Benefit Concert Souls 2004 Raises Awareness

New University, CA
May 2 2004

Benefit Concert Souls 2004 Raises Awareness

by: Christina Nersesian

Courtesy Of Soul 2004

The Soul 2004 concert was created to spread Armenian Genocide

System of a Down took the legendary Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on
April 24, and made the entire place like their own home. It was as if
the band threw this huge event and each band member invited all of
their friends, cousins and their friends, parents’ friends and pretty
much the entire society living in the diasporas of Southern California.

The members of System of a Down – vocalist and front man Serj Tankian,
guitarist Daron Malakian, bassist Shavo Odadjian and drummer John
Dolmayan, all of Armenian descent – lost family during the Armenian
Genocide. The band’s Souls 2004 Benefit Concert was set for April 24,
Genocide Commemoration Day, for a reason.

`The purpose of Souls 2004 is to further raise awareness of the
Armenian Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey)
in 1915, and help facilitate its formal recognition as a genocide by
the federal government,’ Tankian said.

Joining System of a Down that day was Saul Williams, Bad Acid Trip, and
Zach Hill, all of whom had donated their time for the event. Along with
those performers several organizations – the International Association
of Genocide Scholars, Facing History and Ourselves, the Center for
Prevention of Genocide, Zoryan Institute, the Genocide Project, and the
Armenian National Committed of America – who support the efforts of
System of a Down were present with booths outside the venue. These
organizations were the beneficiaries for the funds raised from the
concert, Souls 2004.

`[The name given to the concert], Souls 2004, is obvious,’ Tankian
explained. `It refers to the souls that have passed due to the
genocide, and the concert was done on their behalf.’

The cozy setting of the Greek Theatre seems the ideal place for
concerts. Even back in the nosebleeds where most have to bring
binoculars to catch a glimpse of the band playing, the setting of the
Greek is one where even those are seats close enough to the action.
Saturday’s concert was sold out within the first day of ticket sales.
This disappointed some unable to get tickets but there lies reason in
everything System of a Down does.

`We could have sold out the Staples Center,’ Tankian said, `but decided
on a more elegant, intimate venue for this benefit show. We haven’t
played [Los Angeles] in a while and have lots of fans excited to see
another show.’

The fans were very excited-most of all their Armenian fans, especially
since the purpose of the show was to spark awareness about a cause very
personal to their entire culture and ignored for so long.

`My decision to attend the concert was two-fold,’ explained Ararat
Oganesyan, president of the Armenian Student Association at UCI, who
had also attended the show. `Initially I wanted to attend a System
concert, solely for my appreciation of their music, but when I was
informed on their Genocide Commemoration benefit, I was excited because
with a powerful day such as April 24, there was no doubt in my mind
that it would be a special evening.’

Before System of a Down actually went on stage, they showed an ABC
special recorded in 1999 by Peter Jennings about the Armenian Genocide.
The crowd showed a positive response, yet it is always hard to pick out
the negative feedback in a setting like Saturday’s. System of a Down
did have a lot of energy geared towards the presentation of the
Armenian culture, yet did their presentation include enough about their
views on the Genocide? Was it sufficient enough for the fans who know
about the Genocide to really feel their cause presented to the people?

`I felt that they could have done a little more to present their own
views on the Armenian Genocide,’ Oganesyan explained, `because the
audience, especially the ones who are ignorant on the topic would have
listened to their every word, but some people I’m sure were turned off
when they saw the special program on the projectors. But other then
that I believe they did an awesome job.’

The concert was not meant to be a culture shock to those who were not
Armenian, but it did raise the awareness in some about this old culture
with values and history just like any other.

Souls 2004 brought out the young and the old. Some of the younger kids
had their parents with them. Some of the older kids brought their
parents with them as well, and sat them through that hard rock show
just because of its purpose. Although the average parent would not
approve of the way System of a Down runs their concerts, most parents
there were too enthralled by the meaning and purpose of it all to care.

To them, the parents who believe this current generation of Armenians
is going downhill with remembering and keeping their culture, this
concert proved them wrong. System of a Down, representatives of that
generation which parents fear will lose and forget their past, showed
what it was to remember. This crowd clearly demonstrated that they will
not forget.

`I never expected the show to be as good as it was,’ Oganesyan said.
`It was absolutely amazing. I took my friend Aramik’s Armenian flag and
throughout the concert I was waving it and on one instance I got really
brave and began running up and around the isles waving it.’

But why a concert? The issue of the Armenian Genocide has been burning
in the hearts of Armenians for close to a hundred years now. One would
think there are other ways to recognize the Genocide.

Perhaps all those methods have been exhausted by now. With the fresh
faces of System of a Down integrating both their Armenian culture and
the American culture of the 20th century into their style, they were
able to come up with a better way to commemorate by having a concert to
bring together their fans and show them the history of the Armenian
culture’s struggle.

System of a Down has been the high voice for the Armenian community in
reaching out to the government for the cause of recognizing and
accepting the Genocide. Although they are not a political action
committee, the Genocide is a very personal cause for the band and their
families so they work towards the recognition of those atrocities. This
makes them sympathetic to other Genocides as well. And perhaps they
utilize their worldwide recognition to approach government.

`We’ve done lots of interviews talking about the denial of the genocide
and the genocide itself,’ Tankian said, `and have participated in a
grass roots initiative to send out up to 100,000 postcards to the
Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader to press them to
introduce legislation to recommit the U.S. Congress to the Genocide
convention which includes all modern 20th century genocides.’

Most benefit concerts take place to help a contemporary cause. This is
where proceeds go and show that money has physically helped the group
and benefited their cause for need. The System of a Down concert did
more than take profits and send them off to the needed organizations.
They inspired the need to help in others, and made even the ignorant
aware of what they needed to do.