Fresno State's student-run newspaper

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Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

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Hye Sharzhoom is a supplement of The Collegian and the newspaper of the Fresno State Armenian Students Organization and the Armenian Studies Program and is funded by the Associated Students. Articles may be reprinted provided Hye Sharzhoom is acknowledged. Hye Sharzhoom welcomes prose, poetry, articles and other material from its student readers.

For further information concerning the newspaper or the Armenian Studies Program:

Armenian Studies Program
5245 N. Backer Ave. PB4
Fresno, CA 93740-8001
Telephone (559) 278-2669

Current issue
Hye Sharzhoom

Three Generations of Hagopian Family Featured in “Echoes of Kef Time” Film Premiere on Oct. 27

Left to right: Richard Hagopian, Andrew Hagopian, Phillip Hagopian, and director Avo John Kambourian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“‘Echoes of Kef Time’ is a celebration, not just of Armenian culture but the Armenian spirit. It’s a story about intergenerational struggle for legacy, despite the odds of fading into obscurity,” said director Avo John Kambourian.

The intricacies of a melody can harbor language, folk dances, traditional instruments, community, and most importantly unity between people of a cultural group. Despite the tragedies of the Genocide of 1915, Armenians have proven resilient in conserving their customs.

“Knowing the unspeakable horrors of the Armenian Genocide weren’t recognized by most of the western world also galvanized my interest in storytelling, and for giving a voice to the voiceless,” stated Kambourian.

In a world riddled with attempts at ethnic cleansing, it is the role of the diaspora and the people who have emigrated from their homeland to seek ways to preserve their culture – music being a key element in its continuity and vitality.

Kambourian, a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, recognized the importance of preserving ancient traditions in a modern world, and wanted to delve into the revival of traditional Armenian music as a theme for his final class project. The short film documentary “Echoes of Kef Time” was thus born, following the story of three generations of a musical Fresno-Armenian family, the Hagopians and Richard Hagopian’s quest to pass on the music to his grandchildren, Phillip and Andrew.

Organized and sponsored by the Armenian Studies Program, the Fresno premiere screening of “Echoes of Kef Time” was welcomed at Fresno State with a full house on Friday, October 27. Present at the screening were Kef Time and Kef Time Legacy band members Richard Hagopian, Richard’s son Armen Hagopian, and grandchildren Phillip and Andrew. The large audience demonstrated the heartwarming support of the Fresno Armenian community in preserving their Armenian roots in American society.

“Echoes of Kef Time,” produced by Bryce Ferendo and Robin Wang, is according to Kambourian, a “a celebration, not just of Armenian culture but the Armenian spirit.” Kambourian, who was born and raised in the Armenian community of Los Angeles, observed that as new generations of Armenian-Americans began to embrace popular American culture, a fading interest in the Kefs forced Richard Hagopian to hold a final event in the 90s and the tradition has laid dormant for years.

“The film focuses on the music brought to this country by our ancestors, now referred to as ‘Kef’ music, but also incorporates the story of the Fresno Armenian community over the last 100 years,” said Kef Time Legacy band member Phillip Hagopian.

The documentary follows the rise to prominence of the original “Kef Time Band,” founded in 1968. The band consisted of Richard Hagopian, Hachig Kazarian, Buddy Sarkissian, Manny Petro, and Jack Chalikian. Major events were hosted all over the country: Detroit, Fresno, Hartford, and Cape Cod. An integration of archival films and photos from Richard Hagopian’s library showcased the abundance of popularity the Kef Time Band had, even breaking the record for the longest standing show on the Las Vegas Strip.

“The film is truly a testament to the strength of all of our ancestors who came to this country with nearly nothing and who were able to build new Armenian communities, such as the one in Fresno,” said Phillip Hagopian.

However, the “Kef Time” events gradually diminished after some years due to changes in generational interest. The last “Kef Time” Fresno was held in 1986.

The documentary not only introduced the emergence of Armenian traditional music in Fresno through the original Kef Time band, but it also followed its robust revival in 2022 by Richard’s grandsons, Phillip and Andrew. Both of his grandsons received “formal training” from their grandfather, and strong sup-port from their “musically gifted” family.

Together, the young brothers hosted a “Kef Time Legacy” event in Fresno in January 2022, consisting of a new generation of Armenian-American musicians: Phillip Hagopian on the oud and vocals, Michael Kamalian on clarinet, Andrew Hagopian on drums, Mal Barsamian on bass, and Jim Karagozian on kanun. The proceeds of the now annual event benefit the Fresno State Armenian Studies Program.

“It’s our music, it’s our life,” stated Richard Hagopian, “We should pay homage to the people who imparted the importance of our music.”

The “Kef Time” Legacy band has expanded to playing in both Fresno and Montebello since its revival in 2022. The success of the events is evident with high attendance and quick sellouts, demonstrating a growing desire of cultural unity by the Armenian community especially in the new generation of Armenian-Americans.

The “Kef Time” Legacy band is a testament to “maintaining the music of our forefathers,” remarked Armen Hagopian.

Richard Hagopian, in observing his grandchildren and his musical legacy, proudly stated that “I’ll still be here… musically.”

A new generation, coupled with the motivation to instill the traditions of Armenian culture in modern society, provides for the continuation of a diasporan culture for generations to come.

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