Celebrate Armenian History Month with these musicians

Michel Legrand and Bei Ru lead this crop of talented artists to honor this April.

Lucy Yeghiazaryan immigrated to New York at just 12 years of age, and the artist is known to draw on her Armenian identity as an inspiration to deliver powerful renditions of jazz standards and original pieces alike. (Jimmy Baikovicius / Flickr)

In honor of the rich cultural history of the Armenian community, April marked the beginning of Armenian History Month, not only in Los Angeles County, but also for the first time ever at USC. As a diasporic community, Armenians have relied on the power of music to both unite and share their culture around the world. 

While everyone knows that Cher is Armenian — or if you didn’t, now you do — the presence of Armenian musicians spans across multiple genres and nations. Here are some Armenian musicians to listen to in celebration of the monthlong commemoration of this diverse heritage.

Aram Khachaturian

One of the leaders of classical music in the 20th century, Aram Khachaturian integrated Armenian folk history and music within classical compositions by imitating the sound of instruments, such as the duduk and davul. 

While highly regarded within the Soviet Union, Khachaturian’s popularity spanned across the globe, notably in Hollywood. For instance, Stanley Kubrick incorporated the meditative and woeful piece entitled “Gayane’s Adagio” from Khachaturian’s ballet suite “Gayane” within “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968).  Head out to the Hollywood Bowl this summer to hear the L.A. Philharmonic perform Khachaturian’s “Violin Concerto” and “Suite No. 2” from the ballet “Spartacus.” 

Michel Legrand

Alongside Charles Aznavour, a fellow French Armenian musician, Legrand is a seminal figure in jazz. Throughout his career, he worked with iconic artists like Miles Davis and groundbreaking filmmakers, such as Agnès Varda and Jacques Demy. Legrand’s composition in Demy’s colorful musical “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964) not only launched his career in film composition but also highlighted the breadth of his talent, as he fused jazz with classical opera. 

Scoring over 200 films and television series, Legrand was a prolific composer and songwriter who went on to win three Academy Awards and five Grammys. Some of his most famous songs, including “The Windmills of Your Mind” from “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968), have become established jazz standards. Legrand’s legacy continues, as his compositions reappear on the big screen, most recently in Todd Haynes’ latest film “May December” (2023). 


A leading pop singer-songwriter in Armenia during the 1980s, Forsh established his distinctive style by combining soul, jazz and rock in songs often dedicated to the Armenian experience and the capital of Armenia, Yerevan. 

His most notable album, “Erevane Menq Enq,” translates to “We are Yerevan.” In the sixth song on the tracklist, “Bzeze,” which means “beetle,” Forsh uses the metaphor of a beetle traveling across the globe to find a new home, capturing the complexity of the Armenian immigrant experience. Forsh’s soulful and raspy voice, combined with electric guitar, bass and jazz piano, manages to encapsulate the sorrow and joy of Armenian culture. 

Bei Ru

Similar to how Khachaturian melded traditional Armenian sounds into an established genre, Bei Ru, an Armenian American born in L.A., produces electronic and house music with an Armenian twist. Sampling vintage Armenian soul and folk songs emerging out of Lebanon, Syria and Armenia in the 1970s with his funk and psychedelic beats, Bei Ru creates tracks that introduce Armenian music to a young and global audience. 

In his debut album “Little Armenia (L.A.),” Bei Ru pays tribute not only to his Armenian heritage and Middle Eastern roots but also to his hometown of Little Armenia, located in East Hollywood. Bei Ru continues to collaborate with up-and-coming Armenian musicians, creating songs that represent the fragmented yet beautiful experience of a diaspora under his record label Musa Ler Music, named after a village in Armenia. 

Lucy Yeghiazaryan

Immigrating to New York from Armenia at the age of 12, jazz vocalist Lucy Yeghiazaryan finds power and inspiration in her identity as an Armenian American. When she moved to America, Yeghiazaryan relied on American jazz vocalists to help her learn English and, eventually, shape her aspirations to become a musician. 

Performing at nightclubs around New York City, Yeghiazaryan established her reputation among the jazz community through her rich and modern renditions of the American songbook alongside her intimate and original songs. This year, Yeghiazaryan will release her fourth album, “Beside the Golden Door,” where she will pair Armenian folk songs from the 1940s with American jazz standards to create a tracklist that celebrates both Armenian and American musical traditions. 

Serj Tankian

Born in Lebanon and raised in L.A., Tankian is the lead singer and songwriter of the world-renowned heavy metal band System Of A Down. Ever since their titular studio debut album, Tankian and his band members have used the disruptive nature of heavy metal to push forward political critiques, often touching upon the themes of war, religion and the erasure of Armenian culture. 

Melding thrash metal with Armenian and Middle Eastern instruments, such as in the song “Arto,” System Of A Down not only redefined the boundaries of rock but also introduced Armenian music to mainstream audiences. In 2020, for the first time in fifteen years, System Of A Down released a new set of songs to raise awareness about the historical conflict in the Republic of Artsakh and the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

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