Armenian Culture Days in Sharja
Hasmik Harutyunyan, Aleksan Harutyunyan and Shoghaken musicians As part of a cultural exchange initiated by Armenian president Robert Kocharian, the traditional culture of Armenia gained wider recognition and understanding during “Armenian Culture Days,” a five-day celebration of music, performance, and art held December 12-17, 2004, in Sharja, United Arab Emirates.

At the special request of the Sheikh of Sharja, Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, only artists representing traditional art and music were invited to participate in the event. On opening day, Armenians, Arabs, and guests of the Sharja Culture Ministry gathered at the Sharja Expo Center for opening ceremonies. After welcoming remarks by Arshak Poladyan, Armenia’s ambassador in the UAE, Armenian Culture Minister Hovig Hoveyan summed up the importance of maintaining traditional culture. “To know a people,” he said, “you have to know their traditional culture, their music and art.” He then introduced Armenia’s most widely acclaimed group of folk musicians, Shoghaken Ensemble, saying, “By presenting Shoghaken, we are able to take the listener back to the depths of Armenian history, to the depths of the Armenian spirit.”

A festive atmosphere reigned as Shoghaken performed the songs and dances of Old Armenia. The program included songs of longing, such as the ancient “Gorani,” presented by vocalist Hasmik Harutyunyan, as well as lullabies, work songs, and epic songs. The latter genre was brought to life by Aleksan Harutyunyan when he sang the plaintive “Mokats Mirza,” accompanied by kanon virtuoso Karine Hovhannisyan. Particularly well received was a series of songs by the great ashough Sayat Nova, which included “Ishkhemet,” played by Hovhannisyan, “Kani Voor Jan Im,” sung by Aleksan Harutyunyan, and “Nazani,” sung by Hasmik Harutyunyan and accompanied by Vardan Baghdasaryan on kamancha, Levon Tevanyan on blul, Aleksan Harutyunyan on dap, and Grigor Takushyan on dham duduk.

The program continued with dudukist Gevorg Dabaghyan’s touching rendition of the folk melody “Hovern Enkan” and other pieces performed by the ensemble’s eight instrumentalists. This led to a rousing song-and-dance performance by Hasmik Harutyunyan and Aleksan Harutyunyan, whose spirited performances of “Ververi” and “Mayroke” of Moush and Sassoun have long been concert favorites. “Yarkhooshta,” a famous dance of Sassoun, was accompanied by steady applause, with extra enthusiasm shown by those with roots in Sassoun.

After the concert, I presented a copy of one of the group’s CDs, Armenia Anthology, to the Sharja Director of Culture, who commented in turn on the group’s high degree of professionalism and expressed appreciation on behalf of the Sheikh of Sharja and the Minister of Culture.

The following days featured performances by the well known Komitas Quartet, led by first-violinist Edik Tadevosyan, and the State Pantomime Theater. A special exhibition by painter Hambartsum Baghdasaryan was also held at the Sharja Culture Museum.

Before returning to Yerevan, the entire Armenian contingent paid a visit to the St. Grigor Lusavorich Church and Ohanesian School in Sharja. They were proudly received by the priest, teachers, and students, and shown the church, school grounds, and classrooms, where all classes are conducted in the Armenian language. A reception was concluded with songs by Hasmik Harutyunyan and Aleksan Harutyunyan. Then the blaring sounds of two zurnas and dhol brought students, teachers, musicians, and artists together as they danced to the music of the Armenian homeland.

For more information about Shoghaken and a video link to their performance at the Kennedy Center, click here.
(Video link requires high speed Internet access.)

Back to Shoghaken Folk Ensemble

Sheikh of Sharja
Hovik Hoveyan
Arshak Poladyan (far right)

Hasmik Harutyunyan

Hasmik Harutyunyan
with Armenian children
in Sharja

Grigor Takushyan
Gevorg Dabaghyan
Vardan Baghdasaryan

Sightseeing in Sharja

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