Explore the Music of Armenian Women
Highlighting an Instagram page that archives the cultural contributions of Armenian women.
This year on International Women’s Day, we shared ten exceptional female artists from around the world on our Instagram page, one of whom was Syrian-Lebanese singer Samira Tewfik. We became aware of Tewfik’s music through the work of @armenian_women_artists, an Instagram account that we have followed for several years. In the past, we shared their posts via our page, and we felt like now would be a great time to contact the curator and find out what drives their mission.
Created by archivist and researcher Cassandra Tavukciyan in 2018, Armenian Women Artists (AWA) is an educational and historically-oriented Instagram page that brings awareness and recognition to female artists, both in Armenia and the diaspora. What began as an attempt to increase her knowledge of Armenian women artists has transformed into a shared space for recollection, remembrance, and a sense of belonging.
We contacted Cassandra and asked her to select some of her favorite performances from her archive. We were excited that she liked the idea and are very happy to present the videos she chose along with her annotations. We hope you will enjoy these as much as we do!
Lebleba (Arabic: لبلبة) is an award-winning actress, singer, and entertainer of Armenian descent born on November 14, 1946 in Cairo, Egypt. Her extensive repertoire encompasses 88 films and four TV drama hits.
Lebleba (Ninochka Manoug Kupelian) was born into an Armenian family and began working in the film industry at the age of five. A master entertainer, Lebleba holds a unique spot in Egyptian motion picture and performing history. At the age of 76, she remains active in the Cairo film scene.
Click here to see her perform with a live band.
Tamara Khanum (Armenian: Թամարա Խանում), an Uzbek dancer, singer, and choreographer of Armenian descent was born Tamara Artyomovna Petrosyan on March 29, 1906 in the Uzbek city of Margilan (then part of the Russian Empire).
Most notable for being the first woman in Uzbekistan to successfully perform publicly without a veil, Khanum influenced a generation of Uzbek dancers and is remembered for being a true revolutionary in the development of female stage dance in Uzbekistan and the Soviet Union. She is seen via the link below with her teacher, Usto Olim Komilov, who was a famous musician, choreographer, cultural activist, and mentor.
Click here to see her performing at the London Folk Dance Festival in 1935.
Anzhela Atabekyan (Armenian: Անժելա Աթաբեկյան) was an Armenian kanun player, musicologist, art historian, and professor was born on April 11, 1938 in Yerevan, Armenian SSR.
The kanun (Armenian: քանոն) is a string instrument played either solo, or as part of an ensemble, in much of the Middle East, Maghreb, West Africa, Central Asia, and southeastern regions of Europe. Traditionally played by men, Atabekyan famously took the kanun away from men and never gave it back.
Click here to see her perform “Impromptu” in 1987.
Lilit Karapetyan (Armenian: Լիլիթ Կարապետյան) was born on January 28, 1963 in Yerevan, Armenian SSR and is considered to be Soviet Armenia’s first female oud player.
As a performer, she made many adaptations and transcriptions of medieval and modern Armenian and European composers for the oud and guitar. While still a student, Karapetyan became one of the founding members of the Sharakan Ancient Music Ensemble (later named Tagharan Ancient Music Ensemble) where she played the oud, lute, and guitar.
Click here to see her perform live at the Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan, 1992.
Nelly Artin Kalfayan (Armenian: Նելլի Արթին Կալֆայան; Arabic: نيللي آرتين كالفيان) was born on January 3, 1949 in Cairo, Egypt into an Armenian family with roots from Aleppo, Syria. Nelly began her career performing as a child actress (much like her famous cousin, Lebleba, featured above) appearing in dozens of films and has since been featured in over 60 films.
Nelly starred in the television series “Fawazeer Nelly,” which ran for six seasons. The popular show was broadcast throughout the Arab world on a daily basis during the holy month of Ramadan, where fans fell in love with her infectious energy and quirky personality.
Click here to see her performing in the end credits of “Fawazeer Nelly.”
Are there any female artists (Armenian or otherwise) that you want to highlight? If so, feel free to share in the comments below.
The World of Dust-to-Digital is a reader-supported publication. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. If you want to support our work, the best way is by taking out a paid subscription.
Maria Bethania, Jocelyn Béroard, Marissa Monte, Marie Josie Alie