Detroit has always been called a melting pot of people and cultures, a place for thousands of immigrants to settle and create a life for their families. Today, the area is home to more than 40,000 Armenians—mainly because of the immigrants who survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915, a persecution by the Turkish Ottoman Empire which resulted in the massacre of 1.5 million people. These immigrants came to Detroit to work mainly for the automotive industry. Desperate to create a new home with memories, they brought with them not personal wealth, but identity, traditions, and music.
Traditional Armenian folk music ranges from ballads that described village life from past centuries to upbeat dance songs performed at weddings, dances and picnics throughout the community. These traditions have been handed down by generations of musicians and survivors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. These survivors emigrated all over the globe, many of them landed in United States and Michigan was one of the popular locations to settle and start a new life.
As the community grew, so did the opportunities for Armenian music to be performed. From approximately 1920 - 1970 the Detroit Armenian community hosted thousands of church events, picnics, and dances that centered on Armenian folk and dance music. Eventually, non-Armenian nightclub owners recognized the need to convert a night or two a week into ‘Armenian Night’ and allow bands to come in which brought a new patronage to these clubs.
Today, the folk music is kept alive by a relatively handful of Armenian-American musicians. The Detroit Armenian community, which numbered approximately 3,000 in 1915, has since grown to become one of the larger Armenian communities in the United States.
I plan to produce a one hour film documentary, personally visiting some of the metro Detroit locations where music was once prominent and include rare interviews with some of the musicians and nightclub patrons of that era. I have uncovered rare photographs and newspaper clipping that promoted music in the clubs and dance halls showing how multicultural and vibrant Detroit was with ethnic music.This documentary will also feature clips of a live performance that includes Armenian musicians Mal Barsamian (oud) and Leon Janikian (clarinet) along with Michael Shimmin (percussion) and myself.
In September, 2013, I was one of fifty artists to win the Knight Foundation Detroit challenge. They awarded me a matching grant of $12,000, but I first need to raise $12,000 in order to receive their grant. The bulk of the funds will go towards the actual production of this documentary.
This is a very special project to me which includes a story which must be told. I owe this to all the Armenian musicians that paved the way for me and other artists to play and preserve Armenian traditional folk music. Please help me make this legacy for these musicians a reality.
Risks and challenges
I have reviewed many scenarios that could create setbacks for this project and feel that I have minimized them with proper planning. As you can imagine, fund raising is key to the success of this project and in my eyes the only major obstacle. If I cant raise $12,000 --- I do not get the $12,000 grant from the Knight Foundation which I won in September, 2013.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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