|Music of Armenia - Shoghaken Ensemble
1. Zurni Tringi
3. Mugham (Improvistion on duduk)
4. Ororotsayin (“lullaby”)
5. Aparani Bar
6. Melodies of Karabagh
8. Tokat (by Khachatur Avetisyan)
9. Jakhraki Vot – Vostana Bartsrik Sarer – Done Yar
2. Aygepan (the farmer)
3. Komitas Suite
4. Shushiki (folk dance of Erzurum)
5. Butanya Krunk (the crane)
7. Muso geghen (song of Mush)
8. Angin Yars - Tamzara
9. Lelum LeLe - Yarkhushta
Gevorg Dabaghyan, duduk ● Vardan Baghdasaryan, kamancha ● Aleksan Harutyunyan, voice ● Hasmik Harutyunyan, voice ● Karine Hovhannisyan, kanon ● Kamo Khatchaturian, dhol ● Grigor Takushian, duduk ● Levon Tevanyan, blul, shvi, tav shvi, pku
Program notes by Cynthia Rogers
Armenian folk music is one of the world’s richest musical traditions, burgeoning with an extraordinary array of melodies and genres. Since the 1880s, ethnographers and musicologists, most famously the Armenian priest Komitas, have travelled to remote villages and towns in Anatolia and the Caucasus collecting Armenian songs and dances. Currently there are over 30,000 catalogued in various archives, each with rhythms and modes characteristic of both broad Near Eastern influence and particular rituals and dialects not seen or heard beyond the next mountain pass. Tonight’s program, performed by Armenia’s preeminent traditional music ensemble, offers a rare chance to witness the energy and variety of this music that for centuries was so integral to Armenians’ rites of passage and daily lives. Popular dances and troubadour (ashugh) melodies are interspersed with more unusual emigrant- and work-songs, medieval epic verse, mournful wedding dances (a peculiarly Armenian oxymoron) and exquisite lullabies (numbering in the hundreds and renowned for their haunting lyricism).
This wealth of folk material was honed and passed down over many generations, its depth a result of the Armenians’ long historical presence at a remote, biblical crossroads of the world. It was as early as 7000 BC that the Armenians settled in the eastern Anatolian highlands, the land coursed by the Euphrates and dominated by Mt. Ararat, on which Noah’s ark set down. Speaking their own Indo-European language and following their own kinship and religious traditions, they formed a unique culture that thrived through centuries of conflict and usurpation. Sandwiched between the Graeco-Roman and Persian empires in the classical period and the Ottoman and Russian empires in the modern period, and for years a valued trade route on the Silk Road, Armenia was continually reconquered, divided, governed and taxed by invaders, spawning a large diaspora as early as the Byzantine era. Occupiers and merchants invariably introduced new customs, and Armenians were adept at assimilating and transforming neighboring traditions, from Persian Zoroastrianism with its worship of fire to Roman bureaucracy to Central Asian and Middle Eastern musical instruments. Armenians’ cultural autonomy in the region was buttressed by theology and literacy--they adopted Christianity in 301 AD and an alphabet in 404, leading to an extraordinary monastic culture that churned out countless manuscripts, many gloriously illuminated, that preserved both the classical heritage (some original versions of Plato are only available in Armenian copies) and a received Armenian tradition. The elaborate modal music of the liturgy was theorized in writing and notated as it developed, becoming part of an intellectual clerical tradition that remained cohesive for centuries. Meanwhile Armenia’s remarkably stable feudal courts and large towns and cities supported professional bardic ashughs, who prospered especially between the 17th and 19th centuries travelling from town to village singing of Armenians’ historical feats and forsaken love.
Armenian folk music, forged over centuries in the language and rituals of everyday life, traditionally accompanied everything from family celebrations to sowing fields to funerals, and remains a rich brew of historical elements. Pagan ritual can still be traced in songs foretelling a maiden’s future retained as part of the Christian festival of the Ascension, not to mention the beloved circle-dance, with its prehistoric and Zoroastrian antecedents in the Near East. The folk repertoire is in many cases highly differentiated--specific songs, each with distinct modal characteristics, are tied to dozens of moments in the wedding ceremony, from blessing the wedding tree to the entry of the bride to male-only dances. As in much of the Middle East, Armenian music is modal, based not on an octave with major or minor notes, but on an untempered scale. Still, repertoire from the Anatolian plain differs from that found in the Caucasus mountains, and within these areas distinct folk music styles, rhythms, genres and instruments evolved corresponding both to the main geographical and political division of Western and Eastern Armenia and to the more than 60 regional dialects spoken across this vast expanse. In the city of Erzerum west of Mt. Ararat one would most likely dance to a 10/8 rhythm, as do Turks and Kurds in the area, while across the Transcaucasian region, shared by Georgians and Azeris, a fast 6/8 is typical, as you’ll hear tonight. Folk instrumental ensembles heard to the west might include the ud, while the duduk is the main folk instrument to the east, where melody is always accompanied by a drone that holds the tonic note. Such musical differences solidified in the wake of the genocide of 1915, in which over a million Armenians perished and the remainder fled either to the West or eastward to what would become a few years later the Soviet republic of Armenia, today an independent nation. The Shoghaken Ensemble, the consummate representative of the eastern tradition, combines the musical virtuosity inherited from the Soviet years with a new attention to the unscripted forms and styles of lost songs and dances, from both west and east--a curiosity that has become a hallmark of post-Soviet Armenian culture.
1. Zurni Tringi A Caucasian men’s solo or pair dance in 6/8 performed at weddings and other ceremonies, Zurni Trngi became especially popular among urban artists and intellectuals in the first half of the 19th century, spreading throughout the Armenian provinces. During the trngi (from the Armenian word “trnger,” meaning “to jump”) the dancer holds one arm behind his back and raises the other in front with an open palm, or sometimes holding a glass, while stepping and jumping in a circle. The dance typically begins slowly, the dancer completing one circle, and then speeds up as the dancer displays intricate footwork. A second dancer often joins in, the two men competing with each other with ever more difficult steps and jumps. A zurni trngi is specifically a more rapid version of the trngi, usually performed on the zurna, though sometimes on the duduk. Trngi arrangements vary greatly between regions and among musicians. In Shoghaken’s arrangement, the zurna plays the rhythm, accented by the dhol in an exciting finale.
2. Hayko (a short version of the female name Haikanush) is a lyric song of praise and love with roots in the region of Sassun, made clear by the usage of the Sassun dialect and structure of the melody.
Hayko was very pretty
What need for a mirror?
She had fingers like candles
What need to wear rings?
Oy, oy…those mountains (of Sassun).
3. Mugham The modal system known as mugham in Armenia encompasses, like similar systems in the Middle East (makam) and South East Asia, particular modal structures that govern musical trains of thought and even whole genres. In Armenia, the development of the mugham bears the influence of Christian culture and folk music. Its style is improvisational, leans on free meter, and is close to the spoken word; its melodies are rich and decorative, slow and spacious. Songs and instrumental interludes often play off each other in the same mugham. In Armenian instrumental music, mughams widely known and played include the shur, shargyah, bayati shiraz, bayati segya, rast, and hoomayi. Each of these, although not confined to a certain melody, has notes or a modal structure that are strictly followed. Here the duduk performs and improvisation in the mugham “shur shahnaz,” followed by a song in the same mugham by the ashugh Sheram (1857-1938) called “Hazar Ernek” (“a thousand blessings”).ashoughagan school, developed and refined in its own distinct style over the centuries.
4. Ororotsayin (“lullaby”) - A medley of verses from 4 lullabies: 1. Pootanya Ororotsayin (“Lullaby of Pontus”), from the ancient province of Pontus on the Black Sea; 2. Taroni Heyroor (“Lullaby of Taron”), from the town of Mush, historical Taron region; 3. Roori Roori (“Rock, rock”); 4. Nani Bala (“Sleep, my child”), from the town of Van.
5. Aparani Par - A traditional harvesting dance in 5/8 from the Aparan region, north of Yerevan.
6. Melodies of Karabagh begins with the haunting sound of the blul and flighty sound of the shvi in an example of a “Hovivi Kanch” (“shepherd’s call”), played expertly by Levon Tevanyan, who captures this genre’s distinct modal-rhythmic framework and the particular style of playing heard in mountainous Karabagh. The shepherd’s flute is then joined by duduk, kamancha, kanon, and dhol.
7. Kamancha, a famous song by Sayat Nova, is performed in the classical style of the ashugh genre. The ashugh tradition, which flowered from the 17th through 19th centuries, was shared by others in the Middle East, including the Turks, Persians and Arabs (“ashugh” means “in love” in Arabic), who similarly used established models of versification to elaborate complex rhymes and traditional improvisatory motifs. There were distinct schools of ashughner among Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Persia and Tiflis (Tbilisi, where Armenians were demographically dominant from the Middle Ages), as well as in Vagharshapat (Echmiadzin) and Alexandropol (Gyumri). Musicians competed in official competitions and gathered their original compositions in song books which are still used today. The most famous Armenian ashugh was Sayat Nova (1717-95, born Arutin Sayadian), from Aleppo, who composed and performed in many languages, including Armenian, Osmanli, Georgian, and Azerbaijani. He was a singer and musician in the courts of the Persian Nadir Shah and the Georgian ruler Iraklii II in Tiflis and spent his final years in the important northern Armenian monastery of Sanahin. As in all ashugh songs, each time the singer completes a verse there is an instrumental interlude (“gyaf” in Armenian). Sayat Nova, himself a virtuoso kamanca player, is said to have declared that the kamancha would “console the broken-hearted, mitigate the suffering of the sick and be fully appreciated only by a true artist.” In this piece, the kamancha solo accents the lyrics:
Of all the instruments, you are the greatest;
Alone, you take the place of ten instruments, kamancha.
A jealous, ill-willed man cannot play you, you are his taunt and fast, kamancha.
In the past, you had great success; I wish you great days, kamancha.
No one can take you from me, as you are the ashough's desire, kamancha.
As long as Sayat Nova is alive, you will see much, kamancha.
8. Tokat (by Khachatur Avetisyan), a leading Armenian exponent of the kanun, the Middle Eastern zither, has raised the performance practices of this plucked instrument to unparalleled heights. Born in 1926, in Leninakan (now Gyumri), Armenia, Avetisyan studied composition under the renowned composer Edvard Mirzoyan at the Komitas State Conservatory in Yerevan. He received the gold (1951) and the silver medals (1956) at the International Youth Competitions, first in Berlin and then in Moscow. Avetisyan devoted his creative life to researching the roots of Armenian folk music. In 1958 he was appointed artistic director of the Armenian State Dance Ensemble and in 1968 that of the Tatul Altunyan Song and Dance Ensemble where his own instrumental and vocal music became a staple of the repertory. He founded the folk music department at the State Conservatory in 1978, where a large number of folk instrumentalists are trained. He died in Yerevan in 1996. He composed many original and arranged works for the kanun, including two concerti with orchestra (1954 and 1987). His treatise on kanun playing, published in 1968, is an important contribution to the field. The toccata is characterized by continuous rapid movement which is sustained throughout the piece. In earlier periods, the toccata genre adhered to the original definition of the word, “toccare,” meaning “to touch” in Italian. In this sense, toccatas composed by Bach (1685-1750) and Frescobaldi (1583-1643) are not merely virtuoso vehicles for the performer, but contain passages of decidedly expressive significance, particularly, if played in the free tempo that is typical of earlier toccatas. Avedisyan’s “Toccata” is a reincarnation of this concept, in which portions of Ashugh Shahen’s well-known melody, “Antsa gnatsi” (I Went by) is juxtaposed with interludes of showy passagework, specifically composed to highlight the inherent qualities of the kanun. Karine Hovhannisyan, a student of Avetisyan, is known for her unparalleled artistry and interpretation of her teacher’s major compositions, utilizing a uniquely Armenian school of kanun technique developed in Armenia under Avetisyan’s guidance.
9. Jakhraki Vot – Vostana Bartsrik Sarer – Done Yar
This piece presents the paryerg (“dance songs”) of the regions of Taron (Mus and Sassun) and Vaspurakan (Van and Shatakh). “Jakhraki Vot” and “Vostana Bartsrik Sarer” are from Vaspurakan, while “Done Yar” is from Mus. These are in the work song genre, about milling and spinning, and are also songs of humor. Between vocal parts, the ensemble plays the melody of paryerg “Ninare,” “Lorke,” and “Kertse,” a military song. “Ninare” is named after the goddess of water, Nar.
Jakhraki Vot (“leg of the spinning wheel”)
The leg of the spinning wheel is made from the pshat tree, khane (a sound)
The weaver is very young, dear!
The leg of the spinning wheel has many thorns, khane.
The weaver is chubby, dear!
Vostana Bartsrik Sarer (“high mountains of Vostan” [province in Western Armenia])
High mountains of Vostan
I can’t weave with the spinning wheel.
The leg of the spinning wheel is thorny.
The weaver is very young.
Done Yar (“Dear Love”)
In the back of our house is a plum tree.
Behind your house a plum tree grows.
The plum doesn’t roll towards her house.
Whoever catches the plum, will never die.
1. Unabi and Marali are Armenian folk dances from Shushi, in Karabagh. Komitas arranged them for piano and recorded them in Echmiadzin in the early part of the 20th century.
2. The philosophical song Aygepan (“the farmer”) was written by the ashugh Shirin (1827-1857), and is one of his most famous songs. Shirin, who became blind at the age of two, was born in Surmalu (now in Turkey) and lived and played music in the town of Echmiadzin. The song is representative of a special genre of ashugh songs that give advice, a genre started by the ashugh Djivani, who was from the Armenian region of Javakhk in southern Georgia. Here, using humorous, allegoric verses, advice is given about love, beauty, family loyalty, the plant and animal world, and includes a verse mentioning advice from the Koran, showing the extent to which Armenian ashughs, in this case Shirin, had contact with and knowledge of neighboring religions and peoples. This contact is further shown in the middle of the song, where Shoghaken musicians present short mugham improvisations on duduk and kamancha.
Farmer, what are you doing, a swamp can’t be a flowerbed;
As beautiful as a snake is, it can’t be a lover;
You can feed a cat, and caress it a thousand times a day,
But it still won’t be loyal and gracious like a dog.
3. Komitas Folk Songs - Komitas (1869-1935) is considered a legend and national saint in Armenian history. A composer, musicologist, field ethno-musicologist, singer, choir conductor and teacher, it is difficult to say in which field his versatile and prolific work was most influential. The fruits of his labor as a composer and musicologist are looked upon as classic works of genius. Komitas was able to synthesize the peculiarities of Armenian modal music with European polyphony, thereby creating a practical, yet professional, Armenian musical language.
Since childhood, Komitas appreciated Armenian musical folklore, and he gathered and organized more than four thousand folk songs and instrumental melodies. Unfortunately, only 1,200 originals of these songs remain. Though his life was miraculously spared the Genocide of the Young Turk régime in 1915, the scars of this Armenian national tragedy remained on his heart, and the ghosts of his slaughtered compatriots continued to haunt him. Madness stalked him for twenty years and he spent most of the rest of his life in asylums in France. He died in Paris and was buried in his motherland, Armenia, in 1936. Here, Gevorg Dabaghyan performs songs from his new CD, Lost Songs from Eden, which is a collection of melodies found in the notebooks of Komitas, but which have been rarely performed.
4. Shushiki, a folk dance in 6/8 from Erzurum, now in Eastern Turkey, is also known in folklore as “Shushiki Trngi,” or, in another variation, is performed as a humorous song called “Mayrik Yazma Berin” (“Mother, they brought a veil”). In his arrangement for piano, Komitas maintained the dance’s humorous nature while making it richer with added lyricism. Performed here by traditional instruments, a distinct gracefulness and playful rhythm have been retained.
5. Butanya Krunk (“the crane”) is a jewel in the genre of emigrant songs of Armenia. Known in several different versions, this one is from the region of Pontus. The duduk begins the piece with a verse from Amen Hayr Soorb (“Our Holy Father”), from the Armenian Church Mass, while in the song’s middle, the kamancha presents another spiritual melody from the Mass, Khorhurd Khorin (“Deep Mystery”). Mihran Tumajyan, a student of Komitas, recorded the song, which is sung here by Hasmik Harutyunyan.
Crane, whence have you come?
I wait for your call.
Crane, have you no news from our homeland?
I left my animals and fields,
As I cry out, my soul is uprooted.
6. Shalakho - A male solo dance in 6/8 from the Caucasus region, featuring characteristically Caucasian fast footwork, abrupt turns, high kicks and deep knee bends. Aram Khachaturian included the melody in his ballet Gayane. Often played as a strictly instrumental piece, here the tune is a vehicle for the extraordinary pyrotechnics of Karine Hovhannisyan on kanun.
7. Msho Geghen (“from a village of Mush”) - A folk song from the Mush plains, said to hold a thousand Armenian villages.
From a village of Mush two brides emerge from a river
Shivering and shining like pomegranate seeds
Two rivers pass through Mush, Meghraget and Mourat
And they flow to the river Yeprat
8. Angin Yars (“priceless love”) is a well-known dance tune by ashugh Shahen, who was born in Mus and sang in Armenia in the first half of the 20th century. The song is embellished by the addition of a tamzara (9/8 metre) dance in the middle, played in turn by the duduk, shvi, and kanon.
9. Lelum Le Le - Yarkhooshta, lyrics of a traditional song-dance (“paryerg”) in which line-dancers sing in a call-and-response form, followed by Yarkhooshta (literally “friend of spear” in Persian), a male military “clapping dance” originating in the eastern Anatolian region around Mush and Sassun). Hasmik and Aleksan Harutyunyan demonstrate the dance, circling separately and then clasping hands together in an outstretched arc, the sound of their hands clapping signifying weapons being exchanged and the popping of gun powder.
The duduk, a double-reed pipe made of apricot wood, is native to Armenia and considered its national instrument, though variants can be found in Turkish, Kurdish, Georgian and Azerbaijani regions as well. The best musicians use subtle lip and finger techniques to extend its tonal range. The duduk is always accompanied by a second duduk which emits an unbroken drone, achieved through circular breathing, around which the principal player weaves complex melodies and improvisations.
The zurna, a double-reed oboe, can be found throughout the Middle East, where its shrill, piercing call outdoors provides an insistent invitation to ritual celebrations and a driving accompaniment to dance.
Shepherd’s flutes were an important part of Armenian pastoral culture for millenia, the earliest prototypes having been found in Garni and Dvin in Eastern Armenia at archaeological sites dating back to the 5th or 6th century BC. The blul, or dziranapogh (literally “pipe made of apricot wood” in Armenian), is an end-blown flute akin to the Middle Eastern nay or Balkan kaval. The shvi (a small fipple flute), made from cane, wood or bone, has a mouthpiece with an adjacent metal ring for adjusting pitch and a range of an octave and a half. The tav shvi (“tav” means “low”) is a more recent variant--bigger and with a deeper pitch.
The kamancha, a three-stringed vertical fiddle with a gourd base resting on a metal tip and played with a horizontal bow made of horse hair, is found in various forms in the urban classical musics of the Middle East and is a direct antecedent of the Western violin. In Armenia it is strongly associated with the urban, refined ashugh music of Sayat Nova. In the 20th century it has become a principal instrument along with the duduk in the interpretation of Armenia’s folk music.
The kanon, a trapezoidal lap zither commonly played in Arabic and Turkish classical music, has been in use in some form since at least the 4th century. The Armenian version has 24 triple courses of gut or plastic strings, plucked with tortoise-shell plectrums, stretched over a set of metal levers that modify the pitch of the strings. The bridge rests on a narrow strip of skin which creates a resonant and percussive sound.
The ud, a short-necked fretless lute widespread throughout the Middle East, is generally associated with the instrumentation of Western Armenia, in the regions of Anatolia that are now part of modern Turkey. Only since the mid-20th century has it been common in eastern Armenia, where it has typically been used to play the bass line within the ensemble against the melodic woodwinds, rather than as the dominant melody instrument more typical to the west.
The dhol is a large cylindrical drum with skin on both sides, usually played with the hands, though for loud, traditional outdoor celebrations a pair of wooden sticks are used to create a heavy beat.
The dap is a single-headed Armenian frame drum, equivalent to the Arab duff. The wooden frame is 35 to 50 cm in diameter, with jingles (metal rings, rattles, silver coins, etc.) attached inside the frame that sound when the drum is played or shaken.
THE SHOGHAKEN ENSEMBLE
Founded by Gevorg Dabaghyan in 1991, The Shoghaken Ensemble has become one of the preeminent traditional music ensembles in Armenia. Dedicated to rediscovering and continuing Armenia’s extraordinary folk music history, the group presents music from a broad geographical and historical span using traditional instruments and song styles. The ensemble has performed extensively in Europe, Armenia and throughout the former Soviet Union. The group recently performed on the soundtrack of Atom Egoyan’s movie Ararat. In the summer of 2002 Shoghaken performed at the Smithsonian Folk Festival in Washington, DC, and in the spring of 2004 the group performed in a 20-concert tour across the US, including concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Symphony Space in New York and the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia, as well as Harvard University, Cornell University, UC Berkeley and Dartmouth College. Their recordings include Armenia Anthology, winner of the NARAS/NARM award for best world music recording of the year in 2003, and Traditional Dances of Armenia (both on Traditional Crossroads). Their recent performances include concerts at Theatre de la Ville in Paris, France, the White Nights festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Rudolstadt Festival in Rudolstadt, Germany where they performed for an audience of 60,000 world music fans.
Vardan Baghdasaryan (kamancha) was born in 1969 in Yerevan. He studied at the Sarajyan Musical School in the department of violin, then at the Echmiadzin Musical Cultural College in the department of kamancha. After graduation, Baghdasaryan lectured at the college. Since 1992, he has been a member of the Sayat Nova Ashoughagan Ensemble. Baghdasaryan has also played on many recordings, and has participated in concerts in Europe and the United States.
Gevorg Gourgen Dabaghyan (duduk, zurna), born in Yerevan, Armenia in 1965, is one of Armenia’s best living duduk players. He has won many awards, including the grand prize at the international Eastern Traditional Instruments competition in 1990, and the grand prize in the Sayat Nova duduk competition in both 1991 and 1992. He began studying duduk after middle school at the Romanos Melikian Music Institute and from 1984 to 1989 attended the prestigious Komitas State Conservatory. He continued his post-graduate studies at the Conservatory under K. Avetisian until 1992. Dabaghyan has performed around the world in the past decade and recorded extensively. He is featured on more than 50 recordings in the Armenian National Radio archives and as a soloist on several movie soundtracks, including Atom Egoyan’s Ararat (2002) and the Iranian film Miss Maria (2001). The Shoghaken Ensemble, which Dabaghyan founded in 1991, performs on the 6-CD box set The Music of Armenia (Celestial Harmonies). Dabaghyan’s solo performance in this set (Volume 4) was singled out for an AFIM award in 1997. He released his first major independent solo recording Miniatures: Masterworks for Armenian Duduk (Traditional Crossroads CD 4312) in 2002 and The Lost Songs of Eden (Traditional Crossroads CD 4335) in 2008. Known for his melodic expressiveness, Dabaghyan has also greatly expanded the repertoire of Armenia’s archetypal folk instrument. He was the first to play Armenian church music on the duduk and the first to use a traditional Armenian instrument to accompany new symphonic and choral works by contemporary Armenian composers, including Vache Sharafyan’s The Sound of Morning in the Acacia Trees, which Dabaghyan performed with the internationally renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, in concerts throughout Europe and North America as part of the Silk Road Project. A much sought-after collaborator, Dabaghyan has also performed recently in concerts with the violinist Gidon Kremer, conductor Yuri Bashmet, and the saxophonist Jan Garbarek.
Hasmik Harutyunyan (vocals) was born in 1960 in Yerevan. Her ancestors are from the province of Mus in historical Armenia (present-day Turkey). She is one of Armenia’s best-known folk singers, and specializes in the songs of Western Armenia. She graduated from the Department of Vocal Music at the Arno Babajanian School of Music and the Yerevan State Pedagogical Institute. For several years, she worked as a soloist for the “Agoonk” Ensemble of Armenian National Radio. As a member of the Shoghaken Ensemble she was featured as a soloist on Armenian Lullabies (Traditional Crossroads) and The Music of Armenia (Celestial Harmonies) and has traveled throughout Armenia and Europe presenting Armenian folk music, including at the Armenia Festival in southern France in October 2000 and the Smithsonian Festival in Washington, DC in June 2002. She is now the artistic director of the Hayrig Mouradian Children’s Song and Dance Folk Group.
Aleksan Harutyunyan (vocals) was born in Yerevan in 1962. Brother of singer Hasmik Harutyunyan, his ancestors are from the province of Mus in historical Armenia (present-day Turkey). After graduating from Yerevan State University and the Komitas State Conservatory, he worked for many years as a soloist in, and eventually the director of, Armenian National Radio’s Agoonk Ensemble, and then as a soloist in the National Opera and as a member of the State Academic Choir. He performed with these various groups around the globe. He is now a soloist in the National Chamber Choir of Armenia and the vocal group “Hye Folk.”
Karine Hovhannisyan (kanon), born in Yerevan in 1966, is a graduate of the Tigran Choukhajyan Music School and the Arno Babajanyan School of Music, and a prizewinner at the renowned Sayat Nova Competition. She is currently a post-graduate student and teacher at the Yerevan State Conservatory and a member of the Armenian State Dance Ensemble. She recorded a solo CD as part of The Music of Armenia box set (Celestial Harmonies, Volume 3) and continues to perform and travel worldwide with the Shoghaken Ensemble. Her newest recording, Classical Music for the Armenian Kanun, issued by Traditional Crossroads, documents the major works for kanun and symphony orchestra by Khachatur Avetisyan.
Kamo Khatchaturian (dhol) studied at the Romanos Melikian Music Institute and was a member of Armenian National Radio’s Agoonk Ensemble for several years. He currently performs and tours with the Shoghaken Ensemble.
Grigor Takushian (dham duduk), born in Yerevan in 1965, graduated from the Romanos Melikian Music Institute and has performed with both the Agoonk Ensemble and with Shoghaken.
Levon Tevanyan (shvi, blul, pku), born in Yerevan in 1975, graduated from the Komitas Conservatory in 1997. He played the shvi, tav shvi, and zurna on the soundtrack for the Iranian film Miss Maria along with Gevorg Dabaghyan and has performed in concerts throughout Europe and the Middle East. He is also an accomplished pianist and has given solo concerts in Yerevan. He currently plays with the Tkzar National Instrument Ensemble (Karlen Mirzoyan, director).
2008 Shoghaken Tour produced by Direct Cultural Access Inc. with the following sponsor support: Ministry of Culture of Armenia, AGBU Cleveland Chapter, AGBU Chicago Chapter, St. Gregory of Narek, Armenian Apostolic Church, Batmasian Family Foundation, The Sarkis Acopian Foundation, The Souren Fesjian Foundation, The Hagopian Family Foundation, M.F. Hatch Fund, Mrs. Ann Hintlian, Ms. Edele Hovnanian, Ms. Carolyn Mugar & the Azadoutioun Foundation, Mr. & Mrs. Nazar & Artemis Nazarian, Stephen Philibosian Foundation, Mr. & Mrs. Stephen & Elizabeth Sabounjian Foundation, Mrs. Louise Simone & the Manoogian Simone Foundation, The Starr Foundation, Traditional Crossroads Artist Support Foundation, Mr. & Mrs. Peter & Irene Vosbikian, Mr. & Mrs. George & Margaret Yacoubian.