Shoghaken Ensemble | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Shoghaken Ensemble 

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Gevorg Dabaghyan is a master of Armenia's most famous traditional instrument, the duduk--a double reed, usually carved from the wood of an apricot tree, with a one-octave range. He was the first to play his country's church music on it, he's played it in Yo-Yo Ma's celebrated Silk Road Ensemble and with jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek, and he's made it a part of new orchestral and choral works by contemporary Armenian composers. But as devoted as he is to pushing the boundaries of traditional music, he's equally committed to preserving its sounds. Since 1991 he's led the eight-member Shoghaken Ensemble, Armenia's most prominent folk music group. On a series of wonderful albums for Celestial Harmonies and, more recently, Traditional Crossroads, the group has cast a wide net over Armenian music. There's a strong rhythmic element in the songs on the new Traditional Dances of Armenia, where elaborate, fast-moving patterns played by Kamo Khachaturian on the two-headed hand drum known as the dhol guide the music while a variety of other instruments--the duduk, the flutelike shvi and blul, the trapezoidal zither known as the kanon, the piercing, double-reed zurna, bagpipes called parkapzuk, the oud--either follow the percussion or improvise melodies around it. On Armenian Lullabies, also released this year, the clear, plaintive voice of Hasmik Harutyunyan takes center stage on stark a cappella pieces and gorgeous ensemble interpretations of songs that have been played in rural villages for decades. This date is part of the group's first U.S. tour; there isn't a better introduction to traditional Armenian music. Saturday, April 17, 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andranik Michaelian.

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