Oh My Soul: Armenian​-​American Independent Releases, vol. 1: ca. 1920​-​25

by Canary Records

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about

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 rural 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 starting around 1920 and lasting until the stock market crash in 1929.

This first of two hour-long collections is not in any way comprehensive and presents the original discs in only mildly restored form, but it encompasses releases on (in order of their apperance) the Yeprad, Shamlian, Margosian Armenian & Turkish, Sohag, Bilbil, and MG Parsekian labels, running in very roughly chronological order. 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.

All of the songs are in the “folk” or village style originating in Anatolia. 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.

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 August 13, 2016

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

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