A folk musician showed us a picture he had taken on a wall in the city of Ani. It was written by two pilgrims from the village of Garni who had gone to Ani in 1903. Their names were Shmavon Altounyants and Karapet Polatyants. The note read, in part, “We came to Ani with great happiness, and are leaving with heavy hearts. Cursed be the homes of those who destroyed Ani.”
The musician went on to tell about a folk festival in the city of Kars, in which Turks, Kurds, Armenians, and other Caucasian peoples participated. “Many who came to the festival asked, almost pleaded, to hear the sound of the Armenian duduk. As our dudukist played, tears flowed. Later they told us they were living as Kurds and Turks, but knew they had Armenian ancestors.
“It was interesting, though, that when the festival organizers asked if anyone from the audience wanted to perform their country’s songs and dances, people who didn’t even know each other formed instant groups, singing and dancing their people’s folk songs and melodies. It was all so natural. And, I saw that no one played a dhol like we or other Caucasians play, by hand, as they all used gopalov dhols (striking the dhol with wooden sticks). Maybe that’s what our ancestors used in Western Armenia, who knows. The thing was, no one was ashamed or embarrassed; they all readily sang and danced. Here, in Armenia, most are embarrassed to sing our folk songs, or dance our old dances. We choreograph, westernize, synthesize, or sing like Turks, Kurds, or Arabs.”
Looking through a book about Armenian folk instruments, the musician said that Armenian miniature paintings prove that the duduk didn’t exist in ancient times, that it didn’t even appear on the scene until perhaps 300 years ago. “The blul, or sring, goes back at least 2,000 years. The duduk is an Armenian instrument, but the blul is far older, and a truer Armenian instrument,” he said.