We’ve updated our Terms of Use to reflect our new entity name and address. You can review the changes here.
We’ve updated our Terms of Use. You can review the changes here.

Ashoogh: Their Complete Recordings ca. 1943​-​47

by Yenovk Der Hagopian & Samuel Haidostian

Halay 02:51
Chis Asoom 02:31
Ashkhemen 02:40
Dal Dala 02:30
Oosdy Gookas 02:50
Harav Kamin 02:31
Ser Ouneink 03:08
Bulbuleh 03:22
Dulhey 03:38


Yenovk Der Hagopian was born May 24, 1900 in a village called Ishkhanikom near Lake Van in Turkey. His father was a priest and musician of a type referred to as an “ashoog” (or ashiq) through the Caucuses - something akin to a “bard” in English. Having learned ashiq songs from his father and witnessed the nightmare of the Armenian genocide where hundreds were slaughtered daily around Van in July of 1915, Der Hagopian went to Tbilisi, Georgia, and spent his late teens and early ‘20s as a mentor in orphanages in Yerevan, where, during military service, he was shot in the leg while on guard duty. He had by that time learned songs of the 18th century ashiq Sayat Nova (b. 1712; d 1795) whose work ultimately formed half of his recorded repertoire.

He had intended to become a priest himself, but on October 30, 1923, he arrived alone through Ellis Island as a twenty-three-year-old art student. (Coincidentally, another passenger on the same ship was an student named Benjamin Saroyan, also a student from Tbilisi, who was a first cousin of the author William Saroyan, whom Der Hagopian met over a decade later, although neither was apparently aware of the point of connection.) By February 1924, he was living in Watertown, Massachusetts where he worked for most of the next four decades.

In Watertown, Der Hagopian reconnected with an artist who'd been born only about six miles away from where he'd been born - Arshile Gorky (born Manoog Adoian 1904; d 1948). As children, they had played together, and together they had looked at the old inscriptions carved in the rock of shrines and tombstones surrounding Van. Years later, they painted together, side by side as friends. Der Hagopian called his friend "Manook" and "Gorky" interchangeably; Gorky called him "priest's son."

Between studying at the Massachusetts School of Art and the Copely Society Art School and manual labor jobs (a rubber factory initially, next to Gorky, and then many years painting houses and doing contract work), Der Hagopian produced paintings on Armenian subjects. He exhibited them in Watertown’s library by 1936. Around that time, Der Hgopian was introduce to Alan Hohvhaness, a Boston-born half-Armenian musician who was working then as an organist in a Watertown church. Hovhaness was deeply impressed by Der Hagopian's musicianship. He was not alone. In 1941 William Saroyan remembered the music he heard Hagopian play at a house party in Boston a couple of years earlier and suggested that he should appear in a play that Saroyan was in the process of producing, although this never came to pass.

Hovhaness later recalled that Yenovk was “the greatest Armenian troubadour. He was not appreciated at all by the Armenians. They thought he was a barbarian because he sang in the true ancient style. […] He’d lived with the Kurds too and knew how to sing Kurdish style. His Kurdish songs were magnificent. […] Hyman [Bloom b. Latvia 1913; d 2009 who introduced Hovhaness to Der Hagopian and Gorky] and I and a few friends put what little money we had into recording him. […] He was a great inspiration. […] My ‘Armenian Rhapsody’ is entirely based on his material. He wanted me to copyright these things so the wrong person wouldn’t get hold of it. He trusted me, and so did [Yenovk’s accompanist Sam Haidostian], and so I made a rhapsody and the ’12 Armenian Folk Songs,’ both based on tunes he sang.” Of Hovhaness’s enormous body of compositions, those pieces drawn from Der Hagopian’s repertoire are the only ones incorporating non-original melodic material except his "Six Dances for Piano," which incorporate some material from the work of Komitas Vadarpet, the most famous composer and folklorist of Armenians in the early 20th century. Hovhaness subsequently dedicated his opus 176 #2 to "Yenovk (The Troubadour)"

Der Hagopian recorded eight songs with Sam Haidostian (b. Dec. 3, 1895, in present-day Kahramanmaras, Turkey; d. Feb. 21, 1981, Cambridge MA) on saz, oud, and flute. Haidostanian worked at the Boston Rubber shoe factory in the 1910s, worked for Hairenik Armenian newspaper in the ‘40s and '50s aas a linotype printing machine operator. The performances appeared as an album of four 78rpm discs in 1943, which were poorly pressed due in part to war-time rationing and partly because it was produced cheaply. It garnered uncomprehending or lukewarm press notices, viewed at the time mainly as a curiosity, except in the case of a long review by the Boston Herald’s classical music critic Rudophy Elie, Jr. who took the performances seriously as examples of the then-nascent study folk music. But there were at least some English-language press, which is more than you could say for most of his contemporaries, likely due to the growing reputation of Hovhaness.

A subsequent and better-produced album appeared in 1947. One instrumental track on the second album, the “Halay,” is notable for being a very early example of “overdubbing,” with Haidostian playing all four instruments (two flutes, oud, and drum), overlaid on one another on tape - a significant technical achievement at the time for a non-professional immigrant recording on the fringes of the record business.

In March 1947 Der Hagopian and Haidostian made an appearance in New York City at a concert of Soviet performers at Town Hall, where among dozens of performers, including Pete Seeger and Sonny Terry, their performance was well-received by the New York Time. Two months later at Carnegie Hall under the auspices of an “Armenian-Caucasian Concert” presented by Alan Hovhaness at precisely the same time that an album on the Disc label was released of Hovhaness’s work next to that of John Cage, performed by Maro Ajemian (b. 1921; d. 1978), the most important pianist of the American avant-garde before David Tudor. The Carnegie Hall concert was promoted by the Armenian press in advance but lambasted immediately afterward as “a disgraceful misrepresentation of Armenian art” by the eminent literary critic Nona Balakian (b. Constantinople Sept. 4, 1918; d. April 5, 1991, New York City). While Der Hagopian, Haidostian, and a zurna player named Movses Der Zakarian might have been somewhat under-rehearsed, the political and ethical vehemence of the review compelled Sam Haidostian to publish an editorial titled “We Have No Apologies for the Carnegie Program” pointing out that, “All the songs and tunes of our program were real Armenian except one Kurdish song, which is beautiful music, of great artistic merit, and not even a Kurd can sing it as well as Yenovk.” And he wrote, “What we have done was real pioneer work.” Hovhaness also sent a letter to the editors of Heirenik defending the concert, writing that “Armenians should not be ashamed of their own music and traditions. The fact that our music is different from other music is cause for pride, not shame. European and American musicians are thrilled by our music and enjoy us. Why are we ashamed of our own treasures? It is because we fail to understand our own art. Why hide our true art and imitate European culture like slaves and hypocrites? We must have the courage to be original.”

Fourteen months after the Carnegie Hall debacle, in July 1948, Yenovk’s old friend Arshile Gorky, having achieved fame but suffering a series of personal and health problems, committed suicide. Der Hagopian had spent some time away from Gorky, living briefly in California, but the two reconnected when Gorky was hospitalized with rectal cancer. The old friends had remained deeply bonded. Even in Gorky's last months, they would go into the fields of New England and draw flowers together and talk about Van. "He did not care what you thought about him as long as he knew what was he was," Der Hagopian recalled, "And he was Armenian. To the end, Gorky remained a loving son of Van."

Six weeks after Gorky's death, on August 28, 1948, Yenovk Der Hagopian married a widow and mother of three grown sons named Nevart Kalachian (b. 1899; d. 1990). Der Hagopian and Haidostian never recorded again. Der Hagopian later said that he donated all of the money from the sales of his records to charity. All of their recordings were repressed in a small edition LP in 1965 by the celebrated jazz producer George Avakian (b. 1921; d. 2017).

While Gorky and Hovhaness had developed their work through flights of imagination, overlaid with spiritualism and clear affiliations with the avant-garde. Yenovk Der Hagopian remained rooted in something more like an immediate and urgent recollection and truth-telling. Beyond his painting, some of which was derived from his studies in Boston and in styles referring to Fernand Leger or Henri Matisse, he was also a metal worker and a woodcarver - a craftsman with fine art sensibilities. His situation in the 1950s was one of having lost everything several times over and working in a self-directed and highly personal way. His largest project involved obsessive miniature recreations of the churches of his hometown, carved in soft wood in Yonkers, New York that included a recreation of Lake Van and Mount Ararat. He described them to the New York Times in 1962 as an expression of his deep religious feeling.

By the time of his death on March 15, 1966, he had produced dozens of carvings and paintings. Many of them were presented under the auspices of the Armenian General Benevolent Union in a one-man show in February 1967 at the AGBU’s Gallery on 40th St in New York.

On June 5, 1967, Samuel Haidostian, his wife Nevart, and daughter Sona were arrested in Aleppo, Syria (130 miles south of his place of birth) while serving as Jehovah's Witness missionaries under suspicion of having been Jewish spies at the outbreak of the Six Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors. They spent four months in prison where they said they were mostly well treated before being released through the efforts of the State Department and flown back to the United States.

The last verse of “Ser Ounienk” is:
Tell me your story, ashough, tell me so that I can see it
Tell me your story, ashough, tell me so that I can hear it
Your burdens are similar to to mine and to my love and to my pain


released June 1, 2023

Research and notes by Harout Arakelian and Ian Nagoski
Transfers and restorations by Ian Nagoski

Tracks 1-8 ca. 1947
Tracks 9-16 ca. 1943

Yenovk Der Hagopian: voice (except track 2 & 6)
Samuel Haidostian saz (tracks 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16), oud (1, 2) & srink [shepherd's pipe] (2, 11)

Tracks 1, 5, 7, 9. 13, 15, 16 composed by Sayat Nova.
All performances in Armenian except 11 in Kurdish.

Further information www.yenovkderhagopian.com
A group of private recordings of Yenovk Der Hagopian's singing from the collection of Bedros Alahaidoyan have been presented by the Houshmadayn project here:
Transliterations from the original disc labels have been retained.
Thanks to Kris and Shant Markanian


all rights reserved



Canary Records Baltimore, Maryland

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

An hour in clamor and a quarter in rheum.

contact / help

Contact Canary Records

Streaming and
Download help

Redeem code

Report this album or account

Canary Records recommends:

If you like Ashoogh: Their Complete Recordings ca. 1943-47, you may also like: