Friday, November 20, 2015

New book on Armenia Diaspora Music

For possibly the first time in history, a full length book in English, and a scholarly one at that, has been published which includes an in depth look at kef music.

Sylvia Alajaji, Ph.D., has written the book "Music And The Armenian Diaspora: Searching For Home In Exile."

Dr. Alajaji is an Associate Professor of Music at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Her research through the discipline of ethnomusicology has led her to compose this book which is the first of its kind, though several articles, theses or dissertations (including by the author herself) have been done on the topic. Interviews with leading authorities on different styles of Armenian music including kef music legend Richard Hagopian have contributed to the making of the book. I myself have ordered the book and I promise a review of it at some point in the near future to appear here on "Kef Time USA."

As far as I can tell, the book is an analysis of the differing developments or conceptualizations of Armenian music in different diaspora communities after the Genocide. Armenians in Lebanon performed semi-classical Armenian folk music with a nationalist direction, following in the footsteps of Gomidas, and later developed Armenian pop music (estradayin). Armenians in the US played the music they had played in the Ottoman Empire, in Armenian and Turkish languages, in a Near Eastern style (kef music). Finally the Lebanese Armenian and American Armenian music cultures came into confict when the Lebanese Armenians immigrated in large numbers to especially Southern California after the Lebanese Civil War broke out in 1975.

The author's starting point is the question "what is Armenian music?" and she seems to be highlighting how the musical differences in the different diaspora communities reflected different conceptualizations of Armenianness, politics, etc.

The chapters of the book are:
1. Ottoman Empire, 1890-1915
2. New York, 1932-1958
3. Beirut, 1932-1958
4. Beirut 1958-1980
5. California

...representing as far as I can tell, 1. Gomidas, 2. immigrant kef musicians in NYC Greektown, 3. Semi Classical Armenian folk music in Lebanon 4. Armenian pop music in Lebanon 5. Armenian pop music meets kef music in California

The book is certain to be interesting. I found a teaser youtube video of Prof. Alajaji explaining her book somewhat to another academic at Duke University:

Unfortunately for our purposes, she didn't say much about kef music in the interview but it was interesting nonetheless and I'm looking forward to reading the book! To be continued.....