just an instrument, the key is to make it express the music that comes from his soul in his individual tembre, that is so fleshy, deep and haunting…
At 21, Jivan gained acceptance into the renowned National Armenian Song and Dance Ensemble of Tatul Altunian. “When Altunian entered the rehearsal room and looked at me, a skinny little guy holding the duduk in my hands, he said, ‘Are you going to become the soloist of the ensemble?’ I was nervous. During the first piece I performed, I was almost shivering, then during the second and the third ones I was a little bit calmer. Tatul Altunyan was listening to me with great interest. When I finished he said, ‘Immediately prepare the contract and let him rehearse.’ I was ceremoniously accepted into the ensemble on Thursday, rehearsed with them on Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday I played the complete repertoire in the concert. I couldn’t read the notes and had to memorize the whole program.” His almost photographic memory and the incredible speed at which he adapts unknown melodies have astonished many famous musicians, producers, and composers.
In 1959, a 250-man Soviet artists delegation with outstanding ensembles went on a three-month tour of the United States and Canada, with Jivan Gasparyan as soloist from Armenia.
In 1956 Jivan Gasparyan received the first prize in his life in the contest of duduk performers in Armenia. In 1957, he took part in an International Music Competition in Moscow organized by UNESCO along with 5,000 contestants from all over the world. His duduk, a simple apricot-wood instrument that had only one octave, seemed to have no chance at all compared to the valuable, shiny instruments. It was even not familiar to the 46-person jury. Jivan won the first prize. Six gold medals followed, as did four other gold medals in international competitions organized by UNESCO.
While he was still a part of the ensemble, due to his performance mastery, Jivan became one of the most sought-after soloists and studio musicians worldwide.
During his 25 years with the Altunian ensemble, Jivan became a musical legend in Armenia. In 1963, he was accorded the “honorary artist” title of the Armenian republic. In 1977, he received the honorary title of “Armenian Folk artist” or “People’s artist.” His popularity grew during the 80’s. At 52, he started studying at Yerevan Conservatory. After graduating, he taught more than 70 students how to play the duduk, and later became a professor at the Conservatory.
In 1988, English musician Bryan Eno heard a performance by Jivan in Moscow. He said, “This is one of the most beautiful melodies I have ever heard,” and he decided to invite him to London. Since then, Jivan Gasparyan has achieved international fame in the West, not only for himself, but also for Armenian folk music. His first album, “I Will Not Be Sad In This World” (produced by Brian Eno and Roger Eno / Opal Studio, London) is said to be one of the Queen of England’s favorite records.
Unforgetable was Jivan’s meeting with the famous composer Hans Zimmer for the soundtrack “Gladiator”. The Oscar nominated score was composed by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard. Jivan co-wrote with Zimmer the piece called “To Zucchabar”.
In 2002 Jivan won the WOMEX Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors”quality, creativity and success in the name of this world’s music.”
WOMEX (World Music Expo) is the world’s premier networking organization, dedicated to world, roots, folk, ethnic, traditional, local and diaspora music from all over the world. There were over 350 artists, 180 registered participants, from 80 countries, including 200 international journalists. womex.com
“This award is – according to our WOMEX handy Guide – for “honouring quality, creativity and success in the name of this world’s music”.
It’s also: to honour and respect the recipient, and in doing so, to honour and respect the culture and community that is represented by the recipient.
In offering an honour such as this in public, we take the chance to present and to acknowledge a worldview that may just be different to the worldview which turns culture into just another weapon of mass destruction.
The strength of our recipient gives us the strength to say that the Caucasus – for example; and all regions, actually – can offer more than images of turmoil and chaos. that images of continuity must be worth more, ultimately, than those of catastrophe….
On June 11, 2005, Jivan participated in the 46664 Arctic concert which was held in Tromso, Norway. This was a totally unique event from the Norwegian perspective. The main purpose of the concert was to put the work of fighting HIV/AIDS on the international agenda. To achieve this, high-profile international artists were asked to perform alongside Scandinavian, national and local musicians. Several of those performed together in exciting new compositions.
The artists, along with national and international ambassadors, spoke on the fight against HIV/AIDS. The concert was held at a picturesque site with the sea on one side and a mountain on the other. Ngelique Kidjo, Robert Plant, Peter Gabriel, Brian May, Zucchero, Johny Clegg, Anny Lenox, Bongo Maffin, and others came together from across the world. It was Jivan’s first time playing with Brian May, guitarist from the rock group Queen. There was little to rehearse, and then there was the Arctic climate. “It was very cold,” says Jivan. “My hands (and Brian’s, too) were frozen. Imagine how challenging the improvisation must have been for Brian. It was his first time performing an Armenian song in a duet with the duduk. This is not easy at all! Bravo Brian! Your improvisation of the “Gladiator” soundtrack was absolutely fabulous. The blend of Brian’s Red Special with my duduk was brilliant. Then Peter Gabriel joined us without rehearsing, and we performed his famous “Feelings Begin” from the “The last Temptation of Christ.” Only professional and universal musicians could accept this kind of suggestion, to appear on stage without rehearsing. Thank you very much Peter!”
The Nelson Mandela 90th Birthday Tribute was held in Hyde Park, London on 27 June 2008 to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s ninetieth birthday, which was on July 18. The concert was another part of the 46664 concert series to promote awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
In 2007, together with Hossein Alizadeh, Jivan Gasparyan was nominated for a Grammy Award.
In 2007, he was given the title of “Academician” by both the Panarmenian Academy of National Security Problems and the Canadian Academy.
In May 25 2009, the Russian Armenian Union (RAU) and World Armenian Congress (WAC) gave Jivan Gasparyan and the Head of the Russian-Armenian State Choir Hovhannes Chekidgyan bejeweled gold crosses for their inestimable contribution into Armenian culture. Jivan also received with “Mashtots” award for his contribution to Armenian culture.
It’s impossible to count the tours of Maestro, which seem to be everlasting. The compositions performed by Jivan Gasparyan cannot be called just “national music,” as his contribution to the popularization of Armenia’s national music has no historical analogy. Among his numerous titles is “Guardian of His People’s Musical Heritage.”
Despite his advanced age, the master is full of life and in good shape.
With a long red carpet and stepped-up security measures, a series of tribute concerts marking the 80th birthday of prominent Armenian duduk player Jivan Gasparyan opened at the Sports and Concert Complex In Yerevan, Tuesday, November 11, 2008. Both Armenian artists and internationally renowned musicians took part in the event, celebrating four days with concerts and fireworks. Despite chilly November weather the concert hall was full of local fans and guests. Musicians Peter Gabriel, Andreas Vollenweider, Alan Parsons, Zucchero, Pedro Eustache, as well as celebrated guests from other spheres, came to honor Jivan. Other prominent composers and musicians who couldn’t attend sent videotaped messages, among them Hans Zimmer, Anny Lennox, Brian May, Spivakov.
Prior to this celebration, Christian Scholze and his wonderful team of Network Medien Germany, produced a remarkable portrait of Jivan, “The Soul Of Armenia” double CD, which received a wealth of awards, including the “Prize of German Record Critics and Top of the world from Songlines, and was Number One on the European World Music Charts for two months. It was a great gift for Maestro on his 80th birthday. (www.networkmedien.de)
Champions Arthur Abraham and Yuri Vardanyan came a long way from Germany to congratulate their Maestro. Yuri Vardanyan, a world-champion Armenian weightlifter who holds numerous world records in his sport, gifted one of his records to Gasparyan.“Now you are also a sport champion.”he said.
The Maestro’s grandson, Jivan Gasparyan Jr. also performed with all the guest musicians in different genres during the evening.
On November 24, 2008, Jivan got a symbolic sword from the Defense Minister of Armenia, Seyran Ohanyan.