Hi Everyone It's "Detroit Harry"
Aram and Andrew asked me to introduce myself. I'm Harry Kezelian from the Metro Detroit area, known among some of the old New England Armenians as "Detroit Harry" 😀 I started playing Armenian/Turkish music on the clarinet when I was 17 (now 33), then I was told by a vocal coach that I had a decent singing voice. As I began to focus more on singing, I sang in the Armenian church choir (now as a Subdeacon) as well as at picnics, (the most memorable performing with John Berberian in Providence). As I focused on singing I switched from clarinet to oud, and now I am focusing on honing my oud skills, on which I am mostly self-taught. I also research the Armenian music tradition and how it migrated from Anatolia to the United States, check out my blog "Kef Time USA". I largely taught myself almost-fluent Armenian and I've picked up some Turkish from lyrics. My family came to America from Ottoman Anatolia (Kayseri, Harput, and Sivas) in the period 1905-1921 and settled in Detroit and Providence. Currently I play with the Amasia Band operating out of Detroit (the very recent offspring of our original band, the Kef Tones) with myself on oud and vocals, in addition to soprano saxophone, dumbeg, and fretless electric bass. We play very much in the Armenian Kef/Anatolian Folk style and I sing in Armenian and Turkish but my bandmates and I try to put a fresh stamp of our own onto it. Still, my biggest influence is, you guessed it, Richard Hagopian, and I'm always going to be "old school" in one way or another. My other influences are Oudi Hrant, the Vosbikian Band (from way back), Onnik and Ara Dinkjian's recent collaborations, and the old Armenian 78s - especially the heavy, usually Turkish language 1920s recordings by Armenians and Anatolian Greeks in the US. Which reminds me that I'm a huge fan of Manos Koutsaggelidis - a guy who really shows how fresh traditional music can sound. Another recent group I absolutely love is the Collectif Medz Bazar from France. I guess you could say I'm not so much influenced by one oud style or another as I am by the sound produced by a full band and how to get similar sounds when playing with others. I love playing the oud but I'm always going to be a better singer than oud player. I have appeared as singer and sometimes clarinetist with some of the East Coast Armenian oudists my age. Growing up I was the first guy on the dance floor at any Armenian kef event and I counted the biggest "kefjis" I knew as my closest friends. Andrew and Aram's band Aravod was an inspiration to me and my generation to keep the music going. Last but not least, I along with my good friend Timothy Aivazian (NJ) are organizing "Kef Time Lake Michigan" to be held in the beach resort town of New Buffalo, Michigan (between Detroit and Chicago), on Sept 7, 2019, and featuring Andrew Hagopian from Fresno on oud and vocals (Richard's grandson) along with a full band of young musicians. It will be a great time and all are welcome! (details on facebook)