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Armenian-American musicians speak, perform in Watertown

Friday, February 11, 2005

Leon Janikian, John Baboian, Sarine Balian, and Raffi Meneshian will participate in a roundtable discussion on contemporary thinking in the Armenian-American music world, on Sunday, Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. at the Armenian Library and Museum of America, 65 Main St., Watertown.

Illustrating their comments with their own live and recorded music and drawing from their own experience, they will confront some of the major issues for Armenians in the diaspora in the music world of today.

Belmont resident John Baboian, the moderator of this event, is an associate professor of guitar at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He has been on the faculty since 1980, teaching all guitar styles but focusing mainly on mainstream jazz. His performances have taken him throughout the U.S. as well as to Japan, Russia, Central America, Canada, Europe, Africa and Armenia. A composer and arranger as well, his music has been heard on such television shows as “The Sopranos,” “Walker, Texas Ranger,” and “All My Children.” His “Be-Bop Guitars” group features an all-Berklee faculty band with five guitars and a rhythm section.

Leon Janikian, associate professor of music and coordinator of music industry at Northeastern University, has been an academician, professional musician and recording engineer for over 40 years. Well known in the Armenian community as a performer, Janikian was the primary engineer/producer for over 150 records in all musical genres, and for numerous multi-media and commercial productions. He is one of the most sought-after musicians in the United States as a performer of the traditional music of Armenia, Greece and the Middle East. Janikian has been instrumental in the creation of the Archive of Armenian Music in America.

Raffi Meneshian, founder and CEO of Pomegranate Music, has produced four albums which have achieved popularity in the Armenian community: Yeraz and Godfather Tom (Gor Mkhitarian), Quake: Avant Garde Armenian Folk Music (Bambir), and, just issued, Shoror: Armenian folk music for guitar (Iakovos Kolanian). In addition, Menehsian has been the executive producer on three other CDs for his music label, Pomegranate Music. He is known for the live concerts he has produced, most notably the Armenstock Festival and the Lilit Pipoyan U.S. tour. He is a member of the Recording Academy, where he holds a vote for the Grammy Awards, and is a contributor to Global Rhythm Magazine and the Armenian Weekly.

Though relatively new to the San Francisco music scene, vocalist Sarine Balian, after performing with numerous Bay Area groups, has made her mark as a soloist. Specializing in jazz and world music, she performs haunting music reflective of her textured cultural background and spirituality. She performs with a jazz trio, and on occasion doumbek. She was raised in Lebanon and the U.S., and performs traditional ethnic songs and American standards. Balian teaches instrumental music at Krouzian Zekarian Vasbouragan Armenian School in San Francisco.

The conversation among the musicians will be followed by an open discussion with the audience.

“Armenian Music/ians in the Diaspora” will be videotaped by Roger Hagopian and aired on local cable television.

Immediately following this event, the newly published book, “Armenians of New England,” will be available for purchase and signing by Leon Janigian. Armenian music CDs by the participating musicians will also be available, and a reception will follow.

This is the third in a series of presentations held at the Armenian Library and Museum of America celebrating the opening of the Mesrob Boyajian Library, a facility designed for use by scholars at all levels engaged in research on topics related to the Armenian people, as well as to the general public wishing to peruse scholarly or popular works of history and literature relating to Armenia and the Armenians.

ALMA is the only independent Armenian museum in the Diaspora funded solely through contributions of individual supporters. Founded in 1971, ALMA’s mission is to present and preserve the culture, history, art and contributions of the Armenian people to Americans and Armenians alike. Since its inception, ALMA’s collection has grown to over 18,000 books and 20,000 artifacts, making it perhaps the largest and most diverse holding of Armenian cultural artifacts outside of Armenia. As a repository for heirlooms, the collection now represents a major resource not only for Armenian studies research, but as well as for preservation and illustration of the Armenian heritage. In 1988, ALMA acquired a 30,000 square foot facility in Watertown – one of North America’s oldest and most active Armenian communities. The facility includes exhibition galleries, library, administrative offices, function hall, climate-controlled vaults and conservation lab.

For further information, call the Armenian Library and Museum of America, 617-926-2562, ext. 3.

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