Shoghaken Folk Ensemble
Shoghaken Folk Ensemble - From left: Vardan Baghdasaryan, Aleksan Harutyunyan, Hasmik Harutyunyan, Gevorg Dabaghyan, Karine Hovhannisyan, Grigor Takushyan, Levon Tevanyan, Kamo Khachatryan (click to enlarge) The Shoghaken Folk Ensemble was founded in 1995 in Yerevan. The group uses only traditional Armenian instruments, maintaining an authentic sound with the duduk, zurna, dhol, kanon, kamancha, shvi, and other instruments. Singers Hasmik Harutyunyan and Aleksan Harutyunyan are known throughout Armenia, the former Soviet Union, and Europe for their unique interpretation of Armenian folk and ashoughagan (troubadour) music.

In 1995, Shoghaken recorded folk music for Celestial Harmonies in the Music of Armenia series. The ensemble also had success in the Armenia Festival in Die, southern France, representing Armenia in the folk music tradition.

Shoghaken was involved in several recordings in 2001. In May, Shakeh Avanessian, of London, and Laura Shannon, of Scotland, recorded an album of Armenian dance melodies in Yerevan. Avanessian and Shannon are professional dancers who present traditional dance in concerts and seminars in Europe and the Middle East. The recording, Gorani: Traditional Dances from the Armenian Homeland, is named for “Gorani,” a song and dance from the Moush region of Historic Armenia.

In August, Shoghaken recorded an album of Armenian folk music for Traditional Crossroads (see Recommended Links). The recording included Armenian folk, ashoughagan, patriotic, and epic songs. The CD, entitled Armenia Anthology, was released in May 2002. You can order the CD directly from Traditional Crossroads by going to

In search of authentic Armenian folk music for the soundtrack of Ararat, his film about the Armenian Genocide, Atom Egoyan traveled to Yerevan in December of 2001 with composer Mychael Danna. They found and recorded Shoghaken, whose inspired work has made them Armenia’s premier folk music ensemble. In addition to drawing on their extensive repertoire of Armenian folk music, the musicians of Shoghaken were successfully able to improvise according to the needs of the movie — the recording studio becoming a creative atmosphere in which the director and composer conveyed the style and feel of Ararat to the group. Through ensemble pieces and improvisations, Shoghaken was able to exert a deep and positive influence on Egoyan’s important film. The members of the group were also pleased to play a part in telling the story of the Genocide.

Shoghaken was also invited to the United States by world-renowned cellist, Yo Yo Ma, to perform at the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. To see photos and read more about the festival, click here. In July 2003, three members of the group traveled to Estonia to participate in the Viljandi Folk Festival in Viljandi, Estonia. Vocalist Hasmik Harutyunyan was accompanied by musicians Levon Tevanyan and Karine Hovhannisyan in two well-attended concerts. To see photos and read more about the group’s Estonia performances, click here.

In February 2004, Traditional Crossroads released two more Shoghaken Ensemble recordings: Armenian Lullabies, a haunting collection of lullabies from Historic Armenia featuring Hasmik Harutyunyan and the musicians of Shoghaken; and Traditional Dances of Armenia, an instrumental and vocal presentation of traditional dances of the Armenian homeland. Official presentation of the CDs coincided with the ensemble’s 2004 U.S. tour, arranged by Harold Hagopian. Both CDs are available for purchase at Traditional Crossroads. In December, Shoghaken participated in “Armenian Culture Days,” a celebration of music, performance, and art held in Sharja, in the United Arab Emirates. To see photos and read more about the event, click here.

In February 2005, the group performed in Montreal at the Strictly Mundial music conference. While in Canada, Hasmik Harutyunyan and Gevorg Dabaghyan were interviewed at the Palais de Congress for the Canadian Broadcasting Network’s widely distributed “Global Village” radio program. In August, Shoghaken appeared in Concert at the Cascade, a Yerevan event sponsored by the Cafesjian Foundation and filmed for the international Armenian television audience.

“Ververi,” performed at Concert at the Cascade by Hasmik Harutyunyan
and Aleksan Harutyunyan with Shoghaken Ensemble.


In the first of several events scheduled for 2006, Shoghaken performed in Paris at the prestigious Theatre de la Ville in February. To see photos and read more about the event, which was filmed for worldwide broadcast, click here. For a French-language review, video, interview, gallery, and music samples, click here. In June, the group participated in the Armenia Year in Russia festivities at the St. Petersburg Palaces classical music festival. This was followed by a trip to Rudolstadt, Germany, in July for performances, workshops, and a radio program as part of the Dance and Folk Music Festival.

In 2008, Shoghaken gave concerts and workshops during their second major tour of the US and Canada. Organized by Harold Hagopian of Traditional Crossroads, the tour coincided with the release of the ensemble’s latest CD, Shoghaken Ensemble: Music From Armenia.

On February 7, 2009, Shoghaken Ensemble: Music From Armenia was awarded the best folk recording of 2008 at the National Music Awards in Yerevan, Armenia. On September 9, 2009, Shoghaken presented a concert at the Aram Khachtryan Concert Hall in Yerevan. Other concert and festival appearances planned for 2009 include Istanbul, Jerusalem, Australia, and Slovakia.

On March 12, 2010, Shoghaken performed a concert at Cankarjev dom in Ljubljana, Slovenia, as part of “Armenia Days in Slovenia.” Hasmik Harutyunyan also presented workshops of Armenian folk and dance for the Emanat Institute in Ljubljana.

In March 2011, Shoghaken musicians Hasmik Harutyunyan, Aleksan Harutyunyan, Gevorg Dabaghyan, Vardan Baghdasaryan, and Grigor Takushyan traveled to the Netherlands and Belgium for a three-concert tour. The many in attendance were treated to traditional folk songs and dances from the Armenian Highland, as well as troubadour songs and Armenian mugham played on duduk and kamancha.

In September 2011, Shoghaken participated in events in Stuttgart, Germany, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Armenia. Shoghaken presented concerts in Stuttgart, Kehl and Hanau, as well as taking part in the Gala Concert in Stuttgart. Concerts featured Armenian folk songs and dances, including several collected by Komitas and Hayrik Mouradian, as well as troubadour songs by Sayat Nova, Shahen, and Shirin.

In October 2014, Shoghaken participated in Armenian cultural events in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Lisbon, Portugal. At the “Hay Dersim” symposium and concert in Lausanne, Shoghaken soloists Hasmik Harutyunyan and Gevorg Dabaghyan presented two concerts featuring Armenian folk song and dance from Taron, Kharberd, and other regions of Western Armenia. In Lisbon, the Shoghaken Ensemble opened the “Armenian Culture Week” at the Gulbenkian Foundation with a concert of Armenian folk song and dance, led by soloists Hasmik Harutyunyan, Gevorg Dabaghyan, and Aleksan Harutyunyan.

In performance: Grigor Takushyan, Karine Hovhannisyan, Hasmik Harutyunyan, Vardan Baghdasaryan

To view part of Shoghaken’s Sept. 17 concert in Stuttgart, click here. For information about other festivals, concerts, and recordings, write me at

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.) Shoghaken Folk Ensemble’s 2002 CD release, Armenia Anthology, was recognized as the Best CD of the year in the World Music category at the Association For Independent Music/National Association of Recording Merchandisers (AFIM/NARM) convention held in March 2003. The prestigious award, an independent labels version of the Grammys, is the fourth garnered by Harold Hagopian’s Traditional Crossroads label.

What others are saying about Shoghaken and Armenia Anthology . . .

These are the sounds of a people with great sorrow to be sure, given the massacres they have endured through even recent history, but they are also the sounds of a people determined that their history not be eradicated or disappear. Haunting, elegant, deeply spiritual, and moving.
— Thom Jurek,
All Music Guide

We are told that “Shoghaken” means “source of light” and indeed, this CD has brightened my path to appreciating the music of Armenia more fully. . . . Highly recommended for lovers of traditional wind instruments, poetical lyrical verse and Balkan-like rhythms.
— Erika Borsos, review

A better introduction to the fabulous world of Armenian music would be difficult to imagine.
— Dirty Linen

Hasmik Harutyunyan’s vocals are deeply emotional, while duduk player Gevorg Dabaghyan often steals the show with his virtuosity.
— Sing Out!

The now well-known Shoghaken Ensemble . . . is dedicated to reviving the richness of Armenian folk music using traditional instruments and singing styles.
Armenia Anthology reflects this with a range of folk songs, dances and ashugh (minstrel) music from various regions, as well as with a couple of 20th-century compositions. There are some real gems: the duduk’s expressive tone lifted by the contained excitement of the dhol (large cylindrical drum) on “Shorora”; some exhilarating weddings dances; and a number of strong and solemn work songs. And it’s a particular joy to hear the voice of Hasmik Harutyunyan, one of Armenia’s best-known folk singers, with her rich, fresh and clear tone, and an ear finely tuned to the local modes.
— Songlines
Sample MP3 Recordings

Armenia Anthology
Performed by Hasmik Harutyunyan and Shoghaken Folk Ensemble

Khnotsu Yerk
Armenia Anthology
Performed by
Shoghaken Folk Ensemble

Mokats Mirza
Armenia Anthology
Performed by Aleksan Harutyunyan and Shoghaken Folk Ensemble

Armenia Anthology

Naz Bar
Music of Armenia, Vol. 5
Performed by
Shoghaken Folk Ensemble

Msho geghen
Music of Armenia, Vol. 5
Performed by Hasmik Harutyunyan and Shoghaken Folk Ensemble

Kessabi Lullaby
Ensemble Karot, Vol. 1
Performed by
Hasmik Harutyunyan

Dances of Sassoon
Music of Armenia, Vol. 5
Performed by
Shoghaken Folk Ensemble

Kroonk (Pontus Region)
Ensemble Karot, Vol. 1
Performed by
Hasmik Harutyunyan

Ensemble Karot, Vol. 1

More about Shoghaken and
Traditional Dances of Armenia


On Traditional Dances of Armenia,
the Shoghaken Ensemble does more
than preserve fading rural artifacts —
the band gives them eternal life through
interpretations that are stunning in their
drive, beauty and mystery.
Kevin R. Convey, The Boston Herald


The Shoghaken Ensemble have worked tirelessly preserving their musical
heritage in both their performances
and recordings. . . . Songs for battles,
weddings, daily work, and love songs
all surface on this recording.
And when they do surface, the songs aspire as treasure for hungry hearts
and feet that desire to dance
barefoot on the ancestral soil.
Crankycrow, online review


Traditional Dances of Armenia
by Armenia’s master musicians is a
stunning collection of pieces that keep
the accompaniment of great ritual dances
from obscurity and antiquity. . . .
It’s full of cadences and syntaxes that
baffle and confound with their haunted
beauty and strident air of joy. The package
comes complete with a lavish 36-page
booklet with photos, historical and liner
notes by Cynthia Rodgers.
Highly recommended.
Thom Jurek, All Music Guide


Exotic instruments, ballads in an ancient tongue, fire-marriage circle dancing . . .
all from a people who survived Noah’s
ark crashing into their mountains,
genocide at the hands of the Ottoman
Turks, and the Soviet era. What more
could you want? There is no excuse
not to purchase this album.
Chris Kakovitch, The Cornell Daily Sun


A fabulous investigation from a band
that warrants the tag “superb.”
Global Village Idiot, online review

Shoghaken Ensemble: Music from Armenia [click to enlarge]

The Shoghaken Ensemble approaches
this material with great authority and
assurance, and a bursting vitality that is
evident from the first note to the last.
Patrick Rapa, Philadelphia City Paper


In a seemingly emotional paradox, the wedding songs combined wildly ecstatic dance rhythms with mournful vocals.
That the Shoghaken Ensemble makes the contrast sound perfectly natural says as much about these musicians as it does about their homeland’s unique culture.
Aaron Cohen, Chicago Tribune

Traditional Dances of Armenia

Traditional Dances of Armenia
Sample MP3s

Alashkerti Kochari       Shatakhi Dzernapar       Tsamerov Par       Ververi

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