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String Harmonies Releases “Trinity”

String Harmonies: TrinityString Harmonies has released their latest effort, Trinity. The string trio, which consists of Vik Momjian on six-string bass, Antranik Kzirian on Oud and Yervand Kalajian on violin, weave a beautiful mix of modern and traditional Armenian music that soothes and excites.

Momjian’s bass serves as a solid foundation with a fat, gorgeous tone. Throwing in chordal work from time to time, the bassist deftly navigates the group’s odd time signature tunes and ethnic riffs.

Trinity is available now in digital formats, through iTunes and Amazon MP3.

Trinity Track Listing:

  • Yeraz / Hovivner / Bijo
  • I Wonder If It Is You
  • For My First Love
  • Tonight As the Sun Sets
  • Asum En Te / Bingeol
  • Marilyn’s Dance
  • Anoush Karoon / Adanayi Voghpuh
  • Variation On a Tamzara
  • Sari Siroon Yar / Al Ayloughs Gorav
  • Khnjooyki Yerk / Hars Oo Pesa
  • Parov Yegar / Siroon Aghchig

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4 comments

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Hye class

Hye class

a poor man’s Laço Tayfa

I have listened to this album a number of times, and for a while was trying to put my finger on why it just doesn’t work. I think I’ve nailed it down, so here goes:

1) The fretted bass guitar seems completely out of place. If you’re going to be a bass player playing this music, you should be barely noticeable, rather than one of the main instruments. Otherwise, if you wanted to be a featured musician, you should have learned one of the real instruments (clarinet, oud, violin, kanon, kamancha, duduk, tar, etc.), one where you can actually express yourself as a musician. Can you play a taksim on a fretted bass? No, you can not. I can think of several of the great Armenian bands over the decades and today that do not even have a bass player, but use a guitarist or keyboardist playing bass notes, to much better effect. They play a very important role, yet you barely notice them. Here, we get bass slapping, silly chording, and other ridiculous nonsense that nobody cares about. I feel like I’m hearing a hippopotamus hoofing around my living room.

2) The musicians come from different musical backgrounds that, rather than blending well together, clash with each other. The violinist seems to know what he is doing, but he plays in an Azerbaijani / Persian style. This style of violin playing just does not fit with some of the Turkish şarkılar (written by Ottoman Armenians living in Istanbul) played on the album, such as Tonight as the Sun Sets (Bu Akşam Gün Batarken Gel) and I Wonder if it is You (Acaba Şen Misin), or the Udi Hrant song (Parov Yegar / Sirun Aghchig), which need a true Istanbul style of violin (think Kemani Nubar, Haydar Tatlıyay, Kemani Cemal). The oud player on the other hand comes from the Armenian-American tradition, where the main oud players are people like George Mgrdichian, Chick Ganimian, John Berberian, Richard Hagopian, Harry Minasian, John Bilezikjian, etc. – not that this oud player is EVEN CLOSE to any of these great players*. I’m sorry people, but the eastern Armenian and American-Armenian musics do not mix well together and we should stop pretending that they’re somehow different sides of the same coin. They come from different geographical regions, different historical periods, and vastly different types of societies. The exalted place of the oud in the Armenian-American tradition can be traced mostly to Udi Hrant and Marko Melkon, who were greatly esteemed during their time. So in order to understand that tradition, you need to know something about the musical world those musicians came from. That world was essentially Ottoman Turkey / Anatolia / Asia Minor or whatever you want to call it (Hrant was from Adapazarı, and Marko Melkon was from İzmir). Unfortunately we get no sense of that here. The result is a sound that has no discernible style that anyone can recognize or relate to. And if you’re going to try to create something new, like a Laço Tayfa, you better be extremely good. These musicians are not at that level unfortunately.

3) “I Wonder if it is You” is not the translation of “Acaba Şen Misin”. It’s the translation of “Acaba Sen Misin”. Completely different meaning. The song is “Acaba Şen Misin Kederin Var Mı”, by Bimen Şen. As far as I know there is no song called “Acaba Sen Misin”. Maybe learn some of the basics of the Turkish language before playing songs with Turkish lyrics and translating them into English??

4) Most of these songs have lyrics, yet there’s no singer on the album. People who know these songs (especially the şarkılar) connect with the song based on the lyrics just as much as the musicians. Listening to these songs without the words just ends up creating the sense that something is missing.

5) There’s no percussion. Which leads me to:

6) Jesus Christ it’s boring. I was literally falling asleep listening to some of these tracks. Pausing to reflect, last month I witnessed Richard Hagopian, Hachig Kazarian, and Jack Chalikian playing at a dinner dance in Montebello, CA. It is the year 2014 and these three musicians are in their mid 70s now. They had the whole place – 400+ people, many of them teenagers or in their 20s – up and dancing until gone 2am. The same can be said for Onnik Dinkjian, who is in his 80s and still performing. Contrast this with the group being reviewed here, these guys are supposed to be the younger generation playing traditional songs in a more modern way, and they put us to sleep. Would you ever say that about the Vosbikian band back during the heyday? The playing here is often mechanical and robotic (especially the oud playing). The oud player’s output with his previous band Aravod had much more energy and was a lot more fun to listen to than any of the stuff he’s done since then. More importantly, it represented the continuation of the American-Armenian musical tradition, which is fast becoming the losing side in the Armenian culture wars here in America. I guess it was more important to become an annoying LA hipster/rocker than defend where you came from.

A good try, but don’t quit your day jobs guys. Unless of course any of you are professional Turkish-to-English translators. Then I would suggest you do quit.

* for example, compare the oud “intro” of “I Wonder if it is You” of the current album, to the “Rast Taksim” of John Berberian on the album “Ode to an Oud: Artistry of John Berberian”, or his “Taksim” on the album Expressions East. Berberian was probably still in his 20s when he recorded these. Has this oud player ever studied (let alone even listened to) a taksim? I mean really listened to one. The answer is no, because apparently he’s been too busy dreaming of becoming a rock star like Serj Tankian et al and other sellouts. This is not how to play the oud, and if this is the best Armenians have, then that is very sad. Just because you have a goatee and play in a hipster rock band does not make you an oud player. Grow up, and spend a little more time working on your craft, instead of wasting your time gyrating on stage in front of a bunch of teenage potheads. To whoever is reading this: if you want to learn how to play the oud, don’t listen to this guy. Listen to players who had a deep respect for their instrument and actually took the time to study it, such as the musicians mentioned above. Please.