I had a sit-down interview with Salpi and Vartkes Nalbandian Sunday evening. They were very informative and welcoming as we had a conversation after dinner. I learned a great deal about the Armenian role in Ethiopia's musical history as well as their perspective on the global phenomenon of Ethio-Jazz with the release of Francis Falcetto's Ethiopiques records.
The Nalbandian musical legacy in Ethiopia is pretty well-known in musical circles. Kevork Nalbandian was the first conductor of the royal orchestra comprised of 40 orphans called the Arba Lijoch. His nephew, Nerses Nalbandian, was the Musical Director of the National Theater in Addis Ababa as well as composed the music for the anthem of the African Union. He taught most of the Ethio-Jazz greats and became well-known as an infuser of Ethiopian flavor into Western Jazz. Nerses Nalbandian also worked to establish the Yared School of Music which is now considered a university level musical academy. Nerses' children, Salpi and Vartkes, have now inherited the responsibility to uphold and maintain not only their father's legacy but the heritage of Armenians and their part in Ethiopian culture.
This is a short clip from our discussion. In this clip Salpi Nalbandian is speaking about the support they offered Francis Falcetto in his quest for creating a compiled and mastered collection of as much Ethio-Jazz as he could find: