Tag Archives: Armenian music

Interview with Emre Gültekin

Emre Gültekin

Vardan Hovanissian & Emre Gültekin recently released Karin, an album that reached number 1 on the January 2019 Transglobal World Music Chart. Emre Gültekin discussed his musical background and Karin with World Music Central.

Vardan Hovanissian and Emre Gültekin – Karin

How did Vardan Hovanissian & Emre Gültekin meet?

One of the first meetings was when we were looking in Brussels for a duduk player for a recording. It was an album project with my father Lutfu Gultekin…So he came, we met and recorded; it was wonderful.

At that time, I was studying sound engineering and there was a class named “soundscape” or something like that. One of our exercises was to put a poem in sound without using music. 

I was often the first student to present my works because we had a home studio in our house. 

So I presented the work which was a poem of Nazim Hikmet and asked Vardan to play duduk.

So the Poem (20th century) was presented with just a voice and duduk in front of the class and the teacher. 

A lot of students were laughing, etc…Then the teacher said ‘Ok! You forgot the main instruction for this work (no music) but your work touched me so much that I will give you 18/20 and if you correct this part by doing this, I will make it 19/20.’

I answered something like “I am ok with 18/20”. After that it was obvious that we would keep in touch through music.

Emre Gültekin and Vardan Hovanissian

What attracted a Belgian with Turkish roots and an Armenian to collaborate?

There is no point for us not to collaborate because of so many common things from food to music.

For me, the “modern Turkish identity” they wanted to create doesn’t mean so much or it is not relevant. Turkey is a mosaic of more than 40 ethnic groups with several languages, which includes Kurdish, Aramaic, Pontos Greek, Armenian, Laz… so much!

Unfortunately, a lot of blood and tragedies accompany their stories.

As in Europe with Bretons, or all the “little communities” which are actually so big for me as the Baul, in India for giving just one example…Sorry for my English.

For Vardan and me particularly, the music is the common language we want to express our feelings… and I think in this attempt the goal is quite appreciated for that we are so grateful to our respective masters… you have some interviews where their names are noted.

For me, Lutfu Gultekin, my father then so lot of so nice musicians. Specially and first from Turkey (one of my main roots), Talip Özkan, Mustafa Karaçeper, Neşet Ertaş, Muharrem Ertaş, Tamburi Cemil Bey, Cengiz Özkan, Engin Arslan, Ertan Tekin.

I want to apologize because there are so many.

Then also here in Europe or India or Africa, America, Far East, Middle-East.

Actually, Muziekpublique based in Brussels or De Centrale based in Gent can give a good idea about the diversity of musical cultures we exchange in Belgium.

My second root is related with Belgium, where I was born. 

So it means through Brussels more than 170 countries… so much diversity who can give so much perspective in the way of musical exchange creations, etc.

At the end, the world is like a village 🙂

Very soon, I hope we can effectively understand the absurdity in so much ideas like borders, papers. Music has to remember that as an artistic point of view of life.

Then there is no point of defining music by “nationality” which is also nonsense. Of course, territorial geographical particularities is relevant. Sometimes even between two neighboring village stylistic differences exist…Particularly for Armenian and Turkish folk music we can say that there is a so large common background through the centuries of living together than we can hope to collaborate with Vardan all our life. As long as breathe, we will perform!

Vardan Hovanissian and Emre Gültekin

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

Soul and spirit…feelings…fluidity… all our respective lives in a way… get in our music our hopes to transmit all of this through our music

Whom can you cite as your main musical influences?

I already mentioned some earlier, my father Lutfu Gultekin, and a lot of his colleagues or friends, Talip Özkan, Mustafa Karaçeper, and a lot more. 

Recently I met after 20 years Aynur, for a Kurdish folk project. Through the platform muziekpublique I get the chance to meet a lot of musicians from “world music.” I dislike this categorization of music. A big mistake;-) the categorization.

Vardan has also his own masters (I don’t have the names in memory but you can find through muziekpublique.be His roots related to Armenia so old and deep traditions…so the sound of duduk is printed by all of this…

Vardan Hovanissian and Emre Gültekin- Adana

Tell us about your previous album Adana and your musical evolution.

Adana is before all the idea to combine some examples from Armenian and Turkish musical cultures. Through this friendship we developed with Vardan. Musically it is a mix I made as I am sound engineer…One of the rules I learned through years it is: less rules or indication or scores…to the musicians…

Just feelings… even the musician cannot understand the deep roots the expression he is giving to the music my role is to catch them and then put together.

And for this process I am so grateful to people with ears so fined tuned as my father Lutfu Gultekin, Cengiz Özkan, Talip Özkan…and many others.

The ear is our main tool; as musician or sound engineer which has to be in fusion (the two functions) if we want to give a chance to the music…to be heard.  Music coming first and before sound engineering (modern way to broadcast “diffuser.”

After Adana and in parallel a lot of projects…

There is no impossibility in music if you are open mind and if you want to share and find a common way. So it is a permanent journey. These are some of the projects: www.amusicjourney.com, www.seyirmuzik.com

A lot of recordings we have also to share, but in this very troubled period in the way they are diffusing consuming music sometimes it is very difficult to find it. Then you give up to think about and continue to play record. Making music is our life.

 You play two traditional Turkish musical instruments, the saz and the baglama. What’s the difference between the two instruments?

Saz is a generic term for all the lute family we can find in Turkey. There is no standard format of this instrument. Each instrument maker has his signature… initially it was like that. Today, industrial mood and process can be used. But I like signatures. 

So baglama is one of the format but in different regions it can represent different instruments. 

Baglama in Aegean part (west) is a cura in another part…More than 40 different ethnic group in Turkey;-)

Complicated a bit, but if you change the perspective to analyze music, it becomes quite ok. 

We can make music with spoon in Greece or Turkey:-)

Who makes your musical instruments?

I never bought instruments. Till today, my father had a very good approach of restoring old saz (as wine it is better older) and we have not this idea of mine, my instrument. Every material things for music is shared as it has to be through music, so in that way we share instruments. 

Also I received some gifts from very good masters. The instrument makers are in Turkey, Central Asia, Iran…Difficult to find here in Europe.

Are you involved in any form of musical education?

After years of “teaching,” you understand if you can go further that there is no point to teach, and maybe we have more to call it sharing…

Also as “teacher,” I learned a lot because new things generally can come also from “students” if the “teacher” is attentive. 

So in that way I was involved a lot but neither in academy or conservatory where they cannot teach the spirit of the saz…Some cultural association.

The masters as considered like were never in institutions or conservatory or academy. Some have opened their own school and sometimes they also the same impact as institutions for music… they empty the music from its own soul or spirit.

That is one of the thing I heard from Talip Özkan and then I experiment in my own musical trip.

So it is continuing like that…Some young people interested they can follow you, then it will depend of their own intention, to be or not actor in musical developments. And how… a lot of questions of course.

If you could gather any additional musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

There is no impossibility. We can make music with anyone who is close to our feelings. You cannot cheat in music. In that way if the person is sincerely involved to share and express something which is above us, the music, then this one can emerge.

For Adana and Karin it is with double bass percussion and a lot of other instruments. For Karin we invited also a lot of guest: Iranian, Kurdish, Georgian, French, Belgian, and Indian.

Do you have any other upcoming projects to share with us?

Baul meets saz (Indian Baul); Aynur Kurdish; Osuna Trio Silk Road folk; Gultekinler (kalan music); Guo Gan “lune de jade.” And so much more in hard drives 🙂 Easy to get info through internet…

Discography:

Chansons Pour La Fin D’un Jour ‎(Homerecords.be, 2011)
L’exil, Refuge Du Barde, with Lütfü Gültekin ‎(Homerecords.be, 2013)
Adana, with Vardan Hovanissian ‎(Muziekpublique, 2015)
Lune De Jade, with Guo Gan (Homerecords.be, 2016)
Karin (Muziekpublique, 2018)

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Vardan Hovanissian & Emre Gültekin at the Top of the January 2019 Transglobal World Music Chart


Vardan Hovanissian and Emre Gültek – Karin

The album Karin (Muziekpublique) by duduk player Vardan Hovanissian (Armenia) and saz virtuoso Emre Gültek (Belgium, with roots in Turkey) is the number one recording in January 2019 on the Transglobal World Music Chart.

“Karin” is the ancient Armenian name for the town of Erzurum, situated in what is now Turkey. It is the birthplace of Vardan Hovanissian’s grandfather, who was one of 200 survivors following the deportation of around 40,000 residents during the Armenian genocide. The recording is a tribute to the cosmopolitan period in Karin, which was a crossroads for the different cultures that existed along the Silk Road.

The top 10:

  1. Vardan Hovanissian and Emre Gültek – Karin – Muziekpublique
  2. Gaye Su Akyol – İstikrarlı Hayal Hakikattir – Glitterbeat
  3. Afro Celt Sound System – Flight – ECC
  4. Dhafer Youssef – Sounds of Mirrors – Anteprima
  5. SANS – Kulku – Cloud Valley
  6. Moonlight Benjamin – Siltane – Ma Case
  7. Urna Chahar-Tugchi featuring Kroke – Ser – Urna Chahar-Tugchi / UCT
  8. Ukandanz – Yeketelale – Buda Musique
  9. Vigüela – A Tiempo Real – ARC Music
  10. Bixiga 70 – Quebra-Cabeça – Glitterbeat
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Artist Profiles: Ozan Aksoy

Ozan Aksoy

 

Multi-instrumentalist, composer, vocalist, author and ethnomusicologist Ozan Aksoy was born in Turkey and currently lives in New York. As a young boy, growing up in Turkey, he first learned to play the saz (lute) from his father, and soon established an extraordinary scope as a multi-instrumentalist. He became proficient in many of the string, woodwind, and percussive instruments of the region, including saz, oud, ney, and various drums.

Ozan acquired a passion for the music of ethnic and religious minorities in his country including the Kurds, Armenians, Laz, and Alevi, among others.

Afterwards, in college, as an early member of the critically-acclaimed ensemble Kardeş Türküler (meaning Ballads of Solidarity), Ozan and his colleagues performed the songs of these unrecognized and suppressed peoples, pushing the boundaries of inclusion in Turkey.

 

Ozan Aksoy

 

During his time with Kardeş Türküler, the group released four albums and toured extensively throughout Europe, spreading their message of diversity and acceptance.

Ozan subsequently relocated to the United States to complete a doctorate in ethnomusicology and further develop his multicultural repertoire.

In 2018 he released his long-awaited first solo album, Ozan, with lyrics in Turkish, Kurdish, and Armenian. Ozan performed most of the instruments and vocals on the album himself, although Ozan also features collaborations with acclaimed musicians, including Jeremy Brown, Ani Kalayjian, Richard Miller, and Shyam Nepali among others.

Ozan Aksoy has performed with various ensembles, including Columbia Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, CUNY Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, Ozan Aksoy Trio, Nour and Kardeş Türküler.

Discography:

With Kardeş Türküler:

Kardeş Türküler (Kalan Müzik, 1997)
Doğu – The East (Kalan Müzik, 1999)
Roj û Heyv (Kalan Müzik, 2000)
Hemâvâz (Kalan Müzik, 2002)

Solo:

Ozan (2018)

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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)

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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