When I heard the news, the first thoughts that came to mind were – long overdue. I was elated to hear one of our Armenian musical icons has won one of the highest awards in the country you could receive as an artist.
Onnik Dinkjian has been an icon of traditional Armenian music for decades and continues to amaze and dazzle audiences with his smooth vocal chords at dances and weddings nationwide.
In a press release announced on June 23, 2020, the National Endowment for the Arts’ work to support and celebrate our nation’s rich traditional arts heritage, the agency is announcing the 2020 recipients of its National Heritage Fellowships. These lifetime honor awards of $25,000 are given in recognition of both artistic excellence and efforts to sustain cultural traditions for future generations.
Receiving this award is a rare and distinguished honor only given to some of the finest artists that have greatly attributed to the world of art and culture.
“Each year the Heritage Fellowships highlight the distinct living traditions of communities around our nation, as well as how our fellows instill a sense of pride, beauty, and cultural continuity through their art,” said Mary Anne Carter, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “The National Endowment for the Arts is pleased to recognize these outstanding artists with a National Heritage Fellowship.”
I first met Onnik via one of his LP records that was in my house growing up. When I started to become fascinated by Armenian and Middle Eastern music, his recordings were considered a stable in the music and it was there that I began to realize who this signer was along with countless other musicians.
Fast forward, I met Onnik in person in the 1980s. I loved watching him on stage as a singer. He had such a unique persona – stylish outfit, tambourine in hand and always smiling and enjoying performing on stage. Over the thirty years I have known him, this has never changed. Even today, in his early nineties, he has a vibrant voice and loves to perform in front of audiences. He is truly a living legend.
The other day I called to congratulate Onnik on his accomplishment and he was humble to add that “this is as much for me as it is for the Armenian people”.
A true class act of a man and musician.