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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Taleen Babayan
FLArmenians Guest Contributor
ASBURY PARK, NJ – Following the Armenian tradition of friendship, camaraderie and music, hundreds of Armenians will gather in the historically rich Asbury Park for the fifth annual “Return to Asbury,” scheduled for August 5-7, 2016.
Following their grandparents and great-grandparents footsteps when summer weekends were spent on the beach in the 1950s and 1960s, a new generation of Armenians has emerged who will socialize on the beach, dance to traditional Armenian kef music and participate in tavloo and volleyball games.
Cocktails at the beachfront Watermark will kick off the weekend, followed by a day of fun and games on the 7th Avenue beach. The highlight of “Return to Asbury” will feature a joyous “kef” on Saturday night at the newly built hotel The Asbury, featuring talented musicians of a new Armenian generation, including Yerakouyn Band and Steven Vosbikian.
Yerakouyn, a trio of Armenian-Americans from Northern New Jersey who play Armenian folk music, consists of Shant Massoyan (guitar, vocal), Raffi Massoyan (oud, drums) and Raffi Rachdouni (keyboard).
They will be joined on stage by Steven Vosbikian (clarinet, zurna, vocals), Vicken Makouchian (keyboard) and Markos Shahbazyan (drums, dhol).
Vosbikian himself is a descendent of the Vosbikian Band, who played kef music at Asbury Park in the mid 20th century and continues his family’s tradition – all in the name of a good cause.
“The money we raise from Return to Asbury will allow for us to have shvis and dhols created for students here in local Armenian schools,” said Vosbikian, who will give music lessons in person to the students. “The instruments will be handmade in Armenia and will contribute towards continuing the Armenian musical tradition here in the U.S. for the next generations.”
“Return to Asbury is an event created by Armenians, for Armenians,” said Arsine Kaloustian, former Return to Asbury chairwoman and Florida Chair of the Armenian Assembly of America. “All are welcome to recapture the magic that our parents and grandparents felt in those hot summers many decades ago. This event is truly timeless, where strangers can become friends within minutes.”
In fact, a participant was so inspired by the event that he himself stepped up to chair this year’s event.
“This event is like none other in our community,” said Alan Minoyan. “And it’s important that we preserve important social and cultural events such as these so our heritage doesn’t fade away.”
“Return to Asbury” will take place from August 5-7, 2015, with the main affair taking place on August 6 at 8 pm. For tickets and more information, please visit return2asbury.eventbrite.com. Have a story or photo to share from the past? Please submit them at email@example.com.
All proceeds for the event will benefit Armenian music education, specifically to buy Armenian school children musical instruments and keep the “kef” going well into the future.
This article originally appeared in the Armenian Weekly and is republished with the expressed written consent of the author.
Return to Asbury is hitting the beach for its FIFTH YEAR in a row!
For Armenian Americans 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 ocean, and at night everyone would gather at the Hye Hotel, the Van Hotel, the Sunset Lounge and the Hye-Da-Way kef room. Friends and families crowded the boardwalk, and the sounds of the oud and doumbek filled the air.
With Return to Asbury 2016, 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! Come run away to the beach with us!
Return to Asbury 2016 Kef on the Beach will feature music by:
Shant Massoyan: Guitar/Vocal
Raffi Massoyan: Oud/Drums
Raffi Rachdouni: Keyboard
Steven S. Vosbikian: Clarinet/Zurna/Vocals
Vicken Makouchian: Keyboards
Markos Shahbazyan: Drums/Dhol
Staying through the weekend? No problem! We have secured a discounted room rate of $240.00 per night at the The Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel, just call: (732) 776-6700.
Tickets to all events can be purchased here.
Because of restrictions with the venues, tickets CANNOT be sold at the door. There are NO REFUNDS once tickets have been purchased. Please plan ahead!
Have a story or photo to share from the past? Please submit them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All proceeds to benefit Armenian music education, specifically to buy Armenian school children musical instruments and keep the Kef going well into the future!
Florida Armenians invites you to join us and fellow Armenians on the beach! We hope you can make it!