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Oud player "Marko" Melkon Alemsherian (1895-1963) was one of the most important early figures of Middle Eastern and belly dance music in the United States. An ethnic Armenian born in Izmir (formerly Smyrna), Turkey, he settled in America in 1921 after having spent time in Greece to avoid serving in the Ottoman army. In many ways, Marko was typical of the great Anatolian musicians of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries in that although he was Armenian, most of his songs' lyrics were sung in Turkish. Since he was originally from Izmir, which at one time had a large Greek population, and had spent time in Greece as a young man, he was also comfortable singing in this language as well. Such versatility demonstrates the mixed heritage of Middle Eastern/belly dance music.

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