EUME Lecture
Mon 23 Jul 2018 | 19:00–20:30

Armenians on Records: Music Production from Homeland to Diasporas

Yektan Türkyilmaz (EUME Fellow 2017-20), Chair: Alia Mossallam (EUME Fellow 2017/18)

Jacob-und-Wilhelm-Grimm-Zentrum, Auditorium, Geschwister-Scholl-Str. 1-3, 10117 Berlin

This lecture will explore the multi-directional journeys of Armenians in the history of recording, from the Ottoman Empire to the diasporas, particularly to the United States, in the first half of the 20th century, as musicians, as producers and as merchants. Drawing on the life stories and examples of commercial records in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere in the diasporas, it will illustrate the changing styles, content and language use in music production vis-a-vis place, trauma and audience/cultural dialogue through one of the most turbulent periods of Armenian history. The talk will specifically underscore the cultural, political and identitarian implications of the emergence of recording technology on Armenian communities.

At the turn of the 20th century, 78-rounds-per-minute (78RPM) records appeared in the “Orient” – almost simultaneously with their appearance in Europe. Within a decade sound engineers working for European companies swept the major cities of the Middle East, the Caucasus and Asia to record performers for local markets. Gramophone records, recorded locally yet pressed in Europe, swiftly became a major commodity in global trade. This new commodity had bearings beyond its merchandise value also for Armenian communities; it reshaped the music, culture, politics and economy for Armenians at local, national and global levels. This lecture will analyse records played in Armenian homes, coffee shops and meyhanes, with a view to expanding the study of nationalism, the genocide, diaspora experience and the production of cultural forms, to take account of the recording industry, in addition to the focus on print media that is currently central to these fields of study.

This talk was held in the context of the 2nd International Conference of the Central and West Asia and Diasporas Research Network hosted by the Berliner Institut für empirische Integrations- und Migrationsforschung at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.

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