SANS is an ensemble that combines contemporary folk music, jazz and chamber music elements. The group is led by the multi-faceted British multi-instrumentalist and writer Andrew Cronshaw, along with acclaimed Finnish singer Sanna Kurki-Suonio (former Hedningarna), multi-instrumental reeds player Ian Blake, and Armenian duduk maestro Tigran Aleksanyan.
Picture a form of chamber world music that would feel perfectly at home at ECM. It’s meditative, mesmerizing music where Finnish traditions, vocals and instruments join ancient Armenian sounds and English folklore.
Andrew Cronshaw plays electric zither, fujara, marovantele, kantele; Sanna Kurki-Suonio on vocals; Tigran Aleksanyan on duduk; and Ian Blake on bass clarinet, soprano sax.
SANS Live is a beautiful, spellbinding album, masterfully crafted by four world class musicians.
Just out of curiosity, when was the last time you heard a piano recording? Seriously, when was the last time you sat and soaked in the frolicking richness or the magically complexity of an entire piano CD? Been a while? When so much peripheral background music screeching from the corners it hardly seems like pleasurable and more like something shoved down the throat, re-exploring the unimaginable richness of the piano can seem like an indulgence.
You deserve an indulgence by way of Tigran Hamasyan’s second offering on the Nonesuch Records label entitled An Ancient Observer. Born in Armenia, Tigran Hamasyan is known for such recordings as World Passion, New Era, A Fable and his first recording with Nonesuch by way of Mockroot. He is also known for collaborations with Dhafer Youssef, Ari Hoenig, Lars Danielsson, Stephane Galland and Sefj Tankian.
Backed by a wealth of folk traditions from his Armenian roots, Mr. Hamasyan has delved into progressive rock and jazz, often pulling at those Armenian musical tradition threads to flesh out his musical compositions.
Mr. Hamasyan explains his new recording, “These songs are musical observations about the world we live in now, and the weight of history we carry with us.”
Pairing charming elegance with musical drama, An Ancient Observer is a bold, razor sharp listen that tugs at the musical tapestry of jazz, classical and his native folk music. Plying the listener with his extraordinary mastery of the piano, Mr. Hamasyan expands the depth by way of vocals, synths, Fender Rhodes and special effects. The result is at once intimate and then expansive as he takes the listener through such musical feats as “Markos and Markos,” “The Cave of Rebirth” and the elegance of “New Baroque I and II.”
Back in Armenia, where ordinary life inspires his music Mr. Hamasyan explains, “I gaze out of my window and see the biblical mountain Ararat with perpetual snow on its peak, with electrical towers with wires in the foreground cutting the picture, and satellite dishes melted onto old and modern houses—ancestral smoke coming out of their chimneys—and birds hovering above the trees along with occasional airplane trails in the vast sky. It is a dialogue, this interaction of God-given ancient nature with our modern human achievements” he says.
“For me it is an awakening, and a beautiful feeling, to be able to observe the magnificence of this sleeping volcanic giant, which has existed for millions of years and was observed by the Ararat Valley Koura-Arax culture through to the present day citizens of the Armenian republic. I can see and observe the same birds, animals, rivers, and mountains that the craftsman of 4,000 years ago painted on a clay vessel. He was observing the same thing I observe now, and what remains is his or her beautiful work of art.”
Composing all the music on An Ancient Observer and basing “Nairian Odyssey” and “Etude No. 1” on Armenian folk melodies, Mr.Hamasyan enthralls and entrances listeners with “Nairian Odyssey” with its fascinating twists and turns and “Etude No. 1” with its quick and bright clever catchiness, as well as additional tracks like “Egyptian Poet,” Leninagone” and title track “Ancient Observer.” This is simply a lush recording.
Jazz and piano fans are sure to dive into the deep end of An Ancient Observer, but for those jazz novices this might be one of those recordings they might very well enjoy dipping a toe into for the sheer quiet loveliness, expressive drama and poignant expansiveness. An Ancient Observer is one of those easy indulgences begging for us to be quiet and just listen.
Quartet Dudukner is an ensemble from Armenia. In addition to international performances, the ensemble provides workshops on traditional duduk in Yerevan, as well as in other countries.
The founder and the chief of the quartet as well as its first duduk is Geaorgy Minasov. G. Minasov was born in Baku, graduated from Baku Musical College, worked as a soloist of the Folk Instruments Orchestra in Azerbaijan State Radio and Television. In 1983 he moved to Yerevan and has been a soloist of Gussan and Folk music Ensemble since then.
At the same time he teaches in Yerevan Musical College after R.Melikian. G.Minasov performed on the stages of many countries such as the United States of America, Canada, Russia, Greece, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Emirates and others. G.Minasov is the author of three text – books on playing duduk. He also created several modifications of duduk: baritone, tenor. As a result, the range of the normal duduk has been enlarged chromatically by a fifth.
He began the work at the instruments in 1992 and in 2002 he got the copyright license for invention. The quartet of duduk-players was founded by Minasov in 1998. In 2001 the quartet recorded its first album.
The repertoire of the quartet includes Armenian fold, gussan songs, and spiritual music, music of peoples of the world, eastern, mugams. The considerable part of the repertoire is the works of Armenian composers: Komitas, Yekmalian, Pahlavuni, Shnorhali, classic music (in author’s adaptation) of Bach, Mozart, Rakhmaninov, Gershvin and also the work of modern composers.
Lucineh Hovanissian was born in Yerevan (Armenia) in 1973. She has been performing on stage since the age of 9 as a soloist singer in Yerevan’s municipal park children’s band. Lucineh studied piano and composition at the conservatory and at the age of 11, she started performing as a pianist and composer.
In 1994 Lucineh graduated from Yerevan State medical university. She completed her musical studies in the vocal department of the jazz art college and the Yerevan state conservatory.
Lucineh won awards in 1987 and 1988 at the Aram Khatchaturian competitions among young composers of Armenia. In 2002 she became a UNESCO laureate in music (bursary aschberg). In 2004 she was awaredd the first place in the category ‘solo canto’ at the VII international festival musicworld in Fivizzano .
Lucineh was soloist in the Armenian national radio chamber choir as well as correspondent for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Armenian service.
She has performed throughout Europe and Canada.
* Vem, Sacred Songs from Armenia (Studio sm, 2005)
* After Noah, a world music story from Armenia (2004)
Jivan Gasparyan (his first name is also spelled Djivan) was born in 1928 in Solag, a village near the Armenian capital Yerevan. He began to play the duduk at age 6, gaining much of his knowledge by listening to the great masters.
In 1948 he joined the Tatoo’ Altounian National Song and Dance Ensemble, and also had his first professional engagement as soloist with the Yerevan Philharmonic Orchestra.
Most of Gasparyan’s repertoire features traditional Armenian folk songs. He also is an accomplished composer and a singer in the folk tradition. In addition to his original compositions and arrangements of traditional songs, he has written love songs based on the poetry of Vahan Derian.
Gasparyan won Gold Medals in four worldwide competitions organized by UNESCO (1959, 1962, 1973, and 1980) and is the only musician ever to be given the honorary title of People’s Artist of Armenia, received in 1973 from the Armenian government.
A professor at the Yerevan Conservatory, Gasparyan has prepared more than 70 duduk musicians for professional performance. He greatly enjoys teaching, and it brings him joy to know that through his efforts the tradition of duduk playing will not be lost.
Gasparyan has toured Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. In the United States, he has performed extensively in New York and Los Angeles, appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and has received exposure to Western audiences through performances with the Kronos Quartet.
Gasparyan’s album of Armenian folk songs and ballads, I Will Not Be Sad In This World (All Saints, 1989), dedicated to victims of the Armenian earthquake, received worldwide recognition. He has collaborated with Lionel Richie and Peter Gabriel.
His contribution to the soundtrack of Gladiator is only the latest of his continuing collaborations with the film industry both in Hollywood and in Europe: The Russia House, The Siege and The Crowand Atom Egoyan’s film Calendar, as well as for the American-Hungarian cable television co-production Storm and Sorrow.
At the age of 73, Jivan received the WOMEX (World Music Expo) lifetime achievement award of 2002.
Hagop Goudsouzian – Armenian Minstrels and Armenian Echoes (Hagop Goudsouzian Productions)
When was the last time you had a hostess sit before a neatly set table, complete with floral china cups, and offered her guests a charming, a cappella folk song while wearing a lime green Nestlé Frutina T-shirt? Probably never would be my guess. But that’s exactly what you get and so much more with Armenian and Canadian filmmaker Hagop Goudsouzian’s collection of films Armenian Minstrels and the three-part series Armenian Echoes.
Producer and director of a bevy of television programs, as well as the films Apricot Armenian Gold, Armenian Exile and My Son Shall Be Armenian produced by the National Film Board of Canada, Mr. Goudsouzian has set his sights on capturing Armenia’s musical soul by way of Armenian Minstrels and Armenian Echoes. Maybe some have caught these gems on your local PBS stations, but for those who haven’t these films they are not-to-be-missed glimpses into the riches of the heart of the often overlooked Armenian people.
Mr. Goudsouzian is generous as he introduces viewers to the Sayat-Nova Minstrel Song Ensemble in Armenian Minstrels and to artists like Minstrel Andranik Ujanci and Minstesl Makhmour, as well as the studio work of the group and the students of the Jivani School of Minstrel Art.
We get a listen to the vocals of Tovmas Poghosyan, a professor and the artistic director and president of the Sayat-Nova Cultural Union in the recording studio, a peek into Garine Haroyan’s archival work for the center and a behind-the-scenes look as the ensemble prepare for a concert.
The interview with Minstrel Kochar as he explains his early singing roles during his Soviet era school years and his backyard performance at his village home in Yeghis is indeed a delight. It also leave the viewer wanting, because, hey, what are these fruits that the bears eat in the mountains?
It’s easy to fall headlong into the kaleidoscope of colors and sounds with the trilogy Armenian Echoes as the films follow the work and artists of the Aram Merangulyan Folk Instruments Ensemble and its kamancha maker, player and concertmaster Onik Galstyan, the deeply lovely vocals of National Chamber Choir under direction of Robert Mikeyan and collaboration with composer and musicologist Arthur Shahnazarian, the reverence of song of the Choir of the Mother Cathedral of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the bright work of the Naregatsi Folk Instruments Ensemble.
What’s easier is to fall under the spell of is the elderly minstrel Edik Safaryan as he sings one his songs dedicated to his wife Knarig, the dancers of the Vardanyan Sisters Dance Troupe and Edmon Safaryan playing the duduk along with fellow musicians Khatchik Sogoyan, Gargan Hakopyan and Ura Hakopyan.
Perhaps my favorite is Bogdan G. Hovhannisyan, amateur folk song collector and khachkar (an Armenian stone carving with origins dating back to the 9th century) carver and engraver. Amid the jumble of his workshop, Mr. Hovhannisyan treats viewers and his assistant to a song before he explains his passion for folk songs that began under the Soviets when it was not encourage and his founding of a folk choir in the Lori region of Armenia.
Despite all the charms of the landscape Mr. Goudsouzian offers, the smiles of dancers and joyful offerings of song throughout these films, viewers are reminded of the seriousness with which all these artists have devoted themselves.
There are reminders of a sometimes harsh reality as the director of the Sayat-Nova Cultural Union struggles with financing now that the state no longer provides funds, the sorrow that many Armenians simply emigrate to other countries to find better lives, the remaining scars of lands that once belonged to the Armenian people, a genocide and the horrific ravages of the 1988 Armenian earthquake that killed some 50,000 people and destroyed nearly 500,000 buildings. But there is a stubborn perseverance to keep going and to take the business of cultural preservation seriously. Nothing could sum up this sentiment better than a young singer from the Surb Tiramayr Choir from Vanadzor when she says, “Singing spiritual songs is a very difficult and a big responsibility. We have taken it upon ourselves, because they are the heartfelt songs of our people and they don’t take it very well if it’s poorly sung. You must sing it very well or resign.”
There are no slick rock star musicians, no big haired divas, no Dancing with the Stars anywhere in sight in Armenian Minstrels and Armenian Echoes – no, these small town dancers, striped shirted religious singers and mountain side saz players and minstrels are better. By way of Armenian Minstrels and Armenian Echoes, Mr. Goudsouzian had opened a treasure trove of the delights of the Armenian soul.
Charentsavan: Music for Armenian Duduk showcases the talent of a young musician who represents the new generation of duduk players. The duduk is the wind instrument that represents the music of Armenia.
The music selection on Charentsavan: Music for Armenian Duduk includes traditional pieces, compositions from the 1700s and 1800s and one contemporary piece by Ara Dinkjian.
Most of the tracks on the album feature Arsen Petrosyan playing evocative solo duduk accompanied by drone duduk, percussion and other instruments. On track 6, Petrosyan plays a lively dance featuring a larger ensemble with santur and percussion.
The producer intentionally made the album relatively short. The producer indicates that the average music listener wouldn’t be able to listen, retain, and eventually appreciate a traditional and standard 60 minute duduk (plus drone duduk) album. Additional instruments were added to recognize modern listening habits.
Charentsavan: Music for Armenian Duduk presents the beautiful sound of the duduk, performed by one of Armenia’s finest players.
Arto Tuncboyaciyan was born in 1957, in Galataria, a town outside Constantinople. He is the youngest child of an Armenian family, with roots from Anatolia. Arto’s family had financial problems that were solved when the elder brother Onno, became a musician.
At the age of 11, Arto started his professional music career playing and recording throughout Turkey and Europe. One of his main influences was his brother Onno, who helped him not only as a brother, but also as a friend and fellow musician.
In 1981, Arto moved to the United States to explore new musical directions. Since then he has recorded with Gerardo Núñez, Al DiMeola , Joe Zawinul, Bob Berg, Mike Manieri, Chet Baker, Marc Johnson, Dino Saluzzi, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Eleftheria Arvanitaki and many others.
In 1985, Keytone released two solo CDs by Arto: “Virginland” and “Main Root. He then started a creative collaboration with the Armenian ud player Ara Dinkjian, with whom he recorded in duo Tears of Dignity and Onno for the Greek label Libra Music. Onno was in fact an homage to Arto’s beloved brother, who was killed tragically in a plane crash in 1996.
With Ara Dinkjian, Arto was a member of the group Night Ark and recorded Picture, Moments, Wonderland and Petals On Your Path. In 1998 he participated in the Italian project Triboh, conceived and co-led with the vocalist Maria Pia De Vito and the piano player Rita Marcotulli, recording the CD Triboh for the Italian label Polosud.
He is a member of the group Walking Fish together with Matthew Garrison, Jim Beard, Gene Lake and Bob Malach. His album with Paul Winter, Every Day is a New Life, was released by the Living Music label.
Currently, Arto is working with Armenian musicians with whom he founded his group The Armenian Navy Band, a small orchestra rooted in Armenian and Anatolian traditional music inspired by contemporary life. The project was conceived in 1998 after a meeting in Yerevan with young Armenian musicians from different musical backgrounds including ethnic and contemporary Armenian music. Since then, the idea to create a group to represent the sound of Armenia today was realized.
The two albums that represent the current aspects of Arto’s musical discovery are Aile Muhabbeti, a movie soundtrack composed by the artist, and Bzidik Zinvor.
Bzidik Zinvor was recorded in Armenia and is the result of the very first meeting with several musicians from Yerevan. Arto’s original compositions express the sounds of generations past alongside those of modern life: this is what he calls “avant-garde folk”. Of his music, Arto also says, “//Without losing your identity you extend your imagination//.”
During 2000 and 2001 The Armenian Navy Band toured Europe to great acclaim from public and press alike. This experience is reflected in the CD “New Apricot” recorded in Istanbul for the Turkish label Imaj Müzik.
Arto can be heard on various recordings including those of Chet Baker The Best Thing For You, Arthur Blythe Hipmotism and Night Song, Jim Pepper The Path, Marc Johnson Right Brain Patrol and Magic Labyrinth, Dino Saluzzi Mojotor, Al Di Meola World Sinfonia, Heart of the Immigrants and Kiss Me Axe, Bob Berg Virtual Reality and Riddles, Hank Roberts Little Motor People, Mike Mainieri An American Diary, Joe Zawinul Stories of the Danube and My People, Oregon Oregon 97, Paul Winter & The Earth Band Journey With The Sun, flamenco guitar master Gerardo Núñez Calima and many other great recordings.
In 2002 he formed Serart, a collaboration with System of a Down’s Serj Tankian. Serart released an album on Serjical Strike and Columbia Records on May 20, 2003.
“It’s not a rock album, it’s not a band, it’s not a solo album for me,” sayd Serj Tankian. “It’s a collaboration that I was compelled to do with a very creative artist. It’s a very special type of album.”
It is important to note that Serart is not at all similar to a SOAD album – it’s a departure away from SOAD’s progressive-metal barrage. Serart finds these two, seemingly disparate, creative artists joining for a new vision. Serj describes the album best, “It’s really crazy world, jazz and experimental with some rock and hip-hop beats, dance beats, and electronic beats. Arto plays the Coke bottle, water droplets, an ancient flute, percussion of all sorts, little toys and shakers.”
The music on Serart is both “cross genre and cross cultural,” an exotic and eclectic blend of electronica, poetry, Middle Eastern melodies, Pan-African rhythms, classical motifs melded with volleys of percussion. In addition to the 16 musical tracks on the album, Serart comes with a DVD component, the 14 minute experimental film, “Sun Angle Calculator,” directed and edited by Matthew Amato. “The film is a visual collage,” says Serj. “The name, ‘Sun Angle Calculator,’ is a funny way of saying ‘let me help you see the light.‘”
The Armenian Navy Band’s 2004 album Sound of Our Life – Part One: Natural Seed is a nearly 50-minute-long composition in eleven parts, which is dedicated to nature. Natural Seeds takes the listener along part of the path of life that Arto Tuncboyaciyan and his musicians have traveled.
The recording equally represents the return to the origins of the musical ‘seed’ of The Armenian Navy Band; the tremendous joy and affection which the band?s musicians feel with and for each other in the here and now of their life together ? also outside the recording studios and stages; as well as the hopeful, self-confident view to the future. For Arto Tuncboyaciyan, the project Sound of Our Life is a never-ending musical documentation of the future.
When asked about the meaning of music, Arto replied: “Music is the sound of my life. I don’t pretend to lead anyone. I leave it up to one’s imagination. What I try to express is love, respect and the truth.”
Two new albums by Arto Tun?boyaciyan came out in January of 2005, Love Is Not in Your Mind (Heaven and Earth CD HE 19) and Artostan (Heaven and Earth CD HE 19).
Love Is Not in Your Mind is a duo project with the dazzling pianist and keyboardist of the Armenian Navy Band (Arto’s band) Vahagn Hayrapetyan. It features Tuncboyaciyan’s engaging vocal style and fiery percussion along with Hayrapetyan’s outstanding keyboard work. All songs on Love Is Not in Your Mind are never ending love stories. It is Tuncboyaciyan’s very personal declaration of love, dedicated his mother. “Taking care and sacrificing. That is what I have seen at my home and that is my mama. I never see her sleep before me or wake up after me. A ways feeling her love being there for you, making balance at home gives you great confidence and positive power. I am proud to have mama like you, and also my wife and my sister for being great mothers. When I lost my mother on May 17th 2003,1 was 46 years old. At that moment I realized that there is no age difference between a mother’s and a child’s love.”
Artostan is described as avant-garde folk and the description is pretty accurate. On Artostan, Tuncboyaciyan focuses on vocal experimentation, with his characteristic rhythmic vocal pieces as well as digitally manipulated vocals, accompanied by percussion solos and effects. He also plays a small lute called bular. The album is a trip to Arto Tuncboyaciyan’s philosophical homeland: Artostan. “Because of what’s going on in the world today with my human rights, dignity and power, I declare my own country in me. Artostan.”
* Virginland (Keytone, 1989)
* Main Root (Keytone, 1994)
* Tears Of Dignity (Libra, 1996)
* Onno (Libra, 1998)
* AVC1 (Imaj Müzik, 1998)
* Triboh (Polosud, 1998)
* Armenian Navy Band (Svota Music, 1999) Bzdik Zinvor (Svota Music, 1999)
* Every Day is a New Life (Living Music / Earth Music Production, 2000)
* New Apricot (Imaj Müzik, 2001)
* Picture (RCA / Novus)
* Moments (RCA / Novus)
* In Wonderland (Polygram)
* Petals On Your Path (Universal Music)
* Serart (Serjical Strike/Columbia, 2003)
* Sound of Our Life – Part One: Natural Seeds (Heaven and Earth HE 14, 2004)
* Love Is Not in Your Mind (Heaven and Earth CD HE 19, 2005)
* Artostan (Heaven and Earth CD HE 19, 2005)
* How Much Is Yours? (Svota Music, 2005)
* Under Your Thoughts (Svota Music, 2009)
Music is considered a crucial means of communication by the founder of The Armenian Navy Band, Arto Tunçboyaciyan, a percussionist and vocalist of Armenian descent. Arto claims music as his instrument of choice to express his highest aspirations: love, respect and truth.
The Armenian Navy Band’s compositions are all originals of Arto Tunçboyaciyan which, he insists, “have the sound of my life“. This music is founded on Armenian and Anatolian musical traditions and infused with jazz and contemporary culture.
Arto’s compositions embrace sounds from generations past as well as present this is what he calls “avant-garde folk”. As such, the Armenian Navy Band represents the synthesis of Arto’s musical journey and life experiences.
The Armenian Navy Band is composed of twelve of the finest of Armenia’s contemporary musicians, ranging in age from 20 to 45. The instruments include the traditional: duduk, zurna, kemanche, kanun; and the contemporary: trombone, alto sax, tenor, soprano sax, trumpet, bass, drums, keyboards and piano. Together with the unique vocals and percussion and sazabo of Arto, the band’s sound is a sort of aural journey from the past to the future.
The band’s first European tour in February/March 2000 was successfully received in Italy, Germany, Austria and Spain. Their next tour, later that year, included Sardinia (Italy), France, Belgium and Holland, ending with a stop in Istanbul (Turkey) for the recording of the album “New Apricot”under the Turkish label “Imaj Müzik”. This was followed by another brief tour in March 2001 and an extended European Summer/Fall tour through to November 2001.
The Armenian Navy Band’s 2004 album Sound of Our Life – Part One: Natural Seed is a nearly 50-minute-long composition in eleven parts, which is dedicated to nature. Natural Seeds takes the listener along part of the path of life that Arto Tuncboyaciyan and his musicians have traveled. The recording equally represents the return to the origins of the musical ‘seed’ of the The Armenian Navy Band; the tremendous joy and affection which the band’s musicians feel with and for each other in the here and now of their life together, also outside the recording studios and stages; as well as the hopeful, self-confident view to the future.
For Arto Tuncboyaciyan, the project Sound of Our Life is a never-ending musical documentation of the future.
Ara Dinkjian is an Armenian born in the United States in 1958. His earliest professional musical experience was accompanying his father Onnik Dinkjian, a renowned Armenian folk and liturgical singer.
Ara learned several western and eastern instruments (piano, guitar, darbuka, clarinet) and in 1980 graduated from the Hartt College of Music, earning the country’s first and only special degree in the instrument for which he has become most well-known, the oud. For the past 35 years, he has continued his post as organist in the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Throughout his musical life, Ara has continued to develop his highly personal compositional style which blends his eastern and western roots. In 1985, to help realize these compositions and musical concepts, Ara formed his instrumental quartet, Night Ark, which recorded four CDs for RCA/BMG and Universal/PolyGram.
Night Ark’s recordings and concert tours were highly influential for musicians and music lovers throughout the world because they demonstrated how music can move forward while still retaining the dignity and soul of one’s culture.
These compositions have had a universal appeal; his songs have been recorded by world famous instrumentalists and singers in thirteen different languages, demonstrating that music does indeed unite people and cultures. His hit song “Dinata, Dinata” was performed at the closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympics. Many of his compositions have appeared in movie and television soundtracks.
Ara is also considered one of the best oud players in the world, with a very personal style that emphasizes his uniquely beautiful tone. He has appeared throughout the world on concert stages, oud festivals, seminars, and master classes.
His CDs ‘An Armenian In America’, ‘Voice Of Armenians’, and ‘Peace On Earth’ were recorded live at the 2005, 2006, and 2007 Jerusalem International Oud Festivals.
In 2010, Ara Dinkjian formed The Secret Trio, along with clariner virtuoso Ismail Lumanovski (New York Gypsy All-Stars) and qanun maestro Tamer Pinarbasi. The ensemble performs Turkish, Balkan Roma (Gypsy) and Armenian music.
He continues to compose, perform, record, and teach, while creating his own unique musical landscape.