By Taleen Babayan
FLArmenians Guest Contributor
ASBURY PARK, NJ — The sixth annual “Return to Asbury” kef weekend returns to its historic roots, as Armenian music legend Onnik Dinkjian headlines the popular summer event, scheduled for Aug. 25-27.
The kef music of Onnik and his son, internationally renowned multi-instrumentalist Ara Dinkjian, will evoke the 1950s and 1960s, when Armenians originally gathered in Asbury Park and socialized on the beach, danced to kef music, played tavlou (backgammon), and spent their summer weekends filled with Armenian spirit and camaraderie.
The event, which was revitalized six years ago, brings back that same sentiment highlighted by the musical talents of the Dinkjians as well as the new generation of musicians, including Steve Vosbikian Jr., who grew up listening to both Onnik and Ara, and says he considers it an honor to share the stage with them.
“It means everything to share the stage with these men, both of whom are not only fine musicians but fine family men who have taught us about much more than music,” said Vosbikian, the event’s music development director and a descendant of members of the Vosbikian Band, who played kef music in Asbury Park decades ago. “Onnik and Ara are our kings and our fathers. They are an important part of our Armenian musical culture and identity.”
The weekend will kick off with a happy hour at the beachfront Watermark on Friday evening, followed by a day of fun and games on the 7th Avenue Beach. The joyous kef concert will take place Saturday evening at the famous hotel The Berkeley.
“Armenian music is a commonality in Armenian communities and the tie that binds us,” said committee member Arsine Kaloustian. “This event is a vital part of maintaining our cultural continuity, and also forging friendships, networks (and sometimes marriages!) that cross not only state lines but sometimes international lines as well.”
“Return to Asbury, which is an independent event led by a small committee, focuses on music, dancing, and a good cause,” noted committee member David Norian. All proceeds for the event will benefit Armenian music education, specifically to donate musical instruments for Armenian school children and keep the kef going well into the future.
“Return to Asbury is about people and place, and if we can bring the legendary voice of Onnik back to Asbury Park, for it to be heard again in the halls and in the air that once was filled with these same sounds, then we have achieved the goal we started out with five years ago,” Norian said.
“Return to Asbury” will take place Aug 25-27, 2017, with the big kef dance on Saturday, Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit: returntoasbury2017.eventbrite.com.
Have questions, or a story or photo to share from the past? Please submit them to email@example.com.
Attention those of you looking for the kef of the summer…
Return to Asbury is hitting the beach for our 6TH YEAR in a row!
And this time, we have the one and only Onnik Dinkjian joining us, returning to play in Asbury Park for the first time in over 40 years!
Last year, Return to Asbury raised enough money to donate 35 handmade shvis (a simple Armenian woodwind instrument) to the children of the Hovnanian School in New Milford, New Jersey. This year we plan to make a new gift of Armenian instruments to the Hovnanian School music department. Depending on the amount of funds we are able to raise, additional gifts to other Armenian schools and Armenian music programs may also be possible.
Friday, August 25th
KICKOFF COCKTAILS – 7pm-12am
Start the weekend off in style with happy hour cocktails at the exclusive Watermark Lounge on Asbury Park’s famous boardwalk.
The Watermark is located at 800 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ 07712.
Saturday, August 25th
BEACH DAY – 11am
Enjoy a day at the 7th Avenue Beach. Make sure you bring some pocket money for beach passes, and look for the Armenian flags in the sand!
KEF PARTY: MAIN EVENT – 8pm-2am
Kef party featuring live Armenian music, mezze, cash bar, and dancing at the The Berkeley Hotel.
Featuring the King of Kef himself…
Ara Dinkjian – Keyboard
Steve Vosbikian, Jr. – Clarinet
David Hoplamazian – Violin
Raffi Massoyan – Oud
Christopher Vosbikian – Dumbeg
James Kzirian – Dumbeg
We have arranged for a discount room block for attendees at the Berkeley Hotel, which expires on August 11th.
To reserve your room, please visit:
Or you can call the hotel directly at (732) 776-6700 and mention discount code ‘RETURNTO’!
For Armenians on the East Coast in the 1950s and 60s, Asbury Park, New Jersey was THE place to come together on summer weekends. Days were spent on the beach and in the water, and at night everyone would gather at places called the Hye Hotel, the Van Hotel, the Sunset Lounge, and the Hye-Da-Way Kef Room…crowds lining the sidewalks, late night hook-ups, and the sounds of oud and doumbeg filling the air.
With Return to Asbury, we’re bringing back this summer tradition — in perfect symmetry with the historic beach town of Asbury Park, which is currently in the midst of its own exciting rebirth!
Tickets to all events can ONLY be purchased from this page. Because of restrictions with the venues, please note that tickets CANNOT be sold at the door. There are NO REFUNDS once tickets have been purchased. Please plan ahead!
Have questions, or a story or photo to share from the past? Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.