Richard Hagopian

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Richard Avedis Hagopian (born 1937 near Fresno, California) is an Armenian-American oud player, and a well-known world music and traditional Armenian musician. He has been a musician since childhood, learning to play the violin and clarinet at only nine years old. Later, he began playing the oud and studied with the famous Armenian artist Garbis Bakirgian, a kanun player who had performed for the last Sultan of Turkey. He also took lessons from the legendary Udi Hrant. He 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. He currently claims to play over 50 instruments.

In the 1960s Armenian-American dumbeg player Buddy Sarkissian was the musical director of the "Cleopatra Revue" a belly dance show running at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. When Richard arrived in Vegas one day, Buddy, according to the LP liner notes, "upon hearing his singing and oud playing, immediately hired him." Along with noted Armenian-American clarinetist Hachig Kazarian of Detroit, and several other musicians, this group played the International Hotel for several years before coming out in 1968 with their first LP, "Kef Time Las Vegas." The group parted ways but frequently reunited to play Armenian dances and other events around the country. They made 3 more LP's, "Kef Time Fresno," "Kef Time Detroit," and "Kef Time Hartford." These records are considered the epitome of the old "Kef style" Armenian-American dance music, including both Armenian and Turkish songs. They have been re-released on CD. Hagopian also released a live album called "An Evening at the Seventh Veil", which, despite its cover art depicting a belly dancer, was actually mostly Armenian folk dances such as Lorke-Lorke, Tamzara, and Shalakho. This has not been re-released on CD.

Later, he came out with two CD's: "Best of Armenian Folk Music" and "Armenian Music through the Ages," both of which featured a combination of Armenian folk dances, ashough songs, Ottoman Classical music composed by Armenians, works by Udi Hrant, and original "taksims" (improvisations.) He also collaborated on an album of Turkish Gypsy belly-dance numbers with Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Egyptian-Turkish zurna and ney player. Featured on the album were several noted Turkish and Armenian musicians including percussionist Arto Tuncboyaciyan, oud player Ara Dinkjian (on guitar) and Richard's son Harold Hagopian, violinist and record producer.