Benik Abovian and Zaven Azibekian are traditional musicians from the Tavush region of Armenia, on the border of Azerbaijan. Abovian plays the zurna, a traditional oboe with a distinctly strident sonority. Azibekian also plays zurna and its more graceful cousin, the duduk (closer in sound to a clarinet), but he truly shines on the sring, a well-rounded wooden flute that has a breathy quality evoking the Japanese shakuhashi. The pair plays together in weddings and other festivities. Here they are accompanied by Kamo Nazarian, who plays the role of damkiash, providing the dam (a drone on the tonic) that allows the soloists to ornament the melodies at will, and Albert Harutyunian on dhol (a two-sided hand drum) -- on two tracks, the latter two are replaced by Pavel Zalinian and Martik Amirkhanian. The repertoire draws from traditional melodies interpreted with a lot of personal input. Abovian improvises within the traditional frame, showing much virtuosity and a keen sense of drama in "Three Tunes" and "Guyovn Yev Par." Azibekian pushes the envelope a bit more, especially in his heartbreaking sring solos "Hey, Kanatsh Sarer," "Tagh Khorhurd," and "Tagh Havik," all surprisingly out of time and space. This session was recorded in a studio setting in Kirants (Tavush) on August 9, 2001, with two pieces coming from a public performance in Noyemberian the next day. This CD makes a fine album of instrumental Armenian folk tunes. The booklet includes extensive historical and musical liner notes in English and French.
AllMusic Review by François Couture