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Michal Shapiro Headshot

Grandfather, Grandson, Grandmasters (Video)

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The Sharq Taronalari festival/competition takes place every 2 years in Samarkand and draws artists from all over the word with an obvious concentration on Central Asia. Personally I do not approve of musical "competitions" but that reservation can be overlooked given the spectacular setting of the Registan for the main venue, and the opportunity to experience the Uzbeki culture and people. This year saw Jivan Gasparyan the younger win the UNESCO prize there. He gave a wonderful performance for which the festive lights in the Registan were hushed to a dreamy ultramarine blue.

The name of Jivan Gasparyan (Sr.) has been synonymous with Armenian duduk for over 60 years. His exquisite tone, control and interpretations have garnered him countless accolades. Now in his eighties, he had the pleasure of being in the audience during his grandson's award-winning performance.

The duduk is a simple instrument; but deceptively so, in that it requires an embouchure (and diaphragm) of steel plus circular breathing to elicit its haunting, cool sound. The younger Jivan has all these attributes, as well as technical agility, as this piece demonstrates.

I was covering the festival, toting my trusty camcorder, and had the good fortune to arrange this spontaneous shoot with Gasparyan jr in a room just adjacent to the hotel kitchen. My thanks to his two stalwart accompanists, and to my various friends who guarded the doors and kept waiters and dishwashers at bay.

Gasparyan senior was there too, and at the very end of this video you can see Jivan jr. slide his eyes sideways, to see if his grandfather approved of the performance.

He did.