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Leo Sarkisian - 'Musicman' is VOA's Oldest Broadcaster - 2002-04-29

A VOA Snapshot - Part of VOA's 60th Anniversary Year Coverage

At age 81, Leo Sarkisian is the oldest broadcaster at the Voice of America and the host of the longest-running VOA program called "Music Time in Africa." "Thirty-seven years I've been on the air," he said, "and I haven't missed a Sunday."

He has been traveling throughout Africa recording music, and broadcasting it on VOA for nearly 40 years. He says it is a daunting task.

"A small country like Liberia," he said, "has 16 major languages, 1.5 million people only. You can record music in one village and walk five miles to another village [and encounter] different musical instruments, a different style of singing, different style of dancing."

Mr. Sarkisian, a Massachusetts native of Armenian ancestry, started at VOA in 1963. He was hired by the agency's director at the time, Edward R. Murrow. Leo Sarkisian recalls his first encounter with the legendary journalist. Mr. Sarkisian was recording the local music of Conakry, Guinea. "Appointed by President Kennedy," Mr. Sarkisian said, "he [Mr. Murrow] came to Guinea for his first trip to Africa. He came to Conakry, and he recruited me right then and there to be music director for our transmitter in Liberia."

Mr. Sarkisian says Edward R. Murrow was "far-sighted." "For Africa, especially," he said. "Far-sighted because he knew that Africa was going to be important for us. He said that if we're going to be programming to Africa, we're going to have to have African music. He said, 'I believe you're the right man for us.'"

Prophetic words from Edward R. Murrow about one of VOA's most popular broadcasters, Leo Sarkisian, host of the long-running show, "Music Time in Africa."

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