Haig Manoukian, a brilliant oud player, master of improvisation, and frequent instructor at the EEFC Balkan Music & Dance Workshops, died on April 2, 2014, at the age of 72.
Haig grew up in Virginia. As a child he heard oud music on 78 rpm recordings of Turkish sanat (“art”) music at the home of his grandparents, who were Armenian immigrants from Anatolia. He went on to listen to many records of traditional music from Istanbul and Anatolia and, in his late teens, moved to New York, where he soon found himself living in the middle of what was then a vibrant Middle Eastern music and dance scene on 8th Avenue between 27th and 30th Streets. He undertook formal music studies and started performing professionally in the 1970s. Over the years his music incorporated elements of jazz and music from Africa, India and Andalusia.
“Considered one of the world’s finest oudists, he has worked with the top musicians of Turkey, Armenia, Egypt and Iran,” states his Circuit Productions bio. “He has performed at Avery Fisher Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House, Town Hall and Carnegie Hall, as well as at major cabarets in Istanbul, Europe and the U.S.A.”
Haig performed with numerous ensembles, including Alba, Orchestra Keyif, and Sounds of Taraab. He was the longtime musical partner of clarinetist Souren Baronian; the two played in a trio, Transition, and a larger group, Taksim, both of which combined elements of jazz with Middle Eastern music. Taksim toured in the U.S. and in Europe for more than three decades.
In addition to performing, Haig repaired and reconditioned ouds at his New York studio. He taught oud and Eastern music theory at various Middle Eastern camps. At EEFC workshops, including Mendocino, East Coast and balkanalia! (formerly an EEFC-produced event), he taught oud, makam theory and taxim.
Thanks to Circuit Productions, Inc., Alwan for the Arts, and The Magic Carpet Ride: My Life So Far, by Souren Baronian and J.P. Harpignies, for some of the facts in this article.
Click here for information on Near East Far West, a reissue of the 1998 recording featuring Haig and Souren.