Armenia Anthology

The Shoghaken Ensemble

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Armenia Anthology Review

by Thom Jurek

Many collections that feature the differing musics from a particular tradition fall far short of the mark inasmuch as they try to cram so many different styles into a package, it loses its focus. Not so here with the Shoghaken Ensemble, Armenia's premier interpreters of its heritage music. There are 19 selections here, each of which represents a significant body of Armenian folk music. The various songs here are part of a collection of over 30,000 songs gathered together and sought out since the 1880s beginning with the great cleric and musicologist Komitas. The nearly characteristic aspect of Armenian folk music is its striking amalgam of elements, from ancient Far Eastern chant-like phrasing to sometimes dizzying klezmer-like intricacies to haunting minor-key melodies and open, whole-toned modalism. The songs here range from lullabies for both babies and lovers, funeral songs, harvest melodies, ritual songs, courting love songs, poetic tales of immigration and exile -- virtually all stripes. This collection marks the signature of a people who know where their home is, no matter where they happen to live. These are the sounds of a people with great sorrow to be sure, given the massacres they have endured through even recent history, but they are also the sounds of a people determined that their history not be eradicated or disappear. Haunting, elegant, deeply spiritual, and moving.

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