17 January 2017, 19:12
116331 |

In the World of Musical Instrument Makers (part 2)

Years after I first played a musical instrument – piano, which I soon quit because of lack of interest, recently I decided to take up another instrument - oud. A friend kindly gave hers, but since it was old and had deformations, I had to take it to a master for repairing it. Setting a foot in the workshop of an instrument maker was a step into a world previously unknown to me.

Ruben Rushanyan (78) is a master of woodwind musical instruments, particularly reed pipe.

He makes instruments for more than 50 years. He started playing reed pipe in young age when he would take the cows to graze. Over the time he started playing so well that soon he joined Yervand Saharuni’s ensemble.

Young Ruben in the central photo
Young Ruben in the central photo

Ruben decided to himself make his reed pipe to get the sound that he wants. When finally he made it, his work was praised among musicians. Soon he started making other instruments too, including zurna, pku, duduk, bagpipe. He even invented some instruments: one of these is metallic multipipe. Usually multipipe is made from wood, but Ruben made it from metal which according to him sounds better.

Metallic pipes in the center
Metallic pipes in the center
Master also makes bagpipes from special fabric, instead of leather, since as he says leather smells bad. Ruben has participated in various festivals in Romania, France, Germany.

Ruben is careful about having students. He says for making musical instruments, one should be skilled not only in one but many crafts and have good taste, good ear for music, know maths and physics, etc. His grandson is his hope now.

Ruben’s biggest wish is that Armenia has separate union of musical instrument masters. He wants this union not only to be a hub, where anyone willing to buy a musical instrument would get it from a professional instrument maker, but also a place which would issue good instrument makers with license. Otherwise, Ruben expresses his concern that anyone can make and sell instruments, which have no proper sound, and which they themselves can’t even play.

Ruben’s duduks and reed pipes
Ruben’s duduks and reed pipes 

Another master is Albert Zakaryan (77). He is known as a master of tar, kamancha.

But he also makes oud, daf, etc. Albert started making instruments in 1960s. As Albert recalls, during Soviet times each factory had its cultural center. That is where he started playing tar. He says thanks to helping his father in making furniture he learned a lot about working with wood.

Photo with Albert playing in a group
Photo with Albert playing in a group

Master pays special attention to aesthetics of musical instruments. Since he had talent in drawing, he was especially interested in ornaments and design of tar, kamancha. So parallel to making instruments he also ornamented them. Mostly the ornaments are his designs.

Albert shows his designs
Albert shows his designs

Sometimes daily things would become source for inspiration. Once he noticed the fish scale in the kitchen, which then became another idea for his ornaments.

Albert’s fish scale design
Albert’s fish scale design

His drawing skills not only helped in designing his ornaments, but also quit smoking, since one of his drawings was his own smoking hand against a figure of an athlete. He hang this picture on the wall and since then stopped smoking.

Albert’s hand holding the cigarette against athlete’s figure is still hanging on the wall of his workshop
Albert’s hand holding the cigarette against athlete’s figure is still hanging on the wall of his workshop

Master Albert has received orders for tar from different countries - Argentine, Uruguay, US, Holland, France, India, Australia. As an author of several instruments, including bas qanun, bas santour, etc, Albert received letters of gratitude and some of his inventions are also certified. Albert has special pride in the ornaments he makes for his musical instruments.

Albert’s instruments and a piece of his father’s furniture
Albert’s instruments and a piece of his father’s furniture

Onik Galstyan (70) is known as a master of kamancha. He makes kamancha, as well as plays this instrument in Aram Merangulyan Folk Instruments Ensemble of Armenia’s Public Radio.

Onik and the yet to be kamancha
Onik and the yet to be kamancha

One thing he highlights for any musical instrument maker is that it is not enough to make them; it is a must to have the ear for music and play the instrument. Onik himself started playing kamancha right after returning from military service in the 70s. He studied in the musical college after Romanos Melikyan. Parallel to his studies, Onik’s teacher Martin Khachatryan entrusted him in helping to make musical instruments. This is how Onik started his profession.

Onik showing his other works – bambir, kemani
Onik showing his other works – bambir, kemani

Currently his friends in France, USA, as well as his student in Greece play kamancha made by Onik.

Onik’s kamanchas
Onik’s kamanchas

Within the framework of a project by Ministry of Culture, Onik received an order for making several kamanchas, which then Ministry gives to children, who cannot afford buying it but who want to learn it. As Onik tells me about this, I remember Andre also being busy making qanuns ordered by the Ministry within the same project when I was visiting him.

Onik also makes big and small bambirs.

Onik playing his bambir
Onik playing his bambir

He too brought innovation into instrument making, particularly by making the neck of his kamanchas thicker in the place where it is attached to the main body. This according to Onik not only makes the instrument more durable, but also easy to play.

Onik’s previous works
Onik’s previous works
By topic