Armen Ra

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Armen Ra
Armen Ra.jpg
Armen Ra at the House of Blues in Boston, MA
Background information
Birth name Armen Hovanesian
Born December 15, 1969
Tehran, Iran
Occupation(s) Thereminist

Armen Ra (born December 15, 1969 as Armen Hovanesian)[1] is a Persian-Armenian artist, self-taught thereminist, production designer, director, cross-dresser, and performer.

Early life[edit]

Born in Tehran, Iran, he was raised by his mother, a concert pianist, and his aunt, an opera singer and Ikebana master. In 1978, Ra and his mother left Tehran just before the revolution began, at just 10 years old. In his teens, he struggled with homosexuality, eventually becoming a "club kid" and embracing his love for music and movies. Later he participated in drag performances in New York.

Musical career[edit]

Career (2010-2013)[edit]

Ra began studying the theremin in 2001, debuting with the orchestral group Antony & the Johnsons in New York. Soon afterward, Armen’s well attended solo concert at The Gershwin Hotel was covered by CNN.

Ra has played at The United Nations, Wiener Konzerthaus Mozartsaal Vienna, CBGB's, Knitting Factory, La MaMa E.T.C., Joe's Pub, Boulder Museum of Modern Art, Lincoln Center, The Gershwin Hotel,[2] B.B. King Museum, and Dietch Projects.

He has been featured on and appeared in: CNN, HBO, MTV, VH1, Vogue, The New York Times, The New York Post, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, and Glamour.[citation needed] He currently resides in Hollywood, California.[citation needed]

He has performed and recorded with various bands and on many projects (including a collaboration with British recording artist Marc Almond (of Soft Cell), on the song "My Madness & I" from his 2010 release, Varieté). His debut solo CD, Plays the Theremin (released on Bowl & Fork Records in 2010) showcases many Classical Armenian laments and folk songs, representing both Armen's heritage and his very first musical influence. Ra performed on the Sharon Needles album PG-13 on band Ministry's cover track "Everyday is Halloween".

Career (2014-present)[edit]

In recent years, Ra has appeared in the following works:

  • Armen plays on the Current 93 album entitled “HoneySuckle Aeons”. He appears in multiple songs on this 2011 release.
  • Armen plays on the debut album of Drag Race winner Sharon Needles. The songs “Every day is halloween” and “This cub is a haunted house” released 2013.
  • In 2014, he played the theremin for Voltaire's album Raised by Bats.
  • Armen’s recording of “Dle Yaman” was used for the video of designer Michael Schmidt’s 3-D gown which premiered on the New York Times website and will tour art museums around the world in 2015.
  • Featured on Selena Gomez’s Revival on the track “Me and My Girls”. (2016)
  • Featured on Gwen Stefani’s album on the track “Naughty”. (2016)
  • Mentioned in Billboard article about Clara Rockmore and the Google Theremin Doodle. (2017)
  • Featured performer for the Christian Dior Haute Couture Ball at Museé Rodin, Paris. (2017)
  • Guest artist with Bora Yoon at The Broad Museum, Los Angeles. (2017)

Appearances in Media[edit]

He has a cameo appearance in the film Party Monster. Other appearances in media include:

  • Cameoed as a desk clerk in Tomorrow Always Comes in 2006.
  • Ra composed music for the short Connect in 2010.
  • In October 2010, Ra appeared as a guest judge on the Logo Network show The Arrangement.
  • He toured as the opener for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds's Grinderman on their 2010 tour.
  • Ra was a production designer for the 2012 horror movie Excision.
  • Credited in the 2013 documentary The Little House That Could.
  • 2014 saw the release of the When My Sorrow Died: The Legend of Armen Ra & the Theremin, a documentary on Armen Ra.
  • He composed music for the movie Hara Kiri by Henry Alberto in 2016.
  • In 2017, he was featured in two promotional videos for electropop artist BØRNS, entitled "The Search for the Lost Sounds" and "The Faded Heart Sessions".[3]
It was revealed upon the release of BØRNS' Blue Madonna that Ra's theremin-playing is featured in Track 11 "Supernatural"


Ra's only instrument is the theremin, which he taught himself to play. His music fuses Armenian folk influences with modern instrumentation, along with melodic lounge standards and classical arias. His concerts are known for their combination of both visual arts and live music.


  2. ^ Ivry, Benjamin (February 15, 2007). "A New Generation Embraces the Theremin". The New York Sun. Retrieved July 20, 2010. 
  3. ^ "BØRNS - The Faded Hearts Sessions". YouTube. Retrieved October 10, 2017. 

External links[edit]