We all have our favorite Armenian wedding bands and singers, and more recently, DJs. Their music is the pulse of the party and their energy keeps the night going. As their stars rise and fall over the years, the sounds and faces of these artists continually turn over, keeping up with the changing soundscape of our times. But for hundreds of years, there has been one unchanging tune at Armenian weddings: the everlasting duet of the zurna and the dhol.
This week we spoke with Vrej Sarkissian, CEO of Anoush Catering and L.A. Banquets to discuss traditional Armenian music played at weddings. Vrej explained the zurna is an oboe-like reed instrument that was developed in the ancient Middle East and Caucasus regions. Traditionally made from the wood of the apricot tree, the zurna has long been a celebratory musical instrument. In fact the word zurna comes from the Persian words meaning banquet or feast, and pipe.
The dhol, a double headed drum, also traces its roots to the Caucasus regions, though similar instruments are found throughout Asia. The dhol is played barehanded with the fingers and palms, and only on one side of the drum. Skilled musicians drum out complex rhythms as their hand dances across the taut drum skin.
Like the couple to be married, the zurna and dhol complete each other. The organic drumbeat of the dhol grounds the meandering melodies of the high pitched zurna, and their music has become the defining sound of Armenian weddings. Their traditional folk music weaves together the wedding day activities as the zurna and dhol musicians are called to be present at each event. Their small and portable instruments let the musicians easily travel from the groom’s house early in the morning, to the bride’s home, then to the church, and finally to the reception.
Our absolute favorite Armenian wedding tradition is when the zurna and dhol musicians play traditional Armenian music as they enter into the reception hall with the bride and groom. It's at that moment that the hall goes wild with everyone flooding the dance floor and that's when you know you are part of an incredible Armenian wedding! So we are excited to celebrate the important tradition of the dhol and zurna and we hope it will continue for hundreds of years to come.