Music and the Armenian Diaspora
Searching for Home in Exile
Published by: Indiana University Press
Survivors of the Armenian genocide of 1915 and their descendants have used music to adjust to a life in exile and counter fears of obscurity. In this nuanced and richly detailed study, Sylvia Angelique Alajaji shows how the boundaries of Armenian music and identity have been continually redrawn: from the identification of folk music with an emergent Armenian nationalism under Ottoman rule to the early postgenocide diaspora community of Armenian musicians in New York, a more self-consciously nationalist musical tradition that emerged in Armenian communities in Lebanon, and more recent clashes over music and politics in California. Alajaji offers a critical look at the complex and multilayered forces that shape identity within communities in exile, demonstrating that music is deeply enmeshed in these processes. Multimedia components available online include video and audio recordings to accompany each case study.
Guide to Online Media Examples
1. Ottoman Empire, 1890-1915: Komitas Vartaped and the Construction of "Armenia"
2. New York, 1932-1958
3. Beirut, 1932-1958
4. Beirut, 1958-1980
Music and Music and the Armenian Diaspora is a wonderful contribution to the study of Armenian music and a sophisticated exploration of what it means (and has meant) to be Armenian in the world.~H-Music
[S]omeone familiar with the path of the Armenian peoples—their various cultures, histories, and experiences in multiple contexts—would approach this book with apprehension and care, hoping and perhaps dreading to learn from the complex history, genocide, and rebirth/remaking of the Armenian people. In Music and the Armenian Diaspora . . . Sylvia Angelique Alajaji presents and explores all of these things through music and perspectives on music with clarity, compassion, and open eyes, in ways that are appropriately challenging and accessible to social scientists, historians, and anyone with a deep interest in Armenia or Armenian people.~Notes
Covering with much detail a wide variety of musical phenomena that have been hitherto ignored in Armenian music scholarship, Music and the Armenian Diaspora is a landmark work that challenges many of the orthodoxies about Armenian music as it is conceived of today. . . . The lucid writing style, the empatheic and observant attention to forgotten musical histories, and the excellent selection of included recordings, make Music and the Armenian Diaspora a book that deserves to be read by a wide range of readers interested in topics as varied as music and conflict, diaspora studies and the cultural dimensions of genocide.~The World of Music
[Alajaji writes in] the voice of an insider with sophisticated critical instincts, a capacity to think historically as well as ethnographically, and an ability to piece together the elements of this hugely dispersed diaspora culture making scene into a coherent picture. . . . Readings of songs and discussions with the singers and musicians produce passages of subtle description, interwoven with theoretical meditations on questions of hybridity and identity, of senses of motion and senses of place.~Martin Stokes