Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Documentary on Armenian Music In Detroit

Ara Topouzian
Anyone who reads this blog knows Ara Topouzian is a good friend and fellow musician.  I refer to him often in reaction to comments he has made or to bait him for future comments.  I have even featured him twice in these postings:
This is the third time I am writing about Ara.  This time, it is to introduce a very special project Ara is working on.  

In the January 2010 piece, I wrote:
Ara is very entrepreneurial. He is a natural marketer and salesman. He used these skills to build American Recording Productions. He recorded with a wide variety of musicians including two CDs yours truly. To promote his CDs and music, he would play in book and music stores. He even got a grant from the State of Michigan Council of the Arts (presumably back when they actually had a budget) to teach a seminar on Middle Eastern music in the local schools, children’s museums, and other venues.
Since then Ara has gotten two more awards: 
  • In 2012, Ara was name a Kresge Arts Fellow in the Performing Arts.
  • In September, 2013, Ara was one of fifty artists to win the Knight Foundation Detroit challenge. They awarded him a matching grant of $12,000.  
The Ardziv Ensemble
The project in question has to do with the Knight Foundation Detroit Challenge.  He applied for this grant in order to produce a one hour documentary on the history of Armenian Music and Musicians in Metropolitan Detroit 1920-1970.  This will cover three to four generations of musicians beginning with those that escaped the 1915 Genocide and settled in Detroit to work in the automotive industry for the most part.  

The music those first immigrants brought with them survives to this day.  I was proud to have been been both a beneficiary and contributor to that legacy.  The music has been a great influence and factor in my life as it has been for Ara.  I have blogged more than a few times on this subject.  The pieces more pertinent to the Detroit Armenian Music Heritage are the following:
In order for Ara to get the grant and make the documentary, he has to raise $5,000.  His is hosting his fundrasing campaign on Kickstarter, the on-line fundraising portal for creative projects. Detroit HYE Times - Armenian Music in Detroit.  At the time of this writing he is about halfway to his goal.
What is amazing to me is that this project is being done in Detroit and about the Armenian Musicians of the Motor City.  We certainly have a proud Armenian music tradition in Detroit but not as strong as that in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Fresno.  But there are no documentaries in Boston, New York, Philly, or Fresno.  The difference?  Detroit has Ara Topouzian a man of vision, marketing savvy, panache, and action to make projects like this happen.  

I am delighted Ara is doing this.  Many of these musicians, their songs, and memories are already well faded.  The photos and information Ara will use in his documentary could easily slip into oblivion. This film will help preserve that history, those memories, and create a legacy.  

If you value such a documentary.  Please go to the Kickstarter site, learn more, and contribute.  I am making my donation as soon as I post this piece.

Bravo Ara.

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