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Hollis NTS

REEEC Noontime Scholars Lecture: Jonathan Hollis, "Armenian Musicians from Azerbaijan: Legacy, Conflict, and Exile"

Event Type
wifi event
Apr 17, 2024   12:00 pm  
Jonathan Hollis (PhD Candidate in Musicology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

This event will be held virtually over Zoom. To register, please visit:

Over the twentieth century, the musical genre of mugham became a central pillar of Azerbaijani cultural identity, further strengthened by Soviet cultural policy. Ethnic Armenian musicians were deeply rooted in this artistic tradition before their violent expulsion from the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic during the late 1980s. In particular, Armenians were celebrated for their instrumental virtuosity. Combining firsthand oral histories from these musicians with personal study of mugham, this research highlights their contributions and life experiences. By exploring and documenting this musical community, this research stands as a counter-narrative to the (ongoing) erasure of Armenian cultural heritage in Azerbaijan. 

Jonathan Hollis is a doctoral candidate in ethnomusicology at Illinois. His research focuses on Armenian musicians who were expelled from Azerbaijan due to ethnic violence, and the politicization of the musical genre of mugham, a genre with deep historical and spiritual importance in the regionIn particular, he writes on the history of music-making in Baku's Armenian community, as well as how attitudes toward mugham music have been affected by past (and very recent) wars.  His work combines oral history interviews, archival research, and applied instruction on playing mugham on the duduk, the most important and emotionally powerful Armenian instrument. His research has been supported by the American Research Institute in the South Caucasus, the National Association for Armenian Studies Research, and American Councils for International Education. He also thanks UIUC REEEC for their support of his Russian and Armenian language study through the Title VI FLAS program.

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