Music of Armenia


Armenia is in the Caucasus Mountains, and its music is a mix of indigenous folk music, perhaps best-represented by Djivan Gasparyan 's well-known duduk music, as well as light pop similar to nearby Middle-Eastern countries, and extensive Christian music, due to Armenia's status as the oldest Christian nation in the world. Armenian immigrant communities have maintained their folk traditions, especially in the area around Fresno, California.

Christian music

Melismatic chanting, composed in one of eight modes, is the most common kind of religious music in Armenia. It is written in khaz, a form of indigenous musical notation. Many of these chants are ancient in origin, extending to pre-Christian times, while others are relatively modern, including several composed by Saint Mesrop Mashtots, who invented the Armenian alphabet. Some of the best performers of these chants, or sharakans, are at the Holy Cathedral of Etchmiadzin, and include the late soprano Lucine Zakarian.

Armenian religious music remained liturgical until Komitas Vardapet introduced polyphony in the end of the 19th century. He collected more than 3,000 folk songs from 1899  to 1910.

Armenian Folk Musicians

While under Soviet domination, Armenian folk music was taught in a rigidly controlled manner at conservatoires. Instruments played in this way include kanon (dulcimer), davul (double-headed hand drum), oud (lute), tar (short-necked lute) and zurna (shawm). The duduk is especially important, and its stars include Gevorg Dabagian and Yeghish Manoukian, as well as Armenia's most famous musician, Dijvan Gasparyan.

Earlier in Armenian history, instruments like the kamancha were played by popular, travelling musicians called ashoughs. Sayat Nova, an 18th century, ashough, is still revered, as are more modern performers like Rouben Matevosian and Hovhaness Badalian.

The Armenian Diaspora

In 1915, the Young Turk regime killed a large number of Armenians in the eastern part of Turkey, and oppressed Armenian culture, leading to widespread emigration. These emigrants settled in various countries, especially in Central California, and the second- and third-generation have kept their folk traditions alive, with oud-player Richard Hagopian being perhaps the most famous of these musicians.




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