Tag Archives: Armenian music

Artist Profiles: Haig Yazdjian

Haig Yazdjian – Photo by C. Kissadiel

Haig Yazdjian was born of Armenian parents in Syria and has been living in Greece for the last 20 years. In Syria he discovered the enchanting elements of Eastern music, and took up the ud as the means to express an inner undiscovered domain. Soon, he became extremely popular as an oud soloist, and one of the most characteristic vocalists. The release of his first album, Talar (that means ethereal, lively and tender, in Armenian), in 1996, accelerated his popularity, but more important chartered him amongst the most promising composes of his generation. Yazdjian was hailed for the unique ways he was blending diverse elements of the eastern Mediterranean music traditions vested in the practice of considering tradition as a live creative force. All that in a rather, ethereal or even interminable fashion as the title of Talar alludes to.

Two years later, the release of his second solo album Garin, and the CD single ‘Gift’ were received with unanimous acclamation from audiences and critics alike. In addition to a critical and commercial success, Yazdjian has met the recognition and respect of some of the most important figures of Greek music that he has collaborated with. In the summer of 2000 Yazdjian released Beast on the Moon, an album that signified a new expressive turn in his music quest. In 2001 at a point of expressive and performance maturity, he released Yeraz, a dreamworld for fellow listeners.

Over the years Yazdjian has collaborated with the most prominent Greek composer and singers as well as soloists of international stature. Among them, Nikos Xydakis, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Savina Yiannatou, Maria Farantouri, Dimitra Galani, Elli Paspala, David Lynch, Michalis Nikoloudis, Dave Spilain, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Jivan Gasparyan, Theodossi Spasov, Glen Velez and Kudsi Erguner.

His first album was Beast on the Moon. Yazdjian played on Loreena McKennitt’s 2006 album An Ancient Muse.

Selected Discography:

Beast on the Moon
Talar (Libra Music, 1996)
Nazeli, with Jivan Gasparyan Quartet (Libra Music, 1998)
Garin ‎(Libra Music, 1998)
Το Κτήνος Στο Φεγγάρι ‎(2000)
Yeraz ‎(Lyra, 2001)
Amalur, with Eleftheria Arvanitaki and Ara Dinkjian ‎(Libra Music, 2007)
The Greek Folk Instruments: Outi (FM Records, 2011)

Share

Artist Profiles: Shoghaken Ensemble

Shoghaken

 

Drawing upon Armenian ancient traditions, Shoghaken renders lullabies, folk dances and love songs from Armenia’s various regions.  The Ensemble made their debut U.S. appearance in 2002, on an invitation by cellist Yo-Yo Ma when they performed at an elaborate festival featuring music of the Silk Road, hosted by the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. At the same time, the ensemble released their debut CD, Armenia Anthology, which received the AFIM award. And the ensemble’s music was featured on the soundtrack of Atom Egoyan’s film, Ararat.

The Shoghaken Ensemble’s 2004 tour coincided with the release of two CDs, Traditional Dances of Armenia and Shoghaken vocalist Hasmik Harutyunyan’s Armenian Lullabies. Both CDs chronicle the ancient history and more recent events associated with Armenia. Informative liner notes and archival photographs embellish the recordings. Equally important is the lush music performed on the recordings that features the kamanche (spike fiddle), ud (lute), duduk (double reed pipe), zurna (double reed obo), kanon (zither), dhol (drum), a shepherd’s flute and other traditional instruments. The music draws comparisons and influences from neighboring countries Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Iran and the Middle East in general.

The Shoghaken Ensemble features performances by renowned vocalist sister and brother, Hasmik and Aleksan Harutyunyan as well as, some of the finest Armenian instrumental talent, including the ensemble founder and duduk virtuoso, Gevorg Gourgeni Dabaghyan. Other members include, Tigran Ambaryan (kamancha), Artur Arakelyan (ud), Karine Hovhannisyan (kanon), Kamo Khachaturian (dhol, percussion), Grigor Takushian (second duduk, dham) and Levon Tevanyan (shepherd’s flute). Apart from the ensemble the musicians have released numerous solo recordings between them and have made several noted radio and movie soundtrack appearances.

Share

Duduk Quartet Depicts the Armenian Spirit

Jivan Gasparyan Duduk Ensemble – Yeraz (Buda Musique, 2017)

On Yeraz, Jivan Gasparyan presents a new, remarkable perspective of the ancient Armenian duduk. The album was recorded in Geghard, a medieval monastery in the Kotayk region of Armenia that is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The lineup on Yeraz is an all-duduk quartet that performs evocative and bittersweet musical pieces representing the agony, optimism and vivacity of the Armenian people.

Personnel: Jivan Gasparyan on duduk; Jivan Gasparyan Jr. on duduk; Armen Ghazarian on duduk; and Vazgen Makaryan on duduk.

Yeraz is an outstanding recording by the great maestro of the duduk joined by three equally talented duduk players.

Buy Yeraz in Europe

Buy Yeraz in the rest of the world

Share

SANS’ Entrancing Chamber World Music

SANS – Live (Cloud Valley CV2014, 2014)

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.

Buy Live

Share

Lush Observations

Tigran Hamasyan – An Ancient Observer (Nonesuch Records, 2018)

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.

Buy An Ancient Observer

Share

Artist Profiles: Quartet Dudukner

Quartet Dudukner
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.

Discography:

Quartet Dudukner

Share

Artist Profiles: Lucineh Hovanissian

Lucineh Hovanissian

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.

Discography

* Vem, Sacred Songs from Armenia (Studio sm, 2005)
* After Noah, a world music story from Armenia (2004)

website: www.lucinehovanissian.am

Share

Artist Profiles: Jivan Gasparyan

Jivan Gasparyan

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.

Jivan Gasparyan and Michael Brook

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.

Discography

* I Will Not Be Sad in This World (Opal/All Saints)
* Moon Shines at Night (Opal/All Saints)
* Ask me no questions (Traditional Crossroads 4268, 1996)
* Apricots from Eden (Traditional Crossroads 4276, 1996)
* The Crow, soundtrack
* Black Rock, with Michael Brook (Realworld 46230, 1998)
* Djivan Gasparyan Quartet (Libra Music 1998)
* The Seige, soundtrack (1998)
* Heavenly Duduk (Network 1999)
* Armenian Fantasies (Network 34801, 2000)
* Gladiator, soundtrack
* Fuad, with Erkan Ogur (2001)
* Art of the Armenian Duduk (Arc Music, 2002)
* Endless Vision, with Hossein Alizadeh (World Village, 2006)
* Penumbra, with Michael Brook (Canadian Rational/bigHelium, 2008)

Share

Armenian Minstrels and Armenian Echoes, Treasure Trove of Delights

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.

https://vimeo.com/195574555

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.

Purchase the videos at http://www.hagopgoudsouzian.com/world_music2

Share

Duduk Prodigy

Arsen Petrosyan – Charentsavan: Music for Armenian Duduk (Pomegranate Music, 2015)

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.

Buy Charentsavan: Music for Armenian Duduk

Share