1) First of all, I would like to say a big thanks for having accepted to answer to my questions, so which corner of the earth do I find you in, now?
I am presently at home in New York Stathi , and I’m about to leave for a concert and lecture in Turkey.
2) Is it true that you have shown off the outi to the international music scene. Why did you choose this intsrument?
It has always been my goal to expose the beauty of the oud to those parts of the world where it is unknown. I tried to do this by recording some internationally familiar songs, such as The Beatles’ “Blackbird.” The theory was that if someone hears a familiar melody, they might be open to hearing it with a new sound. As for why I chose the oud, the quick answer is that it chose me. The long answer is that when I was a child, there was an oud in my parents’ bedroom. I was not allowed to go in that room for fear that I would break the oud. Of course, simple child psychology, it was the only thing in the house I wanted to touch!
3) Ara, you are an accomplished and imaginative musician and composer, also having a creative spirit. Which things inspire you the most, in order to make a compositon?
My compositions appear as a result of the human condition and experience. Language, religion, nationalism, etc. tend to keep us (humanity) apart. Music unites us all.
4) With the "Night Ark", I keep some of the best memories of my life. You have also recorded excelllent albums such as "Picture moments", "Treasures", "In wonderland". Is the group active today, or not?
Night Ark was the first professional group in which I could feature my musical concepts and compositions. I learned and grew so much during those years, especially with Arto Tuncboyaciyan. However, that was then, and this is now. The group has not been active for many years, simply because we have each moved on to other projects.
5)There are a alot of things that connect the Greeks and the Armenians. Both people became great, were chased and exterminated. Do you agree with it?
Yes indeed, the Greeks and Armenians have so much in common, which is why I felt so much at home when I first started going to Greece. I felt like I had found my brothers and sisters. We have shared a tragic history, but I hope our future will be prosperous.
6) The Greeks love you a lot and extremely appreciate your work. Why don't we see you more often in our country?
I would absolutely love to come back to Greece, and I certainly will, as soon as I am invited!
7) Top class Greek and Turk singers such as Sezen Aksu, Coşkun Sabah and Eleftheria Arvanitaki have sung many compositions of yours. What have you kept from those collaborations?
The reality is that singers always reach more people than instrumentalists or composers. So, when someone like Eleftheria Arvanitaki or Sezen Aksu sings your songs, your status as a musician elevates dramatically. Other than that, I can tell you that many of these singers have become dear friends, especially Eleftheria.
8) Is the collaboration with your father, Onnik Dinkjian, - one of the most succesful voices of Armenia today - going to be continued?
My father Onnik is 86 years old. Just this year alone, we released a CD of songs from his ancestral city in Anatolia, Dikranagerd called “Diyarbekiri Hokin” (“The Soul of Dikranagerd”), and did concerts in Dikranagerd, Istanbul, Berlin, Wuppertal, Vienna, Washington D.C., New York, and Los Angeles. Also, a documentary film about our lives titled “Garod” (“Longing”) was released on DVD. I can’t explain it, but somehow, my father is singing better than ever!
9) How did the formation of the "The Secret Trio" group and your collaboration with the two top balkan musicians, İsmail Lumanovskiκαι τον Tamer Pınarbaşı come out?
Tamer and Ismail, both dear friends, already had formed their electric fusion band called “The New York Gypsy All-Stars.” They wanted a completely different, acoustic group also, so they asked me if I would collaborate with them. It has been a great pleasure to work with such incredibly talented musicians.
10) Fruit of this collaboration was a CD, I think...
In 2012, we released our first CD on the Traditional Crossroads label, titled “Soundscapes.” This year (2015), we have just released our 2nd CD, this time on the Kalan label, titled “Three Of Us.” To support these recordings, we have given concerts in New York, Istanbul, Bursa, Maltepe, Zurich, Ankara, and Philadelphia. The Zurich concert was filmed, and is available for viewing on YouTube.
11) When may we expect a new personal CD coming out?
This year, besides my father’s new CD, the DVD documentary, and The Secret Trio’s new CD, I also released a CD on the Kalan label titled “1915 – 2015 Truth & Hope” which is in commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The instrumentation is oud with string quartet, and the pieces all relate to the Genocide.
12) The international ethnic festival "Cosmopolis" is making a start in Kavala in the summer of 2o16. What would be your answer to our city's invitation to play in it?
I haven’t been back to Kavala since 1995, during my tour with Eleftheria Arvanitaki. I would be honored to play there again.
13) Ara, one last thing you might want to add...
In 2013, I released a CD called “Ara Dinkjian Quartet: Finding Songs.” I recorded the CD in Athens, and the quartet included my dear friends Sokratis Sinopoulos, Iannis Kirimkiridis, and Vangelis Karipis. At the time, Greece was going through a financial crisis, as it indeed still is. Recording in Greece with Greek musicians was my small way of saying “thank you for accepting me, and I hope your future is bright.” I want to say today that I hope Greece recovers soon, because you have given so much to this world...
Stathis Harpantidis (November 2015)