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Soothing Mix

March 17, 2000|ERNESTO LECHNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The music of Armik is as sunny as the picture on his new album cover, a combination of soothing flamenco guitars and myriad influences, from salsa piano to highly textured New Age keyboards.

Armik, who lives in Woodland Hills, has just released his fifth album, "Isla del Sol" (Island of the Sun), which aptly describes the guitarist's sound.

"I used to be a jazz musician until I heard [flamenco guitarist] Paco de Lucia in Madrid," Armik said last week over coffee in Studio City. "My opinion of what a guitar was supposed to sound like changed that day. I went and bought a flamenco guitar and haven't looked back since then."

Armik, who was born in Iran of Armenian descent, began playing the guitar when he was 6 years old. By 12, he was performing professionally, dazzling established musicians with his ability to read and perform the most difficult of charts.

But in 1980 he was forced to leave his country.

"After the revolution, music was forbidden in Iran," he said. "That was the main reason I decided to leave. And because I'm Armenian and Christian, it would have been very hard for me to stay there."

In the long run, moving to the United States cemented Armik's musical career.

It was here he met his manager and future wife, Annette Dashchi. Together, they transformed Armik from a session musician into a solo recording artist.

"I must have played more than 10,000 sessions before I went solo," he recalled. "Everybody kept asking me when I was going to start making my own music."

In 1994, Armik released "Rain Dancer," introducing the easy-on-the-ears style that he would further develop in his next four albums.

The record was instantly embraced by The Wave and other contemporary instrumental radio stations across the United States. Considered a middle-weight in the crowded field of New Age music, Armik has gained fans worldwide.

One of his records was certified gold in Australia.

Armik will celebrate the release of "Isla del Sol" with a special performance June 9 at UCLA's Royce Hall. The idea is to follow up a couple of local shows with a world tour.

Armik plays accompanied by a band but also devotes an extended segment of his concerts to solo flamenco guitar.

"It is very important to buy your guitars from Spain," he said. "I have a huge collection of handmade guitars made especially for me by [famous instrument maker] Pedro Maldonado."

Armik's recordings are available through his Web site, www.armik.com.

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