LOS ANGELES — “Music of Historic Armenia” will be a lecture/performance by oud virtuoso Richard Hagopian at Abril Bookstore on February 22, where he will discuss the origins and melodic modes of Armenian music, focusing on the musical production of the oud. Hagopian will also discuss and perform the styles of various oud-masters who have influenced his work, in particular, Oudi Hrant and Tateos Ekserjian and that of his teacher Kanuni Garbis Bakirgian.
Hagopian is an Armenian-American master of the oud and an expert of traditional Armenian musician. He was born in Fowler, Calif. in 1937 and has been a musician since childhood, learning to play the violin and clarinet at 9 years old. He started playing the oud at age of 11.
At first he was self-taught then by invitation studied Eastern (Ottoman Classical) music theory and oud under the Armenian kanun player Kanuni Garbis Bakirgian. Hagopian also took lessons by correspondence from legendary blind Armenian oudist Udi Hrant Kenkulian of Istanbul, who later in 1969 gave him the title of “Udi” (oud master), being one of the few to receive this title.
Hagopian gained fame in the 1960s and 70s with the Kef Time Band. According to the liner notes of the 1968 LP Kef Time Las Vegas, the Kef Time Band was formed originally as the band for a Las Vegas show called the Cleopatra Revue, which ran at the Flamingo Hotel from 1963-1968.
During this time the leader of the Cleopatra Revue band, Armenian-American dumbeg player Buddy Sarkissian, met Hagopian and immediately hired him after hearing him play the oud and sing. This was the beginning of the Kef Time Band’s career; they would go on to become the most famous band playing the “kef” style of dance music popular among the Armenian-American community.
Hagopian has performed throughout the United States and taught a master class at the Manhattan School of Music, as well as teaching as artist-in-residence at California State University.