NEW YORK (Broadway World) — The National Endowment for the Arts recently announced the recipients of its 2020 National Heritage Fellowships on July 28. Onnik Dinkjian of Fort Lee, N.J. is among the nine recipients to be honored this year. These lifetime honor awards of $25,000 are given in recognition of both artistic excellence and efforts to sustain cultural traditions for future generations.
Dinkjian is hailed as one of the most beloved and influential Armenian singers in America, with an expressive voice said to convey both the joy of his Armenian heritage and the deep sorrow of its painful history.
Dinkjian was born in 1929 in Paris, France. His parents, born in Dikranagerd (Diyarbekir), Turkey, were survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, and died when he was an infant. His godparents, also survivors of the genocide from Dikranagerd, adopted him and they immigrated to America in 1946. The Armenian dialect from Dikranagerd is unique and Dinkjian is one of the last remaining Armenians who speaks and understands it, and perhaps the last who sings in this endangered dialect.
Apart from the sacred music of the Armenian Church, Dinkjian’s repertoire consists of mainly folk and popular songs from the Anatolian (Eastern Turkey) villages, Armenia, and the Armenian Diaspora. Dinkjian is also a composer and lyricist, whose songs have become standards in the American-Armenian community. Read Onnik Dinkjian’s full biography online.
When asked what receiving this honor means to him, Dinkjian said, “Not only did America give my people a safe haven, it also provided me the opportunity to keep the dialect and songs of my ancestors alive, which I have strived to do for over 70 years. My goal was not to be recognized, but rather to pass our rich Armenian culture down to future generations. Receiving the NEA Heritage Fellowship is an honor beyond my wildest dreams. I am truly humbled and appreciative.”
A brief documentary captured Onnik recording his latest album, highlighting the importance of continuing and sharing this unique cultural art form. Watch the documentary online.