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Album Review

Hasmik Harutyunyan is one of the most revered folk singers in Armenia. Her renown is based on performances of the very material found on this CD. Featured as a soloist on The Shoghaken Ensemble's Music of Armenia, and as a singer on the group's Traditional Dances of Armenia, she is also the director of the Mouradian Children's Song and Dance Folklore Group and travels throughout Europe performing. This collection of mostly women's lullabies features her renditions of Armenian lullabies from antiquity to the 20th century. Two of her pieces here, "Kessabi Oror" and "Nani Bala," are used on national Armenian radio as standards. The term "oror," translates as "rock, rock," and when hearing these pieces with their gentle, ethereal cadences and rhythms one can not only picture, but feel the image of a mother or even a grandmother rocking an infant gently to sleep in the darkness. These songs are slow, lilting, droning, and incantory pieces, where the human voice is accompanied by the duduk (Armenian oboe). The kanon (a zither to be played on the lap) and the three-string, vertical fiddle known as the kamancha, all of these are played by members of the amazing Shoghaken Ensemble. This is a singular collection, full of emotion, dignity, and grace, offered intimately and without the trappings of field recordings or the dryness of museum-quality interpretations. These sons are alive, full of breath and quiet drama. The liner notes by Cynthia Rogers provide not only fine historical information, but also music and title data, as well, and the lyrics to many of these lullabies are translated, heartbreakingly so. This recording will appeal to anyone interested in the depth of human emotion as well as Armenian music. Fans of Lisa Gerrard and Dead Can Dance, of the sacred minimalism of Arvo Pärt's vocal pieces, and of traditional folk music will all be awed and edified by the humble majesty in this set.

Armenian Lullabies, Hasmik Harutyunyan
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