Personnel: Ara Topouzian (kanun); Mal Barsamian (oud); Leon Janikan (clarinet); Michael Shimmin (percussion).
Recording information: Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, D (04/13/2013).
This excellent live recording from acclaimed Armenian-American artist Ara Topouzian pays homage to the first wave of Armenian immigrants and musicians who settled in his home city of Detroit in the early part of the 20th century. Topouzian, a highly regarded performer on the kanun, a 76-stringed lap harp, leads a quartet -- also featuring oudist Mal Barsamian, clarinetist Leon Janikian, and percussionist Mike Shimmin -- through a spirited set of traditional Armenian dance and folk songs. The album was recorded live at Detroit's Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History as part of the Kresge Arts-sponsored Art X Festival. Rich with history and poignantly arriving 100 years after the Armenian genocide of 1915, this is a stirring and inspired tribute to Topouzian's musical and cultural forebears and, as with any of his recordings, the playing is top-notch. ~ Timothy Monger