Near Eastern Music in NYC From the Metropolitan​-​Kaliphon​-​Balkan Labels, 1940s​-​50s, Vol. 1

by Marko Melkon

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about

The first of three volumes centering on the independent Kaliphon-Metropolitan-Balkan circle of labels, which grew out of the Me-Re label and released music in Albanian, Armenian, Greek, Ladino, and Turkish in New York City in the 1940s-50s.
Marko Melkon Alemsherian was Armenian, born in 1895 near Smryna (now Izmir, Turkey). Fleeing Ottoman military conscription, he went first to Greece and then in 1921 to the U.S. By the mid-20s he had begun recording for small, Armenian-owned independent labels, and in 1937, he recorded his "Oglan, Oglan" for Victor Records. He recorded several dozen songs under his own name between the mid-40s and early early-50s for the Kaliphon/Metrolitan/Balkan circle of labels and served as accompanist on scores of other other releases as house-oudist. (Many of those make up the next two volumes in this series.)
He performed for decades in the "oriental nightclubs" along about ten blocks of 8th Avenue in New York City, singing popular songs, playing improvisations (taxims) and dance pieces in a variety of styles and with many musicians from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. He was a consumate and unpretentious musician and among the finest urban folk performers in mid-20th century America.
A beautifully researched and transferred 21-track compilation of his 40s-50s material was released by Harold Hagopian's Traditional Crossroads label in 1996. This collection shares seven performances in common with that disc, which I highly recommend.
For this release, transliterations are presented as they were given on the original disc labels.
Melkon died in 1963.

credits

released March 1, 2015

compilation and sound restoration by Ian Nagoski
Thank you Leo Sarkisian and Jesse Townsend Stewart.

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