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Meshing musical styles

Composer combines influences from his roots with those from his culture.

January 07, 2009|By Joyce Rudolph

Vahagn Turgutyan is following in his father’s footsteps playing flamenco guitar, but he has a style all his own.

Turgutyan blends the traditional sounds with Armenian music.

“What I do is extract certain nuances and melodic fragments from Armenian music and blend it with Flamenco styles and rhythms,” he said. “Flamenco music has a lot of influences — Moorish, Indian, etc. — I feel that Armenian music complements flamenco when it is done with the proper accuracy.”

His father, Sarkis Turgutyan, is a professional flamenco guitarist who was a soloist with the Russian Philharmonic in Armenia before the family moved to the United States when Vahagn Turgutyan was 6, he said.

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“Flamenco music was something my father was always into,” he said. “There were records around the house and musicians coming over to the house at get-togethers and they played flamenco music.”

But what is more important to him was there was something so honest about it because it is part of a certain culture, Vahagn Turgutyan said.

“When kids grow up, they listen to rock or pop,” he said. “I’m a big fan, but with flamenco, you have to live it, you have to understand the culture to understand the music and when you understand, it’s really beautiful.”

His music is Andalusian, inspired by the region in southern Spain, he said.

For the last four years, the 23-year-old Burbank resident has traveled back and forth from Spain. After a year at Burbank High School, he continued his education abroad.

He studied at the Conservatory of Cordoba in Spain and earned a certificate in superior level in flamenco guitar from the University of Malaga in Spain.

What made it even more special, he said, was receiving the certificate from his childhood idol, flamenco composer and guitarist Manolo Sanlucar.

Last year, Vahagn Turgutyan self-produced a CD, “Short Stories,” with all original songs. It’s available at Zamba in Burbank or can be downloaded from iTunes. The music was featured in a concert he performed three months ago at the Pasadena Jazz Institute and brought in a huge crowd, surprising him and the institute’s founder, Paul Lines.

“He always has an open invitation to perform here,” Lines said. “We had to add folding chairs in the aisles for additional seating. It was a magical evening.”

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