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[Listening to Armenia]: Ara Dinkjian’s 21st Century Oud.

May 27, 2010

By Daniele Faye Sourian Sahr

In a time when we are used to new gadgets coming into our lives on a yearly basis (iThis, iThat, iWant, iNeed), it is hard to imagine that our short insignificant lives characterized by the shortest attention spans ever known in human history have nevertheless managed to keep alive an interest in gadgets even older than the first popular PC (that would be the Altair 8800).

The Oud doesn’t come with any sophisticated apps, LED back-light display or even oleo phobic coating (that means no oily fingerprints!). But it does come with an extraordinary 3500+ year history of music making throughout the Middle East, just as alive today as it was deep in the BC years. And with the help of sophisticated players, like the renowned Ara Dinkjian, this fret-less ancestor of the Western lyre can quickly distract a 21st century iEquipped audience and hold them in a reverie.

Ara Dinkjian on Oud at Alwan for the Arts

Ara Dinkjian_Calista DeJesus.jpg

Credit: Calista DeJesus

In a recent performance at Alwan for the Arts in New York City, Ara performed with friends in a jazz-crosses-Middle-Eastern-folk set of works. New tunes and standards were weaved intricately with threads of improvisational turns passed between hypnotizingly expert players. Alwan’s unassuming gimmick-less 4th floor room was packed with a hooked audience either clapping to complex enlivened beats or leaning in transfixed to a sorrowful melody. We were captured in a timeless moment of old meeting new. We were living together the enduring musical expression of the human condition, BC through AD, sans iPad.

Of course, I wouldn’t necessarily give up the new gadgets just because the ancient are so engrossing. After all, without my PC, digital camera, and a little broadband, I wouldn’t be able to share this part of the evening with you, here. Along with Ara Dinkjian on Oud, the video features Tamer Pinarbashi (Kanun), Ismail Lumanovski (Clarinet), and Seido Salifoski (Percussion).

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