Roger Mgrdichian specializes in the oud, an ancestor of the European lute. He is from an Armenian musical family: his father Roger and uncle George were members of the group Gomidas, a well-known Philadelphia-based Armenian ensemble in the1960s. His uncle went on to become one of the most accomplished oud players in the world.
Transplanted Armenian musicians (Rogers grandparents on both sides had emigrated from Anatolia/Eastern Turkey), often play the history of their peoples journey, including the genocide of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turks, coloring their style. They also learned to play Greek, Bulgarian, Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, and Persian music alongside the Armenian and Turkish, just to make a living in the U.S. Roger grew up emulating that tradition, learning by playing with and listening to his relatives and others. He has worked with a wide range of Arabic, klezmer, flamenco, and Indian musicians.
He performs regularly in diverse styles of Middle Eastern music (Armenian dance music, belly dance accompaniment, classical Arab and Turkish music, Turkish folk and Arab pop) both locally and regionally with several different ensembles. Roger is the lead composer for Jaffna, a band that combines styles of Middle Eastern and Indian music in completely original acoustic-based compositions. Since 2001 he has been performing and teaching about the diversity and similarities of Middle Eastern cultures for Strings for Schools. A member of the Jewish/Arab ensemble Atzilut: Concerts for Peace, he has worked with singers Jack Kessler and Maurice Chedid. Roger has participated in concerts with Flamenco Ole, and has recently started a collaboration with flamenco guitarist Tito Rubio for the Herencia Arabe project which explores North African/Middle Eastern roots in flamenco music. He will be one of PFP's artists in residence for 2005-2006.
(Photo courtesy Harvey Finkle).