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A Diamond Ring: Armenian​-​American Independent Releases ca. 1922​-​26

by Canary Records

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about

NOTE: About half of this album was previous issued in 2016 as "Oh My Soul." If you bought that album or the discography before July 2021, you can re-download this one. At least a dozen tracks have been added and significant improvements to the sound quality of all of the tracks have been made. (A correlating 20-track album called "Oh My Soul" including about eight tracks previously on this collection one has been released in the last week of July 2021.)

More than a dozen Armenian-language performances were made in 1910 for commercial release on Columbia Records by the Tashjian Brothers. Two years later in 1912, Armenians under the direction of M.G. Parsekian began recording village folk music in Turkish for Columbia, and the other primary U.S. label at the time Victor quickly followed suit, recording material by immigrants from the Ottoman Empire. However, both major labels ceased recording new Armenian and Turkish language material around 1919, although they kept many titles recorded in the 10s in print until they deleted their Armenian and Turkish catalogs in 1931. The market gap was quickly filled by Armenian entrepreneurs and musicians who founded small, independent labels through the 20s.

This collections encompasses releases on the Yeprad, Shamlian, Margosian, Sohag, Bilbil, and Hasekian labels. All of this material was recorded in and around the New York City area, including the Armenian enclave of Union City/West Hoboken, New Jersey shortly before the invention of the microphone. In other words, they were recorded mechanically into a horn without the use of electricity.

The vast majority of the songs are in the village styles originating in eastern Anatolia - Harput, Aintab, and Diyarbekir. A few were original, notably those by the composer Hovsep Shamlian, and many entered into repertoire by later performers. Others melodies have simply disappeared and exist only on these recordings. Harry Kezelian has pointed out that Margosian's "Mer Khntsore Dzaghger Eh" might be a Kharpert (Harput) folk song, but if so, Margosian "has rewritten it with references to Boston and New York."

To give some perspective in the American record business, African-American women were not recorded until 1920 when Okeh issued Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues.” The small independent Paramount Records label in Wisconsin did not begin its Race (music marketed to black folks) series until 1922. Gennett Record, another small independent company, began recording jazz in around 1921. Irish-Americans in New York City founded short-lived independent labels in the early 20s. It was a time of flourishing experimentation in marketing and recording releases to ethnic minorities, but few immigrant minorities were so prolific in self-documentation as Armenians.

credits

released July 26, 2021

Recordings are drawn from the following labels:
1-4 Yeprad
5-6 Bilbil
7-9 Shamlian
10-12, 14-18 Margosian
13, 19-26 Sohag
27 Harry's Oriental

compilation & disc transfer: Ian Nagoski
English title translations: Harry Kezelian

Many thanks to Christine Gabaly for her contribution in memory of her grandparents Setrak and Siranoush Aijian and to Kris Markarian.

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Canary Records Baltimore, Maryland

early 20th century masterpieces (mostly) in languages other than English.

"Birds are the opposite of Time." - Olivier Messiaen

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