Watertown Community Supports Beloved Armenian Radio Program

Photo: Garbis Zerdelian

Hours after airing its beloved weekly radio broadcast, the Armenian Independent Broadcasting of Boston hosted a musical evening in Watertown, inviting longtime listeners and friends to celebrate the homeland.

In his formal remarks to the roomful of guests at Mosesian Cultural Hall on Saturday night, Khajag Mgrdichian lauded the legacy of the late Jerair Gharibian, founder of Armenian Radio Hour (also known as Radio Ժամ/Zham). “This radio program has been uniting Armenians for the past 39 years,” explained Mgrdichian, who serves on the executive board of the news organization. More than 50,000 listeners tune in to the 90-minute, pre-taped bilingual radio show, which has been occupying the window between 2:30 and 4 p.m. on one of Greater Boston’s oldest ethnic radio stations (WUNR 1600 AM) since October 1980.

Compelled by an unmatched love for his homeland, Gharibian set out to start this radio program three years after graduating from Boston University with a master’s in broadcasting. It was a labor of love from the very beginning. His widow Digin Yevgine recalls the difficulties of newsgathering in the pre-digital age. She tells the Armenian Weekly that her husband used to call friends and sources in Armenia directly. Now, almost 27 years since her husband’s untimely passing, the challenge is keeping the tradition alive. “The people, our listeners, have sustained this radio program with their donations, their volunteer efforts, their support,” said Digin Yevgine in an interview with the Armenian Weekly. “They did not forsake me. Without this community, I would not have been able to continue his work. It would have been impossible.”

That’s why today, Radio Zham is more like a love story with Digin Yevgine at the helm. “All his hard work would have been left incomplete,” she explained in Armenian. “But I am continuing it.”

Not much of the radio program has changed since Gharibian’s passing. The only thing missing is his voice. “Jerair was a gifted man and a wonderful orator,” recalled Digin Yevgine. The radio program has essentially maintained its integrity all these years, featuring important political and cultural news briefs from Armenia and the Diaspora, local announcements, Armenian music selections, gospel messages and children’s stories. It always begins with Komitas’ “Kaqavik” and ends with an instrumental of “Mer Hairenik.”

Music is a very important cultural ingredient for the Armenian Independent Broadcasting of Boston. Saturday night’s performers included vocalist Janet Khalarian (who also happens to serve as an announcer on the weekly broadcast), pianist Dr. Marine Margarian and Erebouni Dance Ensemble (directed by Arman Mnatsakanyan). “These artists,” explained Mgrdichian “were trained and educated in the Armenian cultural community. It’s an example of the relationship between Armenia and the Diaspora and a sign that Armenia—through its policies and abilities—has work to do in the Diaspora to strengthen and spread the Armenian culture.”

Next year, the Armenian Independent Broadcasting of Boston will mark its 40th anniversary. Digin Yevgine says a celebration is in order, but a scheduled date is still unclear.

Leeza Arakelian

Leeza Arakelian

Assistant Editor
Leeza Arakelian is the former assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly. She is a graduate of UCLA and Emerson College. Leeza has written and produced for local and network television news including Boston 25 and Al Jazeera America.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.