German dudukist: “I got to know Armenia through the duduk”

The Duduk Festival, which has been held by the RA Ministry of Diaspora since 2012, has helped make the Armenian duduk more popular. It also provides Armenian and foreign dudukists of the world to perform in Armenia, and this year’s festival was no exception. Among the performers were Gregor Schulenburg, Uve Fisher, Axel Lorenz, Sören Birke and composer Dirk Michaelis, who were accompanied by Ruzanna Eisenmenger-Karapetian.

Hayern Aysor presents its correspondent’s interview with dudukist Sören Birke and Ruzanna Eisenmenger-Karapetian.

Ruzanna Eisenmenger-Karapetian

“This is the second time that the musicians and I are participating in the “My Armenia” Pan-Armenian Festival organized by the RA Ministry of Diaspora, while dudukist Sören Birke is on his fifth visit to Armenia. Dudukists Jivan Gasparyan and Gevorg Dabaghyan also taught Sören.  We have given many concerts with Jivan Gasparyan and Gevorg Dabaghyan. During this festival, we performed the works of famous German singer/songwriter Dirk Michaelis. Thanks to him and Sören Birke, the Armenian duduk is becoming highly popular in Europe, especially in Germany.

When the melancholic melody of the duduk is heard during the concerts, people in the audience ask about the instrument, and our musicians answer their questions with pleasure and tell stories about the country where it originated. German musicians started showing interest in the duduk when they listened to Sören Birke play the duduk, and the first time Birke listened to the duduk was in the film “Gladiator” about ten years ago. Later, I met Birke through our mutual friends and suggested that he visit Armenia.

During our first visit, we bought him a duduk and visited the masters of the duduk. That is when we decided to produce a film devoted to the Armenian duduk, but production is still in progress. The film is called “Bitter Apricot”. I am the only Armenian member of the crew, and I try to do everything I can to familiarize them with Armenian music and culture.

Besides collaborating with the musicians, I am also a photographer. Last year, I held my personal photo exhibition at the Modern Art Museum in Yerevan. My next exhibition will take place in Berlin in November.”

Sören Birke

“The first time I learned about the Armenian duduk was when I watched the film “Gladiator” about ten years ago. Since then, the sound of the duduk has been close to my heart. I remember how emotional I got the first time I heard the magical sound of the duduk. Before 2000, I knew nothing about Armenia. I was busy playing the harmonica in a small band. At the time, I was performing blues songs. I was in a totally different genre when the duduk “invaded” my life. When I would try to relax after working hard, I would close my eyes and listen to the magical melody of the duduk. Since the sound of the duduk had captivated me so much, I decided to seek and find the homeland from where that instrument originated. It was hard. I didn’t know where to start from since I was only familiar with the sound.

By accident, I came across the album of dudukist Jivan Gasparyan and listened to Armenian folk and national music for the first time. That was when learning how to play the duduk became my most cherished dream. It was during the search that I met Ruzanna, who paved the path to the magical world of the duduk.

In 2006, we visited Armenia for the first time. Thanks to Ruzanna, I was introduced to Armenian culture and listened to genuine Armenian music. Ruzanna helped me discover Armenia. We also examined Armenian cross-stones. She introduced me to the music of Komitas. The latter and the Armenian duduk took me to a new world, and the “My Armenia” Pan-Armenian Festival has helped create a bridge between Germany and Armenia.

Tatev Davtyan

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