In September 2010 my wife Adrienne and I travelled overland to Armenia by train. I had met up with Jivan Gasparyan earlier in the year when he was in London for a performance, and he had invited me to visit him in Yerevan. My agenda, apart from seeing a bit more of Armenia, was to find a good source of duduk reeds. I had tried buying them over the internet but they were never much good, and the two good ones I'd bought ten years before, when I last visited Jivan, were starting to disintegrate.

discussing reeds with Jivan

Jivan himself is never satisfied with his reeds. His grandson Jivan junior told me: 'Grandfather said to all the reed makers: "If any of you can make me one decent reed I'll pay twenty times the usual price." '

Jivan asked his grandson to get his box of reeds, selected a few and offered them to me with an apologetic shrug. He then asked for his phone book, made a call and gave me the number of Mher Mnatsakanyan, son of Manvel the duduk maker.

Mher arranged to meet us that evening when we came back from a visit to a couple of Yezidi villages by Mount Aragats (that's another story, involving the Gurdjieff connection to the region). Mher drove us to his dad's house and I tried his reeds out. I don't think Jivan junior had told me the whole story, because Mher's reeds were lovely to play, in good standard pitch, with a warm rich sound.

I agreed to try and help Mher to market his dad's products in the UK, so here follows some selling copy:

Manvel's duduks play in standard western tuning, in concert pitch. He can supply duduks in any key, not just the standard A and Bb but going up to D (piccolo), E and F (superpiccolo). Each duduk is provided with reeds designed to play correctly in the key of that instrument. He makes some reeds for beginners that will play easily with light breath pressure, but even his professional reeds play a lot more easily than some I've tried.

Not that I'm the world's greatest expert, but Manvel's duduks have better intonation than any others I have played, and I have found his reeds to be consistently great-sounding, with that sought-after expressive tone.

You can reach Manvel's site at

with Jivan junior

Manvel Mnatsakanyanhttp://www.dudukworld.comhttp://www.dudukworld.comshapeimage_3_link_0

with Manvel and Mher