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  • The Secret Trio: “Slide Dance”

    Camera: Jacob Weber, Kevin Patrick, Emma Cregan, Jackson Harvey, Andrea Curran, Hannah Luc
    Audio: Dave Walker
    Editing: Abigail Hendrix
    Photo: Kerri Redding

    On a steamy summer evening, the Secret Trio sizzled with virtuosity. The crowd gathered on the National Mall experienced a musical “dialogue” featuring three extraordinary artists with separate roots in Armenian, Turkish, and Macedonian Roma music. Led by Ara Dinkjian playing his 1903 Manol oud with Tamer Pınarbaşı on kanun and Ismail Lumanovski on clarinet, the Secret Trio performed original pieces and traditional melodies using microtonal modes, jazz improvisations, and driving dance beats.

    Dinkjian composed “Slide Dance” in a 10/8 time signature (divided 3 + 2 + 2 + 3), which is one of the most prominent rhythms in Dikranagerd (now Diyarbakır in Turkey) where his father's Armenian family was from.

    “The mode (makam) is Karcığar, which is a combination of Uşşak at the bottom and Hicaz at the top,” Dinkjian explains. “I call it ‘Slide Dance’ because it was first performed in collaboration with a modern dance choreographer.”

    As the trio played with evident collaborative affection, elevating each other’s contribution to the music, the audience was transformed. Perhaps they sensed the significance of this musical alliance in the complicated multicultural world of the twenty-first century. Or maybe they just loved the rhythm.

    “We actually had people dancing during one piece, which has never happened to the trio before.”

    Carolyn Rapkievian was the Armenian dance advisor for the 2018 Folklife Festival and is assistant director for interpretation at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

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