Music and the Armenian Diaspora
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View accompanying audiovisual materials for the book at Ethnomusicology Multimedia Follow the author on interview with the author:

Survivors of the Armenian genocide of 1915 and their descendants have used music to adjust to a life in exile and counter fears of obscurity. In this nuanced and richly detailed study, Sylvia Angelique Alajaji shows how the boundaries of Armenian music and identity have been continually redrawn: from the identification of folk music with an emergent Armenian nationalism under Ottoman rule to the early postgenocide diaspora community of Armenian musicians in New York, a more self-consciously nationalist musical tradition that emerged in Armenian communities in Lebanon, and more recent clashes over music and politics in California. Alajaji offers a critical look at the complex and multilayered forces that shape identity within communities in exile, demonstrating that music is deeply enmeshed in these processes. Multimedia components available online include video and audio recordings to accompany each case study.

Guide to Online Media Examples
1. Ottoman Empire, 1890-1915: Komitas Vartaped and the Construction of "Armenia"
2. New York, 1932-1958
3. Beirut, 1932-1958
4. Beirut, 1958-1980
5. California



Publié par
Date de parution 07 septembre 2015
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780253017765
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa
Paul A. Silverstein, Susan Slyomovics, and Ted Swedenburg, editors

Ethnomusicology Multimedia
Ethnomusicology Multimedia ( EM ) is a collaborative publishing program, developed with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to identify and publish first books in ethnomusicology, accompanied by supplemental audiovisual materials online at .
A collaboration of the presses at Indiana and Temple universities, EM is an innovative, entrepreneurial, and cooperative effort to expand publishing opportunities for emerging scholars in ethnomusicology and to increase audience reach by using common resources available to the presses through support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Each press acquires and develops EM books according to its own profile and editorial criteria.
EM s most innovative features are its web-based components, which include a password-protected Annotation Management System ( AMS ) where authors can upload peer-reviewed audio, video, and static image content for editing and annotation and key the selections to corresponding references in their texts; a public site for viewing the web content, , with links to publishers websites for information about the accompanying books; and the Avalon Media System, which hosts video and audio content for the website. The AMS and website were designed and built by the Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities at Indiana University. Avalon was designed and built by the libraries at Indiana University and Northwestern University with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Indiana University Libraries hosts the website, and the Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music ( ATM ) provides archiving and preservation services for the EM online content.
Sylvia Angelique Alajaji
This book is a publication of
INDIANA UNIVERSITY PRESS Office of Scholarly Publishing Herman B Wells Library 350 1320 East 10th Street Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
2015 by Sylvia A. Alajaji All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Alajaji, Sylvia, 1979- author.
Music and the Armenian diaspora : searching for home in exile / Sylvia Angelique Alajaji.
pages cm - (Public cultures of the Middle East and North Africa) (Ethnomusicology multimedia)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-253-01755-0 (cloth : alkaline paper) - ISBN 978-0-253-01776-5 (ebook) - ISBN 978-0-253-01761-1 (paperback : alkaline paper) 1. Armenians-Foreign countries-Music-History and criticism. 2. Expatriate musicians-Social conditions. 3. Musicians-Armenia (Republic)-Social conditions. 4. Music-Armenia-History and criticism. 5. Musicians-Armenia-Social conditions. I. Title. II. Series: Public cultures of the Middle East and North Africa. III. Series: Ethnomusicology multimedia.
ML 334.9. A 53 2015 780.89 91992-dc23
1 2 3 4 5 20 19 18 17 16 15
1 Ottoman Empire, 1890-1915
2 New York, 1932-1958
3 Beirut, 1932-1958
4 Beirut, 1958-1980
5 California
What is Armenian music? This question forms the core, the very heart, of this book. Although not always asked explicitly, it is a question asked earnestly. Through an exploration of the ways in which that question is answered in five different snapshots from the Armenian diaspora (a diaspora that formed largely after the pogroms and forced dispersions that occurred in the Ottoman Empire in 1915), this book attempts to show the complex ways in which a people defines itself through time and place. Moving through the Ottoman Empire in the years just preceding the massacres to three locations to which the survivors eventually arrived-New York, California, and Lebanon-each snapshot demonstrates how music has been used to situate Armenian diasporic communities in relation to their conceptions of home, wherever that might be, and their relationships to the past and present. The answers are indeed many, and the urgency I sensed in the many conversations I had and listened to made it clear that embedded in each answer was a meditation, a reflection, on just what it was to be Armenian. Each answer demonstrates that Armenian identity is not something formed in a vacuum, frozen in time, but something that forms out of a complex relationship to the past and to the present, to past homes and present homes-complex relationships that vary within and across the various diasporic communities that formed after 1915.
The snapshots chosen are by no means meant to be exhaustive or to imply that these were the only places and the only genres of musical significance to Armenians. Quite the opposite. Historically and currently important Armenian musical cultures can be found throughout the world, from Canada to France to Syria to Turkey to Detroit to Chicago, and, of course, to Armenia. The intention of this book is to provide a glimpse into just some of the ways in which Armenians have used music as a way to situate themselves in the world and the ways in which some of the many answers to What is Armenian music? exist contrapuntally, in consonance and dissonance with one another. It is my hope that the reader finds in this book not an answer to What is Armenian music? but an affirmation of the importance-the necessity-of asking the question at all.
Simply put, this book could not have been written without those named here. Throughout the process, I have been incredibly grateful for and humbled by the generosity, support, and kindness of the many people who helped me along the way: those who sat with me for hours, often at a moment s notice, thoughtfully and patiently answering my nonstop questions; those who opened their homes to me, told me their stories, and played me their music (and who did so all the while insisting that I eat, lovingly serving me foods I knew had taken hours to prepare); and those who encouraged and supported me when I thought I just couldn t do it any longer. It was not until I sat down and began putting together the list of people I wanted to thank that I realized the scope and magnitude of the generosity I d been shown. To all those listed below, I will be always grateful. Without question, any mistakes in this book are entirely my own.
Since beginning my studies in ethnomusicology, I have been surrounded by scholars who shaped me intellectually in profound and wonderful ways. First and foremost, I thank Ellen Koskoff, my ethno mom. She has been my mentor, therapist, and friend-the very model of the academic I can only wish to be. She knew just when to push me, when to challenge me, when to encourage me, and when to make me laugh. Thank you also to Ralph Locke, Gabriela Currie, and Jane Sugarman for their support and encouragement throughout the early stages of this project. Their keen eyes and probing questions helped push my research in the directions it needed to go. To my fellow ethnomusicology hais , who have helped me in ways they may not even realize: Zoe Sherinian, Melissa Bilal, and Anahid Kassabian. Zoe, whose face I remember in the audience the very first time I gave a paper at a professional conference and who, afterwards, gave me such support and encouragement; Melissa, whom, after I d known her for just a few minutes, I felt like I had known my whole life, and who continues to amaze me with her intelligence and passion; and finally, Anahid, who sat with me for hours when I was just beginning this research and questioning what my Armenian identity meant to me. For the first time, I felt as if I was talking to someone who understood, and that made all the difference. Her work inspired me to ask the questions that I ask and continues to inspire me still.
At Franklin Marshall College, I am lucky to be surrounded by supportive colleagues in a department I am proud to be a part of. I especially thank Debra Joseph, who always has the answers; and my friends and colleagues Matthew Butterfield, John Carbon, Bruce Gustafson, and Karen Leistra-Jones, each of them a brilliant scholar, musician, and teacher. I am also grateful to the college for the sabbatical that allowed me the time to finish this book and for the generous grants that allowed me to complete all the necessary travels back and forth to California and Beirut.
I am grateful to the wonderful team at Indiana University Press and the editorial boards of the Ethnomusicology Multimedia and Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa series. My thanks especially to Rebecca Tolen, for her early support of this project and for her valuable feedback and suggestions; to David Miller for his incredible patience and clarity of direction; to Susanna J. Sturgis for her eagle eye and careful edits; and Mollie Ables for all her help with the multimedia component of the book. Thank you also to the anonymous reviewers, whose early comments not only were so thoughtful and helpful but gave me the encouragement that I needed to see this project through.
The research for this book was largely completed in Lebanon, California, and New York. If it had not been for the openness and generosity of the Armenians I met in each city, this book would not be. The names you see are the voices that carry this work; their knowledge of Armenian music surely exceeds mine.
In Beirut: I was honored to meet, spend time with, and learn from a number of people who have contributed significantly to the musical life of Armenians in Lebanon: scholars Roubina Artinian and Nora Salmanian, who have tirelessly documented the role of Armenian composers, conductors, and performers in Lebanon; conductor Harout Fazlian; Noraer Najarian, the director of Armenian programs at Radio Liban; and renowned composer Boghos Gelalian, a beloved member of the Armenian and Lebanese musical communities, who sadly passed away in 2011.
In California: My warmest thanks to Richard Hagopian, whose brilliance, generosity, humility, kindness, and patience amazed me when I met him nine years ago and amaze me still. I continue to learn so much from him. He and his wife, Gerry, graciously welcomed me into their home, fed me delicious chameechner from their farm, and gave so generously of their time. My sincere gratitude also to the indefatigable John Bilezikjian, to whom I sent an out-of-the-blue email and who responded within minutes, inviting me to his home. Once there, I was told stories that moved me to laughter and to tears. I am so grateful for the openness and generosity shown to me by him and his wife, Helen. Also, a big thank-you to John and Barbara Chookasian, who entertained me for hours with their stories; who kindly shared with me books, music, and art; and by whose love and passion for Armenian music I was so moved. And although this book focuses primarily on popular Armenian music, I was honored to spend time with two pillars of Armenian folk and classical music research, Bedros Alahaidoyan and Vatsche Barsoumian, who were generous and gracious sources of knowledge. Finally, my sincere thanks to Raffi Ghorghorian and Georges Adourian at Asbarez newspaper, who stayed well after hours and helped me peruse the fascinating archives there; and Arno Yeretzian at Abril Bookstore in Glendale, California, who enthusiastically led me to books and music I might have otherwise never come across.
On the East Coast, I am grateful to Harold Hagopian, who since 2005 has been an endless resource for me. His many recordings, liner notes, and performances have done so much for Armenian music, and I am honored to have been given so much of his time. And to the wonderful Kenneth Sarajian, whom I met by a fluke and who ended up becoming one of my greatest resources, generously introducing me to and putting me in touch with a number of important Armenian musicians, including Ara Dinkjian and Steve Vosbikian. It was an incredible honor to sit with Ara, whose music I have been a fan of for years and whose enormous talent is matched by his thoughtfulness and intellect. And a wonderful afternoon filled with music and conversation was spent with Steve, whose grandfather and great-uncles started the legendary Vosbikian Band and who has continued to honor their legacy.
My sincerest gratitude to those who so graciously gave permission to include the images and musical examples that accompany this work, including Harold Hagopian of Traditional Crossroads, Raffi Meneshian of Pomegranate Music, Mher Panossian of Hollywood Music Center, David Parseghian of Parseghian Records, and Hasan Salt k of Kalan M zik for the sound examples; and Richard Hagopian for the images. Most especially I would like to thank Silvina Der-Meguerditchian for the beautiful picture on this book s cover-the moment I saw the image, I was struck by how it spoke to the theme and spirit of the book. The picture is of Ms. Der-Meguerditchian s grandfather and his cousins-a personal connection that has made both the image and her willingness to share it all the more meaningful. I will be always grateful for her generosity.
It is most difficult to put into words the immeasurable role played by my friends and family, many of whom I stayed with during my many research trips. My sister Melissa Pasha and cousins Usama and Katie Cortas graciously hosted me during my trips to Los Angeles. Nelly and Mihran Kutnerian treated me as a daughter during my stays in Fresno; their kindness and generosity knew no bounds. In Lebanon, Ibrahim and Anahid Saliba, Nadim and Asdghik Cortas, and Gary and Jessy Saliba looked after me during my months-long stays, playing tour guide, chef, translator, cheerleader, and driver. For as long as I can remember, my aunts Anahid and Asdghik have supported and inspired me, and much of this book I owe to them.
Thank you also to my friends and family who have encouraged and been there for me in innumerable ways, since long before my work on this book began: the Baytala family (Gordon, Lisa, and Matt), the Boustani family (Badri, Betty [my horak ], Meray, and Andre); Samer Cortas, Josh Dresser, Johanna Gosse, Bella Kirchner, Wadad Lenahan, Susan Minasian, Eliza Reilly, Steve Saliba, and Liza Villarreal. And to my surrogate grandparents, Grace and Barkev Bakamjian, who passed away before they could see this book come to an end and who taught me more about life, love, and compassion than anyone I know.
To my sister and brother, Angel and Ephraim, who took such good care of their big sister, always making her laugh and making sure she never took herself too seriously.
To my Eric, my strength, whose love runs like a current through each and every word of this book and who amazes me every day. Yes guh seerem kezee .
And to my parents, as kind and selfless as two people can ever be, and without whom none of this would be. I dedicate this book to them.
Each of the audio, video, or still image media examples listed below is associated with specific passages in this book, and each example has been assigned a unique Persistent Uniform Resource Locator, or PURL. The PURL identifies a specific audio, video, or still image media example on the Ethnomusicology Multimedia website, . Within the text of the book, a PURL number in parentheses functions like a citation and immediately follows the text to which it refers, for example, ( PURL 3.1 ). The numbers following PURL identifies the chapter in which the media example is found and the placement of the PURL in that chapter. For example, PURL 3.1 refers to the first media example in chapter 3 , PURL 3.2 refers to the second media example in chapter 3 , and so on.
To access all media associated with this book, readers must first create a free account by going to the Ethnomusicology Multimedia Project website, , and clicking the Sign In link. Readers will be required to read and electronically sign an end-user license agreement ( EULA ) the first time they access a media example on the website. After logging in to the site, you can access and play back audio, video, or still image media examples in one of two ways. In the Search field enter the name of the author; you will be taken to a web page with information about the book and the author as well as a playlist of all media examples associated with the book. To access a specific media example, in the Search field enter the six-digit PURL identifier of the example (the six digits located at the end of the full PURL address below). You will be taken to the web page containing that media example as well as the complete playlist. If you are reading the electronic edition of this book, you can simply click on the PURL address for each media example; once you have logged in to , this live link will take you directly to the media example on the Ethnomusicology Multimedia website.
PURL 1.1 | Hoy Nar on Yerkaran: Gomidas Vartabed , performed by Ashugh Bingyol and arranged by Ari Hergel and Burcu Y ld z.
PURL 1.2 | Hover Chamber Choir of Armenia, Ploughing Song of L ri on Armenian Voices .
PURL 2.1 | Marko Melkon, Kanuni Garbis Bakirgian, and Nick Doneff, eker O lan on Armenians on 8 th Avenue .
PURL 2.2 | Kanuni Garbis Bakirgian, Adalar on Armenians on 8th Avenue .
PURL 2.3 | Vosbikian Band, Catskill in Jampan and Soode Soode on Armenian Dance Favorites , vol. 1.
PURL 3.1 | Koussan Chorus, conducted by Parsegh Ganatchian, Hoy Nar on Armenian and Arabic Folk Songs (Live in Beirut) .
PURL 3.2 | Koussan Chorus, conducted by Parsegh Ganatchian, Lullaby on Armenian and Arabic Folk Songs (Live in Beirut) .
PURL 4.1 | Adiss Harmandian, Karoun, Karoun.
PURL 5.1 | Kef Time Band, Adalar on Kef Time: Exciting Sounds of the Middle East .
PURL 5.2 | Kef Time Band, Soode Soode on Kef Time: Exciting Sounds of the Middle East .
The architecture of this work is rooted in the temporal. Every human problem must be considered from the standpoint of time.
Most people are principally aware of one culture, one setting, one home; exiles are aware of at least two, and this plurality of vision gives rise to an awareness of simultaneous dimensions, an awareness that, to borrow a phrase from music, is contrapuntal .
Who are the Armenians? Who are any of us, really? The answer, if there is one at all, is never simple. And yet we try. We look in the rubble of the past and in the fires still burning for pieces to salvage, to stitch together. It is a conscious, conscientious act, this stitching, done with the awareness that others are watching and that they have stories of their own-stories in which we might appear, stories that unfold differently than our own. When those other stories begin to loom and to unsettle our own, the need to hold on to our own story becomes even greater. Our stories become interventions, assurances of a semblance of control. But how do we capture the totality of a people when the pieces are so many? Which remain? Which go? Inevitably, conflicts arise and the fight turns inward, the threats from without seeming only to magnify the cracks and fissures within.
Who are the Armenians? The answer seems simple enough. The 1915 genocide has become the hinge on which the stories pivot. It has become the lens through which the past is viewed and the present understood. Its denial has only resulted in a doubling down; its continued presence in the stories of Armenians has become a way of asserting control over the past, in defiance of the histories from which it has been written out. Against the threat of absence and invisibility, and of displacement from home and from history, the need for a singular narrative around which Armenians can unify is great-a need made all the more pressing by the scattering of survivors around the world into the disparate diasporic communities they formed. But which narrative should this be? Or whose, rather? In the stories that have emerged, lines have been drawn and continually redrawn, shifting through time and in response to conflicts both within and without. These stories exist simultaneously-contrapuntally-as seemingly divergent yet fundamentally connected narratives.
This book traces these narratives and their consonances and dissonances in order to capture the complex process of identity formation that takes place in diasporic communities. It is a process that reveals, as Paul Gilroy writes, a desire to transcend both the structures of the nation state and the constraints of ethnicity and national particularity, and yet, at times, insists upon these structures and constraints as well, creating boundaries in an attempt to more clearly delineate and articulate the self (1993, 19). The narratives traced in this book are those told through music. For Armenians living in diaspora, the multiplicity of musical worlds with which they contend become metaphors for the political and social struggles they encounter in their host communities. In this sense, musical narratives speak to the complex relationships between diasporas and homelands, between diasporic communities and the countries in which they live, and between and within the diasporic communities themselves. The space in which these worlds and struggles intersect becomes the site where the search for meaning takes place and, consequently, reveals the extraordinarily complex mediation that occurs not only between cultures but within the cultures themselves.
Given the traumas suffered and the continuing contestation over what constitutes the past, music, for the Armenians, has served as a way to take control of their narrative and to produce a mode of representation that challenges and reconfigures prevailing discourses and dichotomies between self and other, building on Simon Frith s observation that music puts into play a sense of identity that may or may not fit the way we are placed by other social facts (1987, 149). For those who consider themselves otherwise voiceless, maneuvering within this space becomes no less than a political act (Stokes 1994).
To explore these narratives, I present five musical snapshots of pivotal moments and places in the history of the Armenian diaspora: the late Ottoman Empire, just before the genocide; New York City, just after; Beirut, Lebanon, among the first post-genocide generation and then among the generation that followed; and finally California in the aftermath of the Lebanese civil war, a conflict that brought waves of Armenians in Lebanon to the United States, resulting in the coming together of two very different Armenian communities. Since 1915, the boundaries of what counts as Armenian music-and, by extension, Armenianness-have been continually redrawn, adjusting to the realities presented by years of occupation, the genocide and its aftermath, and the ongoing state of conflict over the very existence of that event. The multiple definitions, and consequently the boundaries, of what Armenian music is and what it is not speak to the complex nature of the present situation. To ask What is Armenian music?, as I did many times throughout my fieldwork, is, sometimes, to enter volatile territory where the wrong answer can result in accusations of betrayal, or, harrowingly, threats of death. Each answer contains within it a story of Armenianness-a narrative that embeds Armenian identity, granting legitimacy and certainty to a contested past, meaning to the present, and clarity for an uncertain future.
The genocide did not always have a name. As it happened, it was unknown; there was no genocide as such. Marc Nichanian notes that to the Armenian writers of the period (and surely to Armenians as a whole), it was an unnameable, unknowable thing. Ruminating upon the work of Zabel Essayan, a twentieth-century Armenian writer grappling with the unnameability of what transpired, he writes:
She does not manage at first to delimit the unnameable. And yet, already, she calls it the catastrophe, without a capital letter, in Armenian: aghed . In her articles, there is no complaint, no call for human justice, which she had in fact seen at work turning its pomp and its gallows against the victims themselves. She struggles with language, her own. She bears witness, but she does not bear witness only to what she has seen. She bears witness to an experience, that of the Catastrophe. (2002a, 101)
Aghed . Words like killings, massacre, genocide, and holocaust each have their own, respectively intensifying, gravity, but aghed , catastrophe, lacks the specificity, in a sense, of those words. In those words, there is an impression of something obliterated-of life not just lost but brutally destroyed. The vagueness of catastrophe implies that something disastrous-life altering-has happened, but what it is exactly is somehow beyond words, beyond understanding. In aghed , there is something left unsaid; what happened is not named. Perhaps it is not quite understood (and indeed, it is not). But it is the very vagueness of aghed that embodies the fate to which this event has been consigned.
In public, in English, the word the Armenians are fighting for is genocide -a word whose power derives from its specificity. It says what happened in 1915 and the following years was not simply a massacre or a mass killing, but a deliberate act that targeted the Armenians as a people. When the Polish emigr Raphael Lemkin coined the term genocide in 1943, he had in mind the Armenian killings as well as Nazi atrocities. Genocide is the word I will use throughout this book, but with an acknowledgment of its limitations. The limits of genocide seem to be confined to the act and motivation of the killings themselves. What genocide leaves out is what came next. What word accounts for the fate of the living, of those who survived? It is in that unnamable after that the limits of genocide, its catastrophic dimensions, are felt. It is in that space that the past is reckoned and grappled with, the present contended with, and the future mapped out.
Reaching its climax in 1915, the massacre of Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey) resulted in approximately one million deaths and has become one of the most contested events of recent history. Detailed eyewitness accounts-including some by German, British, Italian, Danish, Swedish, and American diplomats-bore witness to the atrocities of the genocide. The New York Times daily coverage of the killings stunned and drew the sympathies of Americans. 1 As Robert Fisk writes of press coverage during the genocide, Rarely have ethnic cleansing and genocidal killings been given publicity on this scale (2005, 327). The killings were deliberate, and the three Young Turk leaders responsible were ordered hanged for crimes against humanity. Yet the genocidal nature of the killings is vociferously denied in a number of quarters to this day, with many books, websites, and lobbies devoted to denying that it occurred. The governments of Turkey, the United States, and other countries have stopped short of formally recognizing and labeling those actions as genocide. Pressing them to do so has been the Armenian diaspora s rallying cause for decades.
Although a thorough review of the system of denial is beyond the scope of this study, it is important to recognize its power and extent in order to understand how Armenian identity has been constructed in the diaspora. Genocide denial figures almost as significantly as the events of the genocide itself into the identity of the Armenian diaspora. For if, as Edward Said notes, for an exile, habits of life, expression or activity in the new environment inevitably occur against the memory of these things in another environment, then for the Armenian exiles of 1915 and their descendants that memory is a contested space (2000, 186). The genocide-its consequences and eventual denial-irrevocably altered the existing sense of Self, reorienting the Ottoman Armenian community as one existing in physical and ideological exile. The denial of traumas suffered has taken an ideological toll that cannot be accounted for in the numbers of the dead. Regardless, whether what happened is referred to as a massacre, a genocide, or a forced relocation, two things are certain: it resulted in the forced exile of approximately two hundred thousand survivors to Lebanon, Syria, Iran, France, and the United States, and today it constitutes the single most potent unifying factor among Armenians living in the diaspora. 2
The story of the Armenians is not an easy one to tell. 3 For a people so fragmented geographically, remaining unified has required retaining a common collective identity that belies their reality. The divisions are not only among the diasporic communities but between two very different notions and experiences of Armenia, or Home. The Armenians were an established people by 200 BCE ; the kingdom of Armenia at its height spread into parts of what are today Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. By 301 CE , Armenia had become the first political entity to adopt Christianity as a state religion-a point of fact that remains one of the most critical markers of Armenian identity. Mount Ararat, which once belonged to Armenia, symbolizes the Armenian biblical link: it is where, according to the Old Testament, Noah s Ark came to rest. (That Mount Ararat today belongs to Turkey is a source of great bitterness to Armenians in the Republic of Armenia and in the diaspora.) The fourth through fifth centuries, generally considered the golden age of Armenian history, stand in stark contrast to the theatre of perpetual war of the following six hundred years, when Armenia lost more than half its land (Gibbon 1875, 555). In the mid-sixteenth century, historic Armenia was divided between Safavid Persia and the Ottoman Empire-a division into east (Safavid) and west (Ottoman) that continues to mark Armenians to the present day, linguistically and culturally.
In 1828, the eastern portion became part of the Russian Empire, then in 1922 a Soviet republic, and in 1990, following the fall of the Soviet Union, the independent Republic of Armenia. The western portion-the portion subjected to the genocide, often referred to as Anatolia-remained part of the Ottoman Empire. Upon the empire s dissolution, it became part of Turkey. Armenian diasporic communities throughout the world consist primarily of those who consider themselves to be western Armenian. As Christopher Walker notes, to be a Western Armenian is, with few exceptions, either to be dead or in exile (1990, 12).
Of the two million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire before the genocide, approximately eighty thousand remained there by 1922. Many of those who survived ended up in refugee camps in Syria. From there many were relocated to Lebanon or the United States, either through the intervention of relatives in those countries or through the assistance of various relief organizations. A significant number of those survivors were children who were either separated from their families or whose parents perished as a result of the massacres or deportations. Many of these children were taken to orphanages in Lebanon, Syria, or Turkey.
Unlike Lebanon, where long-existing Armenian communities were already in place, the survivors who came to the United States joined a relatively small Armenian population. Armenians found themselves occupying a racial borderland and adjusted to the assimilationist ethic of the post-World War I United States. Although many identified (or were identified) as Middle Eastern-and were often subjected to various sorts of racial discrimination as a result-Armenians found much in common (such as poverty, slum living, and derision as foreigners ) with other new immigrants, including Greeks, Syrians, Lebanese, and Eastern European Jews (Mirak 1983, 286). New York City s Eighth Avenue scene, in which Armenian musicians gathered and performed Anatolian music with immigrants from other ethnic groups, not only provided a space in which national borders could be crossed but provided a communal space that, as Martin Stokes writes of Greek rebetika, Turkish arabesk, and Andalusian flamenco, appeared to celebrate ethnic plurality (1994, 12, 16). As discourse on the genocide shifted, Armenians-who were a Christian minority in the Ottoman Empire-were swept up into the increasingly stark dichotomization between the Islamic East and the Christian West, with many opting to identify with the latter rather than the former.
Meanwhile in Lebanon, where one of the more powerful diasporic communities formed after the genocide, the survivors joined a long-existing community that, due to Lebanon s unique political system, existed with relative autonomy and enjoyed significant participation in the parliament and cabinet. As a result of such autonomy (and the existence of numerous Armenian schools, newspapers, and cultural and political associations), the pressure to assimilate was not great. Consequently, Beirut would be the place where, prior to the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, a new, rather militant Armenian nationalism took root.
A number of survivors from the Ottoman Empire also immigrated to Russian Armenia, which experienced a tumultuous four-year independence starting in 1918. In 1922, however, immigration was halted when Armenia became a republic of the Soviet Union. The Sovietization of Armenia, R. Hrair Dekmejian writes, resulted in an ideological dichotomy between the Communist order of the homeland and the pluralism of the diaspora (1997, 415). The now-polarized diaspora would eventually find itself further bifurcated over how to relate to the now-Soviet homeland. Cleavages along pro-Soviet and anti-Soviet lines would at times explode into acts of violence that threatened the stability of the various diasporic communities.
The Armenians driven from their Ottoman homeland were distinct from their eastern Armenian compatriots in many ways, owing to the hostile border that had separated the two for approximately half a millennium and to the differences in their treatment under Ottoman and Russian rule. Aside from the different dialects of Armenian that developed in both areas, Ottoman Armenians, as Ronald Suny iterates, lived under a significantly more repressive regime (especially as experienced by those living in rural parts of Anatolia), adopted Turkish, and were culturally oriented toward Istanbul (1993, 221).
While most diasporic Armenians who trace their ancestry to the Ottoman Empire continue to identify the Republic of Armenia as a homeland, it is an identification that is, for the most part, purely symbolic and rather fraught. It is also an identification that differs temporally and spatially-shifting over time and from community to community. Indeed, the notion of home for western Armenians is certainly complex, and in many of my interviews the positional and flexible concepts of the notion were immediately evident. Conversations quite often would touch upon no less than three homes : past home (the villages in the Ottoman Empire from which their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents escaped), present home (whether Lebanon or the United States), and symbolic/spiritual Home (Armenia). 4 For interviewees who had moved from Lebanon to the United States after the start of the civil war, the notion of past home was complicated further. And, to add an extra layer of complexity, while the notion of Home for many diasporic communities is taken to be an imagined or purely symbolic orientation, in this case Home is a real, physical place. For Armenians from Armenia, the country represents something far different than it does for western Armenians. The veritable clash of cultures that exists between diasporic Armenians and Armenians from Armenia is a fact that was often lamented by my interviewees.
Conceptions of neither home nor Home can be considered at all stable. Although Armenian identity was presented in conversation as something fixed and bounded (a known Self in opposition to a known Other), cultural practices such as the music under discussion here speak to shifts in identification that challenge most teleological understandings of diasporic and exilic groups (Brubaker 2005). Exile, to borrow a phrase from Hamid Naficy, is a process of perpetual becoming -a never-ending, changing becoming (1993, 8). As concepts or ideas of Home change, relationships to Home change; as home changes, relationships to and subject positions at home change; as these change, relationships to and interpretations of the past and future change. These shifts occur from community to community simultaneously-contrapuntally-through time, fundamentally altering conceptions of the collective Self and resulting in the redrawing or defying of established borderlines between Self and Other.
The concept of home in diaspora studies is a contested one. In his overview of the various shifts, Robin Cohen asks, Do we need a homeland in order to conceive of a diaspora? (2009, 117). Although he is skeptical of the work of social constructionists who sought to decompose the overdetermined role of the concept in diaspora studies, he admits that their interventions did, in effect, generate a re-questioning and a more sophisticated understanding of shifts in the homeland-diaspora relationship (121). While a decoupling of the notion of home from diaspora (or, at the very least, its de-emphasis) allows for moves away from a conception of unidirectional forms of movement between a point of origin and a host community and away from a teleology of origin/return (Clifford 1994, 306), to dismiss the notion entirely is to dismiss the ways in which members of a diaspora often conceive of their own orientations. For my interviewees, it was clear that home was simultaneously here, there, and elsewhere. To call the United States or Lebanon a host community would be to disregard or diminish the way they identify with either and to mischaracterize the role each country plays in shaping or contributing to their conceptions of Armenianness. Armenians were not merely guests to be temporarily hosted-these countries were and are their homes. At the same time, while the notion of return is not something with which most diasporic Armenians are concerned, Armenia -whatever that might mean at whatever point in time-is still an orientation that factors decidedly into the identities and loyalties of the various communities. The key, then, is not to dismiss or diminish the concept of home, but to honor its multiplicity along with its spatial and temporal flexibilities. Doing so allows for a fuller understanding of the orientations and dynamism of diasporic communities and the inherent contradictions and differences between them.
The plurality of home(s) as experienced within diasporic communities has been a central point of concern in Armenian diasporic studies. While Armenian historiography has often presented an essentialized telling of the Armenian historical narrative (see below), scholars such as Khachig T l lyan, Susan Pattie, Anny Bakalian, Anahid Kassabian, and Tsolin Nalbantian, among others, have powerfully interrogated and problematized the notion of a unilateral relationship of a diasporic community to a homeland, noting the plurality and limitations inherent in the concept of home. In their studies, Armenian communities exist not just in relationship to a homeland (whether mythical or real), but in consonance and dissonance with each other, with the countries to which they immigrated, and with the homeland as they conceive it. Identifications are many and thoroughly complex. There is no Armenianness to speak of, but Armeniannesses -multiple orientations and imaginaries. As Kassabian frankly asserts, Armenians worldwide construct themselves as a single diaspora, when there is arguably no single homeland to which they could plausibly be referring (2013, 22). It is all the more pressing that these notions of home and diaspora continue to be interrogated within Armenian studies, as the ways in which they are currently understood puts Armenians in Turkey in a precarious, and somewhat invisible, position (see Bilal 2007). As Melissa Bilal notes, although they are not within the borders of the Armenian nation-state-a fact that often consigns them (inappropriately) to a diasporic discursive space-they are, for all intents and purposes, home. And yet, it is a home in which they are displaced. Thus, it is not just the relationship between home and diaspora that needs further examination, but the utility and limitations of the notions themselves.
Likewise, within ethnomusicology, Tina K. Ramnarine and Carol Silverman have grappled in provocative ways with the concepts of home(s) and belonging within diasporic communities (Ramnarine 2007; Silverman 2012). As Ramnarine writes, the multi-locality of diasporic communities can be seen in the ways in which music circulates between diasporas and homelands (20). Ultimately, she collapses the polarity between home and diaspora, locating home within the diasporic, multilocal space (21).
However, for widely dispersed diasporic groups with threatened group identities and contested pasts, the fluidity and multidimensionality of diaspora are often currents to work against. In his reflections on exile, Edward Said likens it to a discontinuous, lonely state of being-a loneliness that is constantly in search of belonging. He asks, How, then, does one surmount the loneliness of exile without falling into the encompassing and thumping language of national pride, collective sentiments, group passions? (2000, 177). Indeed, very often the plurality of diaspora, perceived as something threatening, is muted into a forceful singularity-an essentialism that presents the collective as united by a singular, narrativizing identity. For the Armenians, this narrative has been one that conceives linearity from the historic kingdom of Armenia, the centuries under outsider rule, the genocide, and finally, to the subsequent exile. The denial of the genocide has also fit into this narrative, made consistent with a series of misfortunes that have marked Armenian history since the eleventh century, when the kingdom fell.
In the introduction to his comparative study of the emergence of nationalism in both the diaspora and the Republic of Armenia, Ronald Suny laments the unfortunate intellectual practices that have allowed for the propagation and continuation of this essentialized narrative. He writes:
Both historians and nonspecialists have held that the Armenians have been guided in all times and places by a single ideological motivation, that of self-determination or freedom or, after 314, preservation of their particular form of Christianity. Heroes and villains have been defined in their relation to those fundamental goals. . . . The idea shared by many Western and Soviet historians alike of a single purpose in Armenian history, whatever it might be in various accounts-survival, freedom, keeping the faith, independence-is closely tied to another unexamined assumption, that there has been through all time an Armenian spirit, an immutable essence that has always characterized the Armenians. (1993, 3-4)
While the instinct, of course, would be to puncture or deconstruct this essentialist, teleological telling of the Armenian story-one that is so blatant in its nationalist, political goals-to do so would be to overlook the very real and, at times, purposeful role it plays in the lives and self-conceptions of diasporic Armenians. As Stuart Hall remarks, such tellings provide a way of imposing an imaginary coherence on the experience of dispersal and fragmentation (1990, 224). For groups with little power-whether economic, political, or cultural-this coherence fights against threats of invisibility and obscurity. The narrative is one of significant importance, figuring significantly in the ways Armenians in the diaspora self-identify and approaching what Gayatri Spivak terms a strategic (emphasis mine) essentialism. Amid the multiplicity of identifications, this narrative serves almost like a centralizing force-one that exists in tension with other strands of identification and one to which these other strands often (sometimes forcibly) adjust. As Khachig T l lyan cautions:
[T]o claim that the individual diasporan is a member of the diaspora and that the diasporic segment is a part of the homeland . . . risks mere biologism. This pitfall can be juxtaposed with the mere psychologism that regards diaspora to be the figure of boundary-crossing multiplicity and links a specific individual to that diaspora by virtue of the multiplicity they share and-again-of birth. (1996, 30)
Let me offer one very brief overview-as seen through a musical lens-of the way these strands have come to operate in (and on) Armenian diasporic self-identifications. The musicians, issues, and genres touched upon here are those that will be explored further in subsequent chapters.
In each interview conducted for this study, whether the focus was on pop, folk, or classical music-so long as it was Armenian-the conversation led, in one way or another, to Komitas Vartabed, an Armenian priest and musicologist who lived in the Ottoman Empire. More than once, these conversations elicited tears from the interviewees. For many Armenians, his work allowed for the very possibility of an Armenian music, in whatever genre. For other Armenians (though admittedly a minority), his work and his myth have resulted in the silencing of other Armenian musical narratives.
In 1890, Komitas-as he is affectionately known-began to seek out and study what he believed to be historical Armenia s largely hidden native music. After the fall of the kingdom of Armenia in the eleventh century, the music had become infused with Persian, Arab, and Turkish stylistic traits. However, due to Armenia s mountainous terrain, many groups lived in regions that remained rather isolated from the events affecting greater Armenia. It was in these areas that Komitas sought to uncover the true Armenian sound. By studying the folk songs of the peasantry living in these isolated mountain villages, Komitas sought to isolate a distinct and unique Armenian music. Although in his writings and public lectures he was never overtly political, in asserting the uniqueness of Armenian music, Komitas was, by extension, asserting the uniqueness of the Armenian people as a whole.
Komitas s work earned him admiration, but his arrest and torture during the genocide made him an icon. He has become no less than a cultural hero, most significantly for the diaspora and one of the rare Armenian figures uniting eastern and western Armenians alike. After the genocide, as survivors became exiles, the musical language these folk songs embodied became implicated in the boundary constructions needed to mark us and them -boundaries that were all the more necessary to construct since actual, physical boundaries were unattainable.
This clinging to a true Armenian sound has had many ramifications for the performance of Armenian music, as many Armenian musicians have been promptly booed off the stage if they begin to play what the audience perceives to be Turkish music-or the Anatolian musics that represent shared characteristics (and, of course, a shared history) with Turkey. Given the centuries of intermingling in the Ottoman Empire, the musics of both cultures have unquestionably borrowed from one another much as the colloquial language of western Armenians contains Turkish words. However, as denial of the genocide persists, the Armenian musical narrative clings even more strongly to the purity -or the possibility of purity-inherent in the musical language uncovered and popularized by Komitas. As mentioned above, however, this essentialized narrative has had a significant impact on the way Armenian music and Armenian musical identities are conveyed and conceived. In a number of my interviews, I was variously admonished for bringing up certain musicians, pulled aside and spoken to in whispers about what music was listened to in private, told stories of death threats received after concerts, and warned about what might happen should I say the wrong thing.
Although for a period in the United States the urban musics of the Ottoman past continued to flourish among Armenian musicians and in Armenian communities, the influx in the mid-1970s of Armenian immigrants from Beirut signaled a drastic change. Due to the autonomy and relative isolation of the community in Lebanon and the existence of powerful political parties, a notion of Armenianness had been constructed that was stripped of signifiers of the Ottoman past. This notion was actively propagated and reflected in the public musical activities of the community. Highly popular and widely performing community choirs fulfilled not only a social purpose, but a patriotic one as well. With Lebanon slowly crumbling around them, these choirs steadfastly expressed their allegiance to a country that now belonged to Mother Russia. The Armenian national anthem was, in fact, written by a diasporic Armenian from Beirut. The intensely patriotic songs performed by and composed for these choirs extolled the virtues of an Armenia that, in many ways, did not exist; the Soviet Armenia that had come into existence not only bore little ideological resemblance to the diasporic community in Beirut, but had not endured the most defining experience of the western Armenian community: the genocide.
As the situation in Lebanon worsened, a massive wave of Armenian immigrants made their way to California, bringing with them their intense patriotism. This quickly bled into the consciousness of the established communities in Los Angeles and the Central Valley and profoundly affected the musical identity of the Armenian-American communities there. Armenian-American musicians who had continued playing the music from Anatolia suddenly became the target of editorials in local Armenian newspapers (or worse), and heated public debates soon ensued about what could properly be called Armenian music. The battle, however, had only just begun. As the United States political ties with Turkey entailed a refusal to accept the events of 1915 as genocide, the Armenian community s rejection of any Turkish signifiers became all the more aggressive. Meanwhile, when the civil war in Lebanon took hold (1975-90), the Armenian community there began its struggle for survival while the community in the United States began its struggle for pride and recognition. In Lebanon, the choirs that had served such an important role largely ceased to exist; in the United States. musicians took on the responsibility of mediating between the musical, and therefore cultural, identities they were to reject and those they were to embrace. 5
The isolation of signifiers of home from constructions of Home has become a pursuit and a continuing preoccupation in the discourse of Armenian music. With few exceptions, information on music in the Armenian diaspora continues to be lacking in the academic literature. An extensive Armenian music bibliography published in 2004 speaks to this lack (McCollum and Nercessian). Although it was published ten years ago, there have been only a few additions to this literature since then (see below). Existing scholarship on Armenian music has been largely limited to the dictates of the nation-state, focusing almost entirely on the folk, classical, and religious musics of present-day Armenia or the folk music that can be traced back to villages in historical Armenia. The preoccupation with the latter can certainly be tied to a need to assert a presence in-and thus a claim to-those lands from which survivors were driven in 1915.
This is not at all to say that important work on Armenian diasporic music has not been done. 6 Margaret Sarkissian s ethnography of the Armenian community in Toronto is one such example, examining the role music plays in the production of Armenian diasporic identity as it occurs along political and ideological lines and thus challenging essentialized notions of Armenian music (1987 and 1990).
While Sarkissian s work concentrated on the community in Toronto, Jonathan McCollum s 2004 dissertation shifted the focus to diasporic communities in the United States. As an examination of music within the context of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the United States, this work was a pivotal step in the documentation of Armenian diasporic musics. Within this religious framework, McCollum highlights a number of the complex processes at play in the identity formation of the Armenian-American diasporic community, particularly as they occur in light of the multiple waves of immigration that fundamentally altered the Armenian sense of self. Because Music and the Armenian Diaspora focuses primarily on the role of secular musics in the identity formation of the Armenian diasporic community, McCollum s work is a critical reminder that liturgical music and music-making are just as important to shaping and framing conceptions of Armenianness in the diaspora.
More recently, Anahid Kassabian s book contains two powerful chapters examining the fantasy of the presumed sameness of Armenians and the effect this has had on expressive culture-in the ways that it is received and embodied and the ways that it is made (2013, 21). As I will attempt to do in this book, Kassabian demonstrates the ways in which music and other forms of audiovisual expression navigate between both the multiple layers of the Armenian diasporic reality and the tension that exists between that reality and the presumed sameness of the Armenian diasporic discourse. For indeed it is both that Armenians in diaspora are aware of: their pluralities and their presumed singularity, the one informing yet contradicting the other.
Aside from these important examples, there is still much work to be done. As the majority of published scholarship on Armenian music rarely takes into consideration the various diasporic communities, this presupposes the existence of a single cultural Armenia somehow continuous, united across physical boundaries. A study of the role of music within the various communities reveals something far more complex. In presenting the case studies in this book, I do not propose a neat, linear narrative of continuity from one moment to the next; I cannot offer a new essentialized narrative to replace the widely disseminated one I interrogate here. Rather, the musical trends under consideration exist as something more contrapuntal, interacting and adjusting to the multiple dimensions of the various realities of the diasporic communities under study.
What begins to emerge is not only the positional flexibilities of diaspora and the ways in which different conceptions of Self emerge in different communities and different points in time, but how these strands intersect and are embedded in time. In his reflections on Fanon s thoughts on temporality, David Marriott finds that
Fanon makes this exclusion from history the basis for his critique of black reactive modes of temporality which, he argues, preserve racist ideas of time in their notions of the future as advent, or notions of the past as the recommencement of a black imaginary. In contrast to these views, Fanon writes that for history to be realized black existence must learn to grasp itself as a dialectical work in and through time , rather than a spiritual transformation which dispenses with both time and work. (2007, 232; emphasis mine)
Perhaps as a reaction to what is perceived as an exclusion from history, the Armenians, too, have clung to notions of pasts and futures-temporalities embedded in constructions of Home-that seem to exist outside time. This study, then, attempts to grasp the Armenian diaspora through time, if perhaps not in a dialectical manner, then in a dialogic one.
Why attempt to understand the complex process of diasporic identity formation through music? Music inhabits a peculiar space that allows it to traverse the multiple identities people are often grappling with and maneuvering between. The musics of diasporic or exilic communities not only reveal the shifts in processes of becoming, but illuminate the complexities of the processes themselves. Investigating the music of the Armenians can reveal how exilic and diasporic groups balance, prioritize, and maneuver between the simultaneous dimensions of their reality. As Georgina Born asserts, music allows a play with, a performance of, and an imaginary exploration of identities (Born and Hesmondhalgh 2000, 131). However, it is not only a multiplicity that occurs from without and that music navigates in between. Music itself, as Mark Slobin writes, is an extraordinarily multilayered channel of communication, allowing it to articulate the multiple belongings and complex imaginaries of diasporic communities (1994, 244). Music s complex embeddedness is indeed what gives it the ability to, in the words of Jane Sugarman, enable new forms of subjectivity (2004, 21).
It is useful in most discussions of diasporic or exilic musics to consider the un

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