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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa


By Stacy Meyn

Shoror: Armenian Folk Music For Guitar

Since the first century BC, music was integral to the Armenian court. The ashough (troubadour) style blossomed from the 15th to the 20th centuries, featuring songs and dances of village life. Armenian-Greek classical guitarist Iakovos Kolanian trained at the National Conservatory of Athens and fell in love with Armenian folk music, dedicating the past 16 years to bringing its classics to the world. Shoror (basically, "dance") commenced in 1988 when Kolanian painstakingly transcribed what few authentic nuggets he could dig up. The collection underwent two releases before Pomegranate requested he re-record it. Songs of famed Armenian composer/pianist Komitas (Gomidas Vartabed) are prominent on the album, and Kolanian's interpretations are deemed second to none. With just his guitar, Kolanian conveys melody and polyphony typically reserved for the Armenian/Turkish tar (plectrum) and zurna (wind) instruments, and he admittedly fixes "mistakes" in harmonies from previous versions of the repertoire. Komitas favored "pulse" in his compositions and Kolanian?Js bouncy performances remain true to that essential component. Kolanian returns to Komitas for the final five tracks by tackling his famous dance suite, composed in his musical maturity, plus rounds it all off nicely with the addition of "Shoror."