Who he was
Hrant Kenkulian — better known by his moniker, Udi Hrant — was a master player of the oud, a stringed instrument similar to a lute. His modern interpretations and playing style have left a lasting impression on oudists of successive generations.
Kenkulian was born in 1901 and moved about frequently with the rest of his family in the early days of his life, trying to avoid the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide. The family ultimately settled in Istanbul, where he was mentored by prominent Armenian oud musicians of the time.
Although he made a living playing on the local circuit in Turkey, it was after a tour in the United States that he began to gain acclaim: his popularity increased steadily. He was well-known to fans of folk music in Turkey and sang in both Armenian and Turkish, having a broad audience among speakers of both languages as well as Greeks. It goes without saying that it was exceptional for an Armenian musician to be so popular in Turkey so soon after the vast majority of Armenians had been eliminated from Turkish-controlled lands.
He continued performing both domestically and internationally, including in Armenia, through his later years. He died in 1978 and is buried at the Sisli Armenian Cemetery in Istanbul, Turkey.
Udi Hrant was declared blind only days after he was born. Despite several surgical attempts to restore his eyesight, he remained blind until his death.
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