*1st Generation dance. A dance that developed in a traditional way – not ‘taught’ by a teacher or choreographer, but ‘learned’ by observing and imitating others in your “village”, where the village’s few dances were the only dances anyone knew. It usually is ‘generic’ – the dance pattern is fairly simple and not tied to any particular piece of music. The dance phrase may or may not match any musical phrase, but the music’s rhythm must be suitable for performing the footwork. This dance may have many variations, but they’re performed at the whim or inspiration of the leader or (sometimes) any other dancer so long as it doesn’t interfere with the flow of neighboring dancers. For more, click here, here, and here. In this case, although the dance was consciously “created”, it was the creation of an Armenian for the Armenian community (not for performance), and transmitted informally by community members for community events, not by and for non-Armenian “folk dancers” at dance-only events.
This article has been extensively revised based on information sent to me in a letter by Harry Kezelian.
Sirun Aghchik – the Song
Harry Kezelian writes: “This song is not a folk song. It was written by Udi Hrant Kenkulian, an Armenian oud player and singer from the village of Adapazar who learned the oud during the Genocide of 1915 and moved with his family to Istanbul when WWI ended, where he made his career in the Turkish music industry among the large Armenian community in that city, playing Middle Eastern nightclub music. Udi Hrant is still considered one of the greatest oudists of all time, or the greatest – period if you ask Armenians. He was certainly one of the two most influential oud players in the modern history of Turkey, the other being Udi Yorgo Bacanos, who was a Greek.
Some attribute “Siroon Aghchig” as a love song to Hrant’s wife Aghavni, written before they were married, which would have been in the late 1930s. I’m not sure the source of that information, but I can tell you that the song for sure was first recorded in 1951 for Balkan Records (based out of New York and run by an Albanian immigrant musician named Aydin Asllan) and released that year as a 78 rpm disc. The recording sessions were done in Istanbul when Asllan went on a trip to Greece and Turkey just after Hrant’s first visit to the US (1950) and Asllan brought the singer Roza Eskenazi from Greece to Istanbul to record with the finest Greek and Turkish Gypsy musicians of the time. Asllan also recorded the same musicians backing up Hrant playing oud and singing, as well as his brother-in-law Boghos Kirechjian on vocals for a few songs. (See my blog here: http://keftimeusa.blogspot.com/2021/03/udi-boghos-kirechjian-udi-hrants-little.html) The recording you have put on the site is actually Udi Hrant singing, not the Gomidas Band (of Philadelphia). It sounds close but a bit different from the 1951 recording. Perhaps it is the 1951 recording put through slightly different sound engineering than normally heard. Not sure right now.
My point is, this song was first recorded in Istanbul in 1951 and actually released out of a company in New York, and to my knowledge it was primarily distributed in America, NOT in Turkey. This is because releasing Armenian language songs was verboten in Turkey at the time. Even if Hrant wrote the song years before, I am not aware that anyone knew of it before the 1951 release (unless he sang it in his 1950 concerts).”
An extended version of Bilezikjian’s playing, including more detail about the song’s composer, Udi Hrant can be found at this site https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yaxc6AWBpv8&list=RDna6vaN6AMVk and here.
"Lyrics to Siroun Aghchig as sung by Oudi Hrant." Source: Harry Kezelian Sirun aghchig, sirun yar Pretty girl, pretty love Yegur, yegur, hokis ar Come, come, take my soul Arants kezi chem grnar I can't do without you Ur vor yertas hedet dar Wherever you go, take me with you Hedet dar intz nonoshig Take me with you, little darling Naz mi'ner aghvor ghushig Don't be coy, my lovely little bird Shakar es tun anushig You are sugar, little sweetie Ellam vodkerut goshig Let me be shoes for your feet Yes madanit ellayi If I were your ring Madnemadit antsneyi I'd pass onto your ring finger Bachig me kezi dayi I would give you a kiss Hedo gyankes hantsneyi Then surrender my life
Sirun Aghchik – the Dance
After the Armenian Holocaust in ca. 1915, survivors scattered around the world – one point of concentration being Fresno, California. With so much of their cultural heritage and memory destroyed, Armenians tried to fill the gap by holding contests for best new Armenian dance. Also, the children of those immigrants, those who grew up in the USA, wanted dances that had more of an “American” feel. This choreography was the 1953 winner.
Kezelian again. “So, it was a new song in 1953 when the dance was created in Fresno. As a new song that did not have a particular dance to go with it, or even an obvious folkdance rhythm connected to a known dance, in addition to having very simple and catchy Armenian lyrics that American-born Armenians could follow, it was obviously a great candidate for making up a new dance at a dance contest.
I don’t think this dance’s name is widely known among Armenians as “Siroon Aghchik”, but perhaps that is the case in California. At any rate, I have never on the East Coast or Midwest heard anyone say “let’s dance Siroon Aghchig”. Sometimes we do this dance, and honestly when I’ve been around usually I am leading it. I didn’t ever know its name, and when I first learned it, it seemed quite obvious that it was an American born dance so I assumed it didn’t have a real name !!! When we do this dance at parties, which is not very often, on the East Coast we usually do it to 10/8 time, since the steps are a variation of the Armenian Shuffle which is usually in 10/8 time.“
Gary Lind-Sinanian wrote: “All your info is correct. The song was originally composed by Udi Hrant https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Udi_Hrant_Kenkulian while courting Aghavni, his future wife.
In the US the popular song was modified into a 10/8 meter for dancing a ‘Shuffle’. Tom Bozigian was one of the creators of the specific ‘Sirun Aghchik’ dance now done to it, but technically almost any 10/8 of that tempo could be used.
I’ll need to check with Bozigan about that….was that step originally meant for that specific melody or did that specific association come later?
The notion of formal dance contest to create ‘new dances’ was more common on the West Coast, the process in the East was less formal. You cite the destruction and loss of the old culture as a factor, which it was, but another is generational shift. The old dances were very specific to each region (only Vanetsis do Vanetsi dances, etc) and provincial. The dances were old-fashioned reflecting the old provincialism. The young post-war generation was more “American-Armenian’ than ‘(province)-Armenian’ so the new dances reflected a new broader identification and music/dance style….Nothing else to add. You’ve covered the major points”