Nur Qanon Ensemble
The youngest performers at the Folklife Festival are about as tall as their instruments are long. The Nur Qanon Ensemble takes its name from nur (pomegranate), a popular food in Armenia and a symbol of unity—think many seeds within one fruit. Qanon (pronounced kuh-NAHN, meaning “the law” in Arabic) is their instrument, a diatonic stringed zither used at least since the tenth century around the Middle East and Central Asia.
In its long history, the qanon was primarily a male instrument. During the Soviet years in Armenia, one famous woman musician established the school where these young performers now study. Eteri Hovhannisyan (age twenty), Mery Musinyan (twelve), and Kristine Yengoyan (ten) formed the trio specifically for the Festival, taking the stage in matching red dresses with a pomegranate emblem. In the midst of fluttering fingers, the girls glance back expectantly at each other, as if in on a secret.
You can be in on the secret too: the ensemble plays every day on the Hyurasenyak stage. Be sure to catch them this week!
Elisa Hough is the editor for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and she is in awe of these musical dynamos.