What is pure Armenian folk music?

I could be opening a Pandora box in bringing this subject up, but I am hoping to tackle an issue in this posting to give some clarity and potentially open some constructive dialogue on the subject – the origin of Armenian folk music.

A few months ago I got an email from an Armenian located in Australia who listened to the music in my Kickstarter video and in a polite way (I say this because it isn’t always polite) referred to the music as pure Turkish and its origin not being Armenian at all. Too be honest, I was a bit annoyed as whenever you venture out to do a project like this, of course not everyone is going to be in agreement with you and usually (for me) it surrounds the subject of what is “true” Armenian folk music. I was annoyed as I wasn’t interested in engaging in this debate with this person. I have had them before and at best, you agree to disagree. So, my initial reaction was to ignore and move on. After a day of thinking about it, I thought I would try to tackle the issue. With that said, I am a realist in knowing that I still may not get everyone to agree with me, but hopefully you can respect or understand my vantage point.

The subject of what is “true” Armenian folk music is broad and can encompass a doctoral dissertation if all of the areas, regions, styles, and composers are pursued. You can analyze and re-analyze forever. The bottom line for me is that I grew up hearing this music – be it live or on recordings. I enjoy it, like many other styles of Armenian, Middle Eastern and American music.

I know for many of the readers, I am oversimplifying the debate, but to me – sometimes music is just music.  Armenians lived in Turkey for several hundreds years prior to the Genocide. Today, it is estimated that the Armenians in Turkey are around 40-70,000, roughly 10-20,000 more than in Michigan. Those Armenians in Turkey spoke Armenian and Turkish. We inhabited the lands. Those Armenians were successful in business, trade and certainly music. It was natural for Armenians to play music with Turkish lyrics.

I have to respect the musicians and composers that created this music. I didn’t live in those times. Many were under the Ottoman Empire rule, many composers created music that is still performed and respected today in modern Turkey – Armenians composed these works. It doesn’t make me less of an Armenian or hate the fact that almost 100 years ago the Turkish government ordered the killing of 1.5 million Armenians.

In the end, I hope you can understand where I am coming from as a blog on this subject could go on and on and still many would disagree with me. It is not my intention to change ones thoughts on the music I enjoy, play and respect. It is my intent to (in my small way) honor those that created and carried the music on from generation to generation.


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