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Music and Dance

Music and dance hold a special place in the heart of Armenians. Throughout history, each has served as a way to bind the Armenian community together and create new identities while paying homage to the traditions of the past.

Much of Armenian folk music exists today thanks to Soghoman Komitas, a priest and ethnomusicologist who documented folk music throughout Armenian communities in the early twentieth century. His work became an integral aspect of Armenian community-building at home and across Armenia’s many diasporas.

Music changed dramatically when Eastern Armenia became a satellite state of the Soviet Union, with the simplification of folk songs and the introduction of jazz. The combination of these two traditions is evident in contemporary music, and collaboration between Armenian and diasporan Armenian musicians traces the exchange and influence of a wide range of sonic experience.


Ara and Onnik Dinkjian
Armenian American Onnik Dinkjian’s songs are a surviving record of a nearly lost Armenian dialect of Dinkranagerd, a region now located in southeastern Turkey. He is joined by his son, Ara Dinkjian, a world-renowned oud player and composer.
Armen Hyusnunts Quartet
Saxophonist Armen Hyusnunts joins pianist Vardan Ovsepian, bassist Joshua Davis, and drummer Karen Kocharyan to perform a combination of jazz standards and original fusion.
MVF Band
Led by Miqayel Voskanyan, a tar player, singer, and composer, MVF Band plays original compositions strongly influenced by folk, and blending jazz, funk, hip-hop, and more.
PANALÎ means “key” in Armenian. Made up of six members of Armenian Navy Band and led by GRAMMY Award-winning vocalist and percussionist Arto Tunçboyaciyan, PANALÎ performs avant-garde Armenian folk.
Samvel Galstian Group
An expat of Armenia, Boston-based musician Samvel Galstian dreamed to revive the music of his misplaced generation in an homage to the beloved songs of his youth. Joining forces with jazz visionary and friend Vardan Ovsepian, Andorr (serenity) was born in celebration of Armenian folk music reimagined in a way never heard before. Charged with sentiment and nostalgia, the music of Andorr will take some down memory lane, while offering a unique presentation of jazz and folk. Joining the stage are bassist Joshua Davis and drummer Karen Kocharyan.
Secret Trio
Ismail Lumanovski (clarinet), Tamer Pinarbasi (qanon), and Ara Dinkjian (oud) perform a new type of chamber music: a collection of original pieces and traditional melodies fusing micro-tonal modes and improvisation of the Middle East, dance beats of the Balkans, and elements of jazz, rock, classical, and world music.
Time Out
Yerevan-based Armen Hyusnunts (saxophone) and Vahagn Hayrapetyan (keyboard) join Boston-based Karen Kocharyan and Baltimore-based Joshua Davis to perform jazz standards.
Vahagn Hayrapetyan Trio
One of the characteristics of Armenian jazz today is constant exchange and collaboration between Armenia and diasporan musicians. Yerevan-based Vahagn Hayrapetyan (keyboards) joins Baltimore-based Joshua Davis (bass), and Boston-based Karen Kocharyan (drums) for fusion jazz.
Vardan Ovsepian Trio
Original modern jazz compositions by pianist Vardan Ovsepian, bassist Joshua Davis, and drummer Karen Kocharyan.
An a cappella trio of Armenian American women, Zulal draws on Armenian folk melodies, weaving arrangements that pay tribute to rural roots of the music while introducing sophisticated lyricism and energy.


“In Armenia, when we are happy, we dance!”

In Armenia and across its many diasporas, dance is an important means of building community. Taught in schools and after school programs, it is a common aspect of social life. During the Folklife Festival, Armenian dance was presented as a part of the feast, with a special weekend Handes! Armenian Dance Summit, which brought together dancers from Armenia with diaspora dance groups from across the United States and Canada.

Akhtamar Dance Ensemble
Palisades Park, NJ
Arev Armenian Dance Ensemble
Washington, D.C.
Hamazkayin Arax Dance Ensemble
Detroit, Michigan
Heritage Dance Company
Granada Hills, CA
Kaleidoscope Dance Ensemble
Washington, D.C.
Menq & Hrayrq
Yerevan and Gyumri, Armenia
Milena Oganesyan
Washington, D.C.
Sassoun Dance Ensemble
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Shghta or “Chain” / «Շղթայ»
Washington, D.C.

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