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November 10, 2007 — From the Arts & Culture section
To see the printed version of the newspaper, complete with photographs
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1. A legacy of rock (by Elyssa Karanian)
* The boys of Bambir carry their music forward with new visions
2. The prince charming of Armenian pop is Hayko (by Betty
3. Opera: The Zobian phenomenon (by Aroutun Palian; trans. Aris Sevag)
* On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of his passing
4. Story: My myrig (by Kay Mouradian)
5. Canvas: Carzou represents a century through his art (by Naush Boghossian)
* French-Armenian artist’s unrivaled style
5a. See the show
6. Review: No reason to keep up with the Kardashians (by Adrineh Gregorian)
1. A legacy of rock
* The boys of Bambir carry their music forward with new visions
by Elyssa Karanian
YEREVAN — It’s hard to write a story about a band whose members
possess such a cult of personality that no single angle seems to do
them justice. They are young, idealistic, unbelievably talented
musicians from Gyumri who grew up and into the art world on the wings
of their parents. They are representatives of the Caucasus, bridging
the East and West with music, lyrics, and style. They carry on a
thirty-year musical legacy with creativity and pride. They are
progressive, unique, addicting presences in their own right.
* The boys
The lead singer and songwriter of Bambir is Nareg Barseghyan — an
animated, wild-haired actor who oozes verve and intensity. His voice
is emotive and erratic, and as the songs build, his passion seems to
escape from him in the form of verses yelled or whispered or laughed
out. When he glides into his technically perfect guitar solos, he is
like a sketch of a person that has suddenly come together on stage in
a full-color image of himself and his music and ideas. He masters the
flutist Arik Grigoryan brings a wiry, feisty energy to the group.
His flute and shvi melodies at times evoke the smooth, traditional
Armenian sound, at times the manic abandon of Jethro Tull’s Ian
Anderson, who is among his biggest influences as a musician. With him
always front and center, it is easy to be drawn to watching his
incalculable movements — arms flailing, hollering and howling,
percussing on tambourines, maracas, or his cheek.
In some ways Arman Kocharyan is an archetypal bass player — subdued
and focused — but he is a striking and rare stage presence who
commands attention. His eyes, entreating despite his brooding
appearance, are never flighty. His fingers move over the strings
beautifully and it is mesmerizing to watch as he feels the music and
plays with a concentration so effortless that you want to jump into
his bass and become a part of it.
Coming from musical, theatrical backgrounds, the boys are armored in
natural and developed talent that make them a joy to watch and listen
to, on and off the stage. Nareg grins coyly and tells me that they
started to play in 1983. "I say it like that because that’s the year
we were born, me and Arman," he laughs. "We grew up on that Bambir
style, you know?"
* Revolutionary origins
The name Bambir is derived from a bow-stringed musical instrument
(also called a qemani) that is played much like a cello. But Nareg
wasn’t referring to growing up on the style of this ancient
four-stringed instrument, nor was he talking about growing up on the
style of his own band. Bambir is more than an instrument and more than
a band — it is a musical history, a legend of Armenian music and
revolutionary thought and action. It’s a philosophy, a legacy, a
culture all its own. It is rock in its element.
In 1969, Angin Karer (Precious Stones), the first Armenian rock
group of its kind, or perhaps at all, was formed in Gyumri, Armenia’s
second-largest city, then known as Leninakan. Gagik "Jag" Barseghyan
(nicknamed for his love of the Rolling Stones) and Robert Kocharyan,
fathers of Nareg and Arman, explored and experimented with the arts,
creating music and performing in theatrical rock plays such as "Love,
Jazz, Devil" (1976). "The combination really started something in the
art world," Nareg says, excitedly. "When they first started to
rehearse everyone was saying no one would come to the shows or listen
to the music because it wasn’t close to the Soviet people and problems
of the time, but then they did like four shows in one day. It was
Running with the momentum built from their endeavors in the theater,
and after winning an award at the International Music Festival in
Yerevan (1977), they formed the group Bambir in 1978. Blending
traditional Armenian compositions, Celtic and medieval sacred sounds,
and Western rock influences such as Jethro Tull and the Beatles, this
innovative band soon made a name for itself as one of the best
folk-rock bands in the Soviet Union.
In 1978, when this first generation of Bambir started playing, they
brought Western culture to Armenia in a musical capacity. "They were
playing regular concerts in Gyumri at that time — covers," Nareg
reminisces. "Hearing the Beatles from the stage, it was just a
Perhaps too phenomenal for its time during the band’s early stages
in a Soviet republic. "It was very pagan rock, not nationalistic. It
was different," Nareg says. But as they began to play more of their
own compositions — drawing on other, perhaps culturally more
personal, musical influences such as Komitas — a loyal fan base
developed, not only in Armenia but, in time, internationally as well,
throughout other Soviet republics.
Bambir won the Folk Music Award at the International Festival in
Lida, Belarus, in 1982. They continued their involvement in the
theater, with stage plays and rock operas such as "Jungle Book
Maughly" (1986), and continued to tour and present their music to
international crowds in Russia, Georgia, Baltic countries, and the
The sound that Bambir had created was unique and Jag’s lyrics — his
keen perception and cleverly apt expression of his ideas — proved the
capacity of the band to be a truly monumental presence in the music
* "We are the sons of a new generation…"
At only 24 years old, Nareg, Arman, and Arik are talented beyond their
years; they are so natural when they play, it’s hard to imagine a time
when they weren’t this way. Nareg remembers it, though, and smiles as
he talks about what was perhaps the true beginning of this new
generation of Bambir: a fateful day 1992 when the older Bambir was on
a tour in the United States. Back in Gyumri, instruments in hand,
Nareg and Arman decided to put together a surprise performance for
their fathers’ return. Nareg retells the story, laughing: "They came
in and la la la we started to play and my father looked at me and
said, ‘What shit music! Stop playing, I’m tired!’ and encouraged me to
take up agriculture."
Not to be discouraged, however, the boys (joined, soon after, by
Arik) continued to play and create music, developing a sound that
would carry Bambir into a new era.
* Moving forward
Today the boys put on shows that are frequently surprising as they
build on themselves and grow into full-blown string-ripping,
cymbal-crushing, theatrical rock performances that are seriously
brilliant but undeniably funny. There are no straight faces in any of
their crowds, only the gigantic grins and glossy eyes of pure delight
as each person connects to the music, and the boys, in an absolutely
startling way — a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly rare in
music these days. Theirs is a pure and raw and honest sort, with no
pretense and hardly any arrogance (given their incredible talent),
just serious music with an edge of humor that forever sets them apart.
They have something that’s impossible to ignore.
Nareg acknowledges this quality and attributes it to their roots in
the hardscrabble city of Gyumri where, despite their tragedies and
hardships — including the earthquake of 1988 — you may find some of
the happiest and most generous people in Armenia. "Gyumri is a city of
humor and in many ways this enters into our music," Nareg says. "When
you play without humor nothing can be, nothing can come of it. The
emptiest artists are without humor."
The humor that Nareg speaks of, however, is fantastically balanced
by an earnestness that comes from having serious ideas and the
creative ability and deeply rooted desire to present them to the
public. One of the most important aspects of the the music and the
band, in Nareg’s opinion, is the fact that they represent the
Caucasus. "We should realize that we’re in between," he says
matter-of-factly. "Our faces, our belonging . . . it’s our music.
There are thousands of other cultures, but, representing the Caucasus,
we connect the West and the East."
They connect the past and the present, as well, as they continue to
carry the legacy of Bambir into the future and beyond Armenia and the
Caucasus. It’s easy to hear the influences of the past and their
parents on their music but there’s a perpetual forward motion that
pervades their style and their lyrics — an idealism, a philosophy, a
goal for this new era. They are undeniably budding rock stars as they
play with the audience and move through the crowds and explore the
territory of being an international musical presence.
* The music
Since they first started playing seriously (Arman says: "It’s a very
serious decision to pick up a guitar and start to play and make a
band, so, in that sense, we’ve been playing seriously since we were
9"), Bambir has written a plethora of unique material, recorded and
produced their own albums, and toured Iran, the Caucasus, Europe, and
America. "Our music is always new for other countries," Arman says,
clearly reviewing thoughts in his mind as he speaks. "Because they
drink different water, breathe different air, and see different
things. But regardless of what you think, the music appears, it’s
there to be seen, to be felt. We’re not trying to make anything
beautiful or shiny, or make other people see things in our music. It’s
just coming from us. We’re not just playing it, we’re feeling it. So
people around the world not only like our music but can see and feel
that there is something profound and different in it, and they can
connect to it in their own way."
This connection becomes obvious the first time one experiences
Bambir live. The shows explode with a wayward energy, as the boys
communicate with the audience and vice versa, that manifests into an
anomalous essence that draws fans back continuously. The music speaks
(strongly) for itself but it is simultaneously equivocal, leaving much
for listeners to actualize or internalize on their own. This creates a
dynamic that can never be reproduced, a special bond that is formed
out of the interchange between stage and floor during each show.
Discussing the ways in which Bambir is different, Arman takes a
thought and runs with it, turning it into a beautiful monologue on
music, meaning and the soul of the band: "We’re honest with ourselves
and with our music, and I think that’s the first thing, not only for
musicians, but for anyone who is trying to say something to another
person. . . . We’re trying to be honest with each other, together,
within the band, and that’s how we make music. We don’t think about
what we’re doing like, ‘which genre are we in?’ or ‘are we playing
rock?’ Because, anyway, it’s all about love, no matter what you’re
singing about — art, our music — it’s a way to find love in all the
things that are fucked up." He pauses to catch up with his thoughts,
it seems, and decides, "Yes, we’re different…and that’s where the
music starts. That’s where everything starts."
Never singleminded in their art or their endeavors, the boys are all
experimenting with side projects in the art world, both on their own
and for the band. Arik, for example is venturing into the electronic
vibe, mixing trance and rock. "I want to do some new projects," he
says before a show at Stop Club in Yerevan, where the boys regularly
perform. "I’m into the idea of trance-Caucasian rock," he laughs.
But in the end its all about rock and this music that’s been created
— this legendary sound and this legacy of a name and so much more.
"Rock was a faraway thing for this type of nation," Nareg muses over
a cigarette, reflecting on his father’s time. He pauses and inhales,
"People were looking at it as kind of an unnormal thing. I don’t know
. . . maybe they still are." But today, when this new generation of
Bambir takes the stage, its impossible to imagine rock in this country
* * *
* Stop Club, Yerevan, Thursday, September 20
They open the set with great energy. The club is tiny and the crowd is
almost on top of them, creating an interesting dynamic; everyone is a
part of this show togther. Arik goes into a riff on the shvi and his
flutters and trills ring over the bass line and the high-hat and even
Nareg’s guitar as they jam.
* Gyumri, Monday, September 24, Bambir comes home
I am seeing a completely different band. Two of the original Bambir
members are on stage, including Jag — Nareg’s father — and the vibe
is completely unpretentious and almost touching. You can sense the
connection and the inspiration between them all. The crowd is
completely in love and the energy is corporeal.
* Club 12, Yerevan, Wednesday October 3
Tonight they’re having fun again. Nareg is dressed up like a doctor
and is dancing around like a jointless doll. Arik is like a sprite on
stage — wailing and playing air drums and smiling into the crowd.
Their stage theatrics are at a pleasant high. Arman plays an entire
song sitting at the back of the stage with his head hidden behind the
projection screen. The crowd is in love again. At the end of the show
they come out and dance with everyone and for a moment we all feel a
part of something pivotal in the music world.
* Avant Garde Folk Music Club, Yerevan, Tuesday October 9 (John
Lennon’s birthday show)
Tonight is a crowd like I’ve never seen before at any Bambir show.
Easily over 150 (but lost count at that), bobbing, throbbing,
rollicking fans who are all in blissful states of drink and dance. The
band is in its element. Arman sings most of the songs tonight and it’s
like a gem in the set, his voice has a melancholy hopefulness that’s
enchanting. They move seamlessly and humbly in and out of the
spotlight with a rhythmic modulation that seems decades in perfection
— and maybe it is, or maybe it’s just their deep friendship and love
for each other that gives them this connection that pours into and out
of their music.
2. The prince charming of Armenian pop is Hayko
by Betty Panossian-Ter Sarsgssian
YEREVAN — One would think that after scoring the Best Male Singer
Award at the Armenian National Music Awards in 2006, Hayko had nothing
left to prove. After all, this young singer has witnessed a steady
ascent to the hall of fame in the Armenian pop music industry. He has
already recorded four albums, which became instant hits and has had an
impressive number of sold-out solo concerts in Armenia and the
But no! This very determined balladeer then headed to Eurovision
2007 in Finland.
Hayko spent the past year carefully mapping out the steps he needed
to take for his career.
Following a sold-out concert in October 2006 at the Vazgen Sarkisian
Stadium in Yerevan, Hayko released the soundtrack of a lengthy film
production Mi vakhetsir (Don’t be afraid) directed by Hrach
Keshishyan, and produced by the Armenia’s Public Television. The song
he chose to sing at Eurovision 2007 was from the soundtrack of that
On his way up he has charmed fans with his good looks, his romantic
ballads, and a definite sense of style.
* From classics to pop ballads
Growing up a mischievous boy who liked to play in the street with his
friends, Hayko did not have any particular dreams of becoming a singer
or a star. "I never intended to become a singer. In fact I wanted to
become a jazz pianist," he says over ice cream at the Marriott-Armenia
café in Yerevan. When I asked him his age, Hayko didn’t disclose it,
but said that his birthday is on August 25. "I always tell people that
I sleep beside the fridge so that I won’t age," he joked. Regardless
of his age, music has always been a part of his life.
From his early school years Hayko started taking violin lessons. The
gradual shaping of the future musician would take a more decisive turn
when he continued his high school studies at the Romanos Melikyan
music school. Then he continued his studies at the Yerevan State
Conservatory, aspiring to become a conductor and a composer in
classical music. Young Hayko soon found himself playing the keyboard
in various pop bands in Yerevan. At the same time he was writing songs
for other singers. Singing happened spontaneously. "Songs are born
with singing, and then it occurred to me why don’t I start singing
some of my own songs?" he says.
His transition from a wannabe classical musician to a budding young
pop star happened with the release of his first video clip for the
ballad Im Ser (My love) in 1996. Meanwhile, he began appearing on
stage as a singer at the State Theater of Song, under the patronage of
Arthur Grigoryan, widely known as the patron of the Armenian pop music
While waiting to become one of the most successful artists in
contemporary Armenian pop music, for some years Hayko enjoyed a kind
of second-tier level of fame. Participation in various musical
contests and awards were accompanied with succeeding albums, and an
increasing army of fans, mostly young females, in both Armenia and the
In 1996, Hayko began to appear on the stage of various Armenian and
international music competitions. That same year he participated at
the Moskva 96 (Moscow 1996) music festival and won first place. It was
at that festival that Hayko Hakobyan portrayed himself simply as
Hayko. "At the contest we wanted to be remembered by the name, too.
Therefore I chose to be known as Hayko, a simple and short name,
easily remembered," says Hayko. In 1997 Hayko won first prize at the
Big Apple Festival in New York. In 1998 he was acknowledged as the
best singer-songwriter at the Ayo competition.
His first album was released in 1999. It immediately became a hit in
Armenia. The very romantic album, Hayko Romance, included a dozen of
the most popular Armenian romantic ballads. "It has been the shortest
path to my success," says Hayko. After years of being nominated at the
Armenian Music Awards, in 2003 he released his Best of album on DVD,
and gave his first solo concert at the Alex Theatre in Glendale,
Back home in Yerevan, Hayko gave a solo performance in May 2003 and
recorded his Live Concert DVD. In the same year he released his first
album authored by himself, Norits (Again), and received the Best Male
Singer Award at the Armenian National Music Awards. A year later, in
2004 Hayko released his fourth album, Mi khoskov (In a word). Once
again, he was recognized as best male singer at the 2006 Armenian
National Music Awards.
Hayko also is a music producer for many pop singers. He composes and
arranges music. He has written songs for Armenian pop singers Tigran
Petrosyan, Sirousho, and Emmy, to mention three. He plans to expand
his music production as soon as his new studio is completed. In spite
of his handsome looks, Hayko has yet to appear in movies, although it
is something he says he hasn’t actively pursued. "My input in the film
industry is to compose songs for Armenian movies," he says. Among his
collaborations is the soundtrack of a new soap opera produced by
Armenia TV. "I have composed the soundtrack, and written songs to be
performed by me and other Armenian pop singers." He is currently
working on the soundtrack of yet another film, a love story being
directed by Hrach Keshishyan.
Hayko has a very busy schedule where work with new recordings
dominates most of his time. This summer, while much of the city had
escaped from the heat and dust of Yerevan Hayko was contributing to
the dust, building a new studio close to his home in the Avan district
of Yerevan. Hayko still lives with his family, but as soon as the
building of the new studio is constructed, he will move there to live
alone. "Naturally it is something I always wanted, but I know that I
always will be very close to my family."
* Lucky in love in the United States
Hayko is known for his serenity. His public appearances, on and off
the stage have always portrayed a cool image. However he is passionate
in his "cool," romantic, and charismatic way. He is very much a
composed prince charming, "But I am not that calm at all. I always
like to have movement around me. I am always doing something," says
In the evenings he likes to spend some time with his friends. "I
love to go to cafés, restaurants, and clubs. I like good food. I play
tennis with my brother. I am always in action," he says.
A sought-after bachelor, Hayko appears alone in public. "I am very
much unattached romantically, but I strongly desire to find my love,
get married, and settle down. Perhaps it will happen in the United
States. That country brings me luck in love, since I had fallen in
love there and had a girlfriend," says Hayko. He is definitely a
heartthrob. He laughs self-consciously when I mention this. However,
besides his good looks, he always maintains the profile of being a
well-mannered and respectable man. "I am a common Armenian man, who
respects everyone. I was educated to be like this. I always try hard
to do everything that is right and suitable for an Armenian man," says
* European tours follow Eurovision
Eurovision was clearly the most ambitious project of Hayko’s career.
He was already a well established name before the contest. But why
would a singer with his status need to participate in Eurovision?
Hayko admits that it was a very big risk. "Even my producers asked me
not to go to Eurovision, because I already was a well known singer and
did not need that. The responsibility is huge, because you are
representing your country and it would have been too bad had I not
sang well, or achieved a lower rank." (He came in eighth.) However,
Hayko thought that an opportunity like that is given only once in a
lifetime and wanted to live the experience.
"I was sure of myself," says Hayko. "I had faith in my friends
accompanying me. My producer Arthur Janibekyan together with Armenia’s
Public Television did everything to ensure that it all went well. My
show was staged by the well-known Alain Sichov. I think that we all
had a dazzling performance because pop singers Goga, Tigran Petrosyan,
Arthur from the Opera and Ballet Theater, and Ara Torosyan, a master
in musical arrangements, who are all my very dear friends were by my
side," says Hayko.
At Eurovision Hayko’s performance would determine the future of his
singing career. "I was very well prepared. As soon as we were in
Helsinki, it became clear that we had a good chance to compete for
first place, because everyone was talking about our show and
performance." Eurovision launched a series of new concerts in Europe
for Hayko. It provided the young Armenian singer with the heartthrob
looks access to a broader audience, a European one. "I am invited for
concerts all over Europe," says Hayko.
Hayko’s European tour will culminate by solo concerts in the United
States at the beginning of 2008.
3. Opera: The Zobian phenomenon
* On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of his passing
by Aroutun Palian
I had not written anything for a long time until my friend Gerard
Svazlian, who is currently a violinist in the orchestra of the San
Francisco Opera Company, suggested that I write an article about the
renowned singer and soloist of the Bucharest Opera, Garbis Zobian.
Gerard Svazlian had worked with Zobian in his younger years while he
was a member of the Yerevan National Opera Orchestra. The temptation
to write such an article was great, since G. Zobian was paramount
among all the well-known dramatic tenors, as far as I was concerned.
Inasmuch as I have been steeped in the traditions of classical music
and am familiar with the art of past and contemporary singers, Enrico
Caruso, Gino Bechi, and G. Zobian have special significance for me.
God lavishly endowed these singers with inimitable voices, which
easily leveled the path in front of them, like copiously gushing
rivers that are impossible to resist. If talents are born relatively
often, then phenomena appear every couple of centuries. Suddenly a
personality is born, who tops his predecessors while possessing their
best characteristics and experience. We call such an individual a
Such phenomena were Leonardo da Vinci, Bach, Paganini, Mozart and
Caruso. The Peruvian singer Yma Sumac was a phenomenon, owing to the
extensive range of her voice. Caruso was a phenomenon because, prior
to him, mankind had not heard such an unusually beautiful and powerful
voice, which was capable of performing operatic arias of the most
different nature, romances, Italian and Neapolitan songs. Caruso
remained unique, although the music business world proceeded to
present Gigli, Mario del Monaco and Mario Lanza to the public as the
While the recording instruments at the beginning of the twentieth
century were primitive, they had become quite perfected by the 1950’s
and reproduced human voices more naturally. Born after Caruso was a
new generation of talented singers, which lacked a "peak." That peak
was Garbis Zobian, whom God had graced with an exceptionally beautiful
voice, coupled with obvious emotionalism, expressiveness and natural,
vivid dramatization. In the case of certain well-known singers,
dramatization is created through the intensity of the voice or
artificial tension, and with the use of a microphone. Zobian’s voice
was naturally endowed with dramatic color, and he didn’t need to exert
artificial effort when singing high notes. In all segments of his
voice range, the sound was symmetrical and smooth. Zobian’s voice can
only be compared to and compete with his own. Melik-Pashaev
(Melik-Pashayian), principal conductor of the Bolshoi Opera of Moscow,
described Zobian’s voice as "heroic tenor." Heroic because it freely
gave renditions of the most complex and difficult arias of operatic
music: Othello, Canio, Andrea Chenier, Radames, Cavaradossi, Hermann,
Turidu, Manrico, and others.
The purpose of this article is not to comment on the singer’s
performances but to explain the Zobian phenomenon.
Was Zobian’s birth perhaps accidental? I would say no. The reason is
that the universe and all the phenomena being carried out in it have
been previously planned out in detail. Contingency is the fruit of
There are a few factors in the matter at hand. First, there were
already good-quality recording tools in existence, which could record
the natural beauty of the human voice.
Zobian was born one month after the Armenian Genocide. That
unspeakable carnage, to all appearances, was condemned by foremost
politicians, intellectuals and artists.
God, who had generously endowed this child, could not accommodate
Himself to the loss of Garbis; therefore, He saved mother and child
>From inevitable death.
It is undeniable that the mother’s suffering and restless state of
mind had an effect on the formation of the young Zobian’s spiritual
world during the period he was nursed by her. (So did her subsequent
oral histories too.)
The second factor is that God had given the Armenian people such
talented and well-known singers as Pietro Sacinari, who was of
Armenian background, Armenag Shahmuradian and Arman Tokatian. The time
had ripened, and the next peak had to be born. That was Garbis Zobian.
For some, all this may perhaps seem strange, but, for me, that is in
conformity with universal law. Zobian had to be born.
I’m glad that, in my early youth, I had the opportunity to hear the
singer from the stages of the Yerevan Opera Theater and the large
concert hall of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra. Subsequently,
while working as editor of musical programming for the State Committee
of Radio and Television in Yerevan, I became quite familiar with the
performing art of not only Zobian but also other eminent Diasporan
It is appropriate to note here the consistent work done by the chief
editors, Armen Hovhannisian and Andranik Chalgushian, and all the
employees of the Armenian musical editorial department, in assembling
the existing recordings of Diasporan Armenians and making new ones.
The writers of articles stating that Zobian acting was so real that
it was uncanny were telling the truth. I can still picture Zobian as
Jose with his partner, Sonia Kamernik, a soloist with the Sofia Opera
who was of Armenian extraction. At the end of the act, the curtain
closed but it quickly opened to the loud cheers of the audience.
Carmen was still in Jose’s arms. The singer had to bring Zobian back
to reality with a deft movement of the hand, in order to remind him
that the act had finished.
In a performance with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, Zobian
began with operatic arias and songs of Western European composers,
finishing with the works of Armenian composers, demonstrating the
capabilities and flexibility of his voice. His renditions of Komitas’s
"Kele-Kele" and "Hayastan" were quite impressive. The first is a
tender love scene, while the second is a majestic piece expressing the
hopes of the Armenian people, a source of inspiration and the
embodiment of patriotism. Notwithstanding the singer’s dramatic voice,
lyricism was present in the first song, grandeur in the second. It was
as if the singer was saying that he was proud to be Armenian.
Just as Niagara Falls spreads out and tumbles down, displaying its
beauty and might, so too does the "panorama" of the Zobian phenomenon
open up before the listener.
Although opera lovers and distinguished musicians of Eastern Europe
and the Soviet Union were familiar with Zobian’s art, he was destined
for the world’s most prominent stages. What prevented him from
achieving international renown? The jealousy of mediocrities toward
great figures. The Metropolitan’s impresario had suggested to Zobian
to accept his invitation to sing at the New York Metropolitan Opera.
The world-famous conductor Herbert von Karajan, upon hearing
recordings of Zobian made by the Czech company Supraphon, invited him
for a tryout in Vienna. However, since Garbis Zobian was not a member
of the Communist Party, unfortunately he was not allowed to honor any
invitation from the West. The critics of the British Opera and
Gramophone monthlies spoke with the highest praise about Zobian,
comparing him to Caruso. After all this, isn’t it a crime to bury the
Zobian phenomenon in oblivion?
If talents are born relatively often, then phenomena appear every
couple of centuries.
Zobian departed from this world five years ago, leaving us
unforgettable memories. Today, the sole witness to his art are the
recordings of operatic arias and Italian canzonets sung by him and
produced by the Czech record company Supraphon, as well as those of a
few Romanian and Armenian songs kept in the catalogues of Radio
The Zobian phenomenon was a slap in the face to those who carried
out the Armenian Genocide and, generally speaking, despotic regimes.
The only means of preserving the memory of the Zobian phenomenon of
the second half of the twentieth century is releasing a CD of his
recordings. Just as the world knows the Italians through Caruso, Verdi
and Paganini, so too must we make our presence known through the likes
of Zobian, Gohar Gasparian, Jean Ter-Mergerian, Paruyr Sevak, Minas
Avetisian and Aram Khachaturian. These are the great figures, whose
statues or busts must be placed in concert halls, opera theaters and
public squares, so that future generations and foreign visitors may
I appeal to all political parties, public and cultural organizations
of the Diaspora and Armenia alike, as well as individual music lovers
and persons, in whose veins flows the pure Armenian blood of Haik
Nahapet, Ara Geghetsik, Gevork Marzpetuni and Davit-Bek, to do
whatever possible to make available to the public CDs of the
recordings of not only Garbis Zobian but also the aforementioned
artists. It is my hope that the current employees of Radio Yerevan too
will not refuse to offer their assistance by continuing the worthy
tradition established years ago. It is time to translate words into
deeds. This is an activity and a policy of benefit to the Armenian
The author is a former supervisor of musical programming for the
State Committee of Radio and Television in Yerevan.
* * *
translated by Aris G. Sevag
4. Story: My myrig
by Kay Mouradian
My myrig and I had an endearing relationship. She never interfered
with my life, never held me back from exploring or living in many
parts of this glorious planet. And I always returned home. My myrig
lived by a philosophy that you hold by letting go. Pretty remarkable
for this small 5-foot woman who survived the Armenian Genocide, whose
life had been colored by the horrors of the past, and who dwelled on
the loss of her family members who had perished at the hands of the
Turks. Then one day that dark shadow was gone and her transformation
is quite a story.
In 1988 I had gone to Aleppo, Syria, to search for the family that
had given my myrig refuge from the Turks. Incredibly, I found the one
remaining descendant. Born after my mother had left Aleppo, the
handsome woman knew all about the 14-year-old Armenian girl, Flora,
who had cared for her two sisters. Delighted to meet me, she gave me a
gift I still cherish today — photos of her sisters, her mother and of
her father, a kind man who treated my mother as one of his own.
The day after our extraordinary meeting, I received a call from
home. Myrig was back in the hospital. I left for Los Angeles.
Myrig had already had three previous trips to death’s door and to
the amazement of all, including her doctor, she managed to survive
those precarious episodes. But this time, when I saw my mother on that
hospital bed, I was sure her time had come. She was deathly frail.
When she saw me she tried to smile, but was far too weak. "I don’t
know why I didn’t die," she said, her voice barely audible.
I, too, wondered. I would have expected her to embrace the release
of her worn-down body, especially after having been so close three
times in the previous four years. Or did she know something I didn’t?
I leaned in close and said, "Mom, do you think you will die now?
"It doesn’t look like it," she said, her voice cracking and her face
reflecting her own disbelief.
Somehow she knew.
Two days later, when I entered the cardiac care unit I was surprised
to see Myrig sitting up in bed, unattended. The day before, she
couldn’t turn her head without help. But when she saw me approaching
she shouted something in Turkish, a language she hadn’t spoken in more
than fifty years.
I was startled. She was filled with energy. And why was she speaking
Turkish, the language of those she hated? "Mom, I don’t understand
you," I said, trying to calm her. "Speak to me in English or
She kept shouting in Turkish, and I began to panic. What if she
continued to speak only Turkish? Would I lose contact with her
forever? Could I retrain her brain to think in English?
"Mom," I said firmly, "repeat everything I say." I went through the
entire English alphabet. She repeated each letter dutifully, as if she
were in school following a teacher’s instructions. We counted numbers
and she repeated those in English. But she started to shout in Turkish
again with an English or Armenian word in the mix. I struggled to
understand. The best I could comprehend was:
"They took my education," she yelled.
"They took my family!
"Do you know what it was like?
"I went crazy!"
She looked straight into my eyes, said loud, and clear in English.
Even though there were moments when I felt panic, other moments like
this one were just plain comical. I couldn’t hold back a laugh. I had
never before heard her use this crude word. And throughout this wild
scenario, even though she was shouting in Turkish, she appeared to be
"Mom, are you happy?" I asked trying to understand this phenomenon.
"Yes," came her emphatic reply.
"Because I’m awake!" she said with authority.
I found her choice of word intriguing. I would have expected her to
say, "Because I’m alive." But I had a suspicion of what might have
With my keen interest and years of study in eastern philosophy, I
wondered if she had crossed over into another plane and witnessed the
Armenian Genocide from a higher, impersonal view. Had she gained an
understanding of the horrific karmic debt the perpetrators have to
pay? And had she been given an opportunity to release her own intense
hatred of the Turk? Was that hatred released with the strong expulsion
of her anger as she shouted, "the bastards," a word not in my
old-fashioned mother’s vocabulary? I’ll never know for sure, but I can
state for a fact that my myrig was so loving after this fourth brush
with death that she couldn’t harbor hatred, not even toward the Turks.
Love poured out of her heart, like a flower releasing its perfume.
Everyone around her felt it.
But this was not the only bizarre incident during my mother’s long
illness. Her second bout with congestive heart failure in 1986 was
also a stunner. With her heart laboring in cardiac care, her doctor
didn’t expect her to survive the night. Three of us sat at her
bedside, waiting. Myrig had been unresponsive. Then she started to
"Do you know why I’m still here?" she asked, sounding as if she knew
a great truth. She looked at my cousin and said, "because you don’t
have any children." She turned toward me and again said, "because you
don’t have any children." Then to my nephew sitting nearby she said,
"And you don’t have any children. If I died no one would know."
"They showed me a lot of pictures," she continued.
I wondered who the "they" were. I knew people with near-death
experiences claimed to view their lives at the moment of death. Was my
mother sharing the same kind of vision with whoever the "they" were?
She looked at my cousin and said, "Your mother was there." His
mother had died thirty years earlier. She mentioned seeing an Armenian
family who was a karmic mirror of her family and told us prophetic
things that would happen to members of our own family. Two of them
have already come to pass.
"They showed the afghans," she said. She had made afghans over the
years for everyone: relatives, neighbors, my friends, her friends, and
my sister’s friends. Interestingly, after this vision she made them
specifically for disabled veterans.
She turned her gaze to me. "You’re going to write a book about my life."
"No, mom, not me," I said. "Maybe your other daughter will. She’s
the real Armenian in the family."
"No! You are! And you’re going to be on the Donahue show!"
The Donahue Show! In 1986 Donahue was the king of talk shows, and
she never, but never, watched that program, and I immediately
dismissed that statement as delusion.
Then she ended her little speech with, "They said it was my choice."
Now, that sentence gripped my attention. I’ve spent my adult life
trying to make right choices, and it is not ever an easy thing and now
my mother had made the choice to stay on in defiance of her body’s
fragile and deathly state. She had more to do before she could let go.
I just didn’t know it at the time.
Against the odds she rallied and a few days later was released from
the hospital. In the middle of her first night home I heard her stir.
I rushed into her bedroom and turned on the light. There she sat in
bed, her face absolutely radiant. She gave me a huge smile. "Do you
know what life is all about?" she asked, not waiting for a reply.
"It’s all about love and understanding, but everyone’s brain is not
the same, so you help when you can. That’s what life’s all about." She
smiled, laid herself down and went back to sleep. I will never forget
The next day she again couldn’t move without help.
I had dismissed much of her vision on that hospital bed as delusion.
I certainly had no plans to write a book about her or the Armenian
tragedy. My mind was focused on researching materials for exercises
that stimulate the body’s "chi," and I had been accepted to study at
the Acupuncture International Training Center in Beijing, But what was
happening to my myrig was remarkable. I began to read about events
that happened in the Ottoman Empire during World War I and became
overwhelmed. I had not known the depth of the Armenian tragedy, and I
began to understand my mother’s heartbreaking scars and those of
Armenian survivors everywhere. Now I knew my mother’s story needed to
be told, the whole of it, including the blessing that was granted her
in her last years.
I set aside my plans to study in China to write my mother’s story as
a fictionalized memoir. Not realizing the depth of the necessary
research, the nuances of writing fiction, or how many years it would
take, I had to write about this little woman who kept escaping death
and instead became more alert and more loving each time. My myrig
taught me that when negative matrices like hatred and anger no longer
rule the heart, streams of fragrant love pour out of every cell in the
body. She shined like a thousand suns.
* * *
Kay Mouradian’s fictionalized memoir of her mother is called A Gift in
the Sunlight: An Armenian Story and can be ordered from
5. Canvas: Carzou represents a century through his art
* French-Armenian artist’s unrivaled style
by Naush Boghossian
GLENDALE, Calif. – The art community is celebrating the work of popular
French-Armenian artist Jean Carzou, on the year he would have turned
Seven years after his death at the age of 93, Carzou’s paintings,
drawings and watercolors will be on display through the end of the
month at Stephanie’s Art Gallery in La Canada, Calif. — work its
artistic director says reflects the conscience of the 20th century.
Carzou’s art, which graces museums in France, Russia, Australia,
Israel, and Egypt among other countries, remains as relevant as ever
in a world that continues to grapple with war, ethnic strife, and the
ever-increasing influence of technology.
But the continued appreciation of his work is perhaps the greatest
testament to a man who never deserted his faith in humanity and
nature; his art embracing the hope that light and peace are present
even in the darkest creations.
"Springing from somewhere, life will always bud again," as described
by Grigor K’eoseyan in his book Carzou: Mogakan ashkhari me nkarich’e
(translated into English by Ara Kalaydjian).
Born Karnig Zouloumian on Jan. 14, 1907, in Aleppo, Syria, Carzou
grew up in a volatile and revolutionary time. He saw two world wars,
economic depression, the Cold War with its threat of nuclear
annihilation, and the rapid advancement of technology.
Although he escaped the 1915 Armenian Genocide, the event became the
source of a recurring theme in his work: desolation and solitude. And
though he was not against progress, he was also consumed by the
increasing influence of technology on modern life.
Carzou said of progress, "The machine cannot change human destiny;
and I believe firmly that by distancing himself from nature, man
actually departs from truth. . . . I see a great many captives, but
very few happy people."
Carzou’s first significant brush with art came at the age of nine
after the death of his father, when he and his mother took over his
father’s photography business.
He later studied architecture in France, but he was constantly
pulled to drawing. He won many prizes and during financially difficult
times, he supported himself with his passion by drawing caricatures
and political cartoons for local newspapers and magazines.
He started to make his mark on the art world in his early 20s and by
the 1940s he was well known in the field.
According to K’eoseyan, Carzou didn’t belong to any school of art,
dabbling in a range of movements from naturalism to cubism, surrealism
to imagery and back to the naturalist art movement.
"When we study Carzou’s work in its entirety, we observe that its
evolution — with all the inherent transmutations — forms a circular
course, and that the artist often returns to his original point of
departure, enriched by maturity, experience and crystalline
profoundness attained during the decades," K’eoseyan wrote.
But Carzou was most comfortable in naturalism, stemming from his
belief that nature transcends man, and that its ability to live on and
regenerate is a testament to its profound truth.
Most of his work is marked by the presence of women. For Carzou
women represented peace and the rebirth of mankind, in contrast to the
wars and machines created by man.
"She is everywhere, in every period, the commanding figure,
indivisible from Carzou’s universe and its distinctive
characteristics. The Carzou woman . . . More accurately a goddess,"
Though Carzou was primarily a painter, his art is not limited to
working on canvas. He worked on textured, unusual surfaces including
porcelain, tapestries, and ceramics.
His body of work includes departures from traditional paintings to
illustrating books by writers including Albert Camus, Shakespeare,
Rimbaud, and Ernest Hemingway and even helping decorate the ocean
liner "The France."
Carzou gained instant fame in 1952 for his set designs and costumes
for the Comedie Francaise and the top ballet and opera houses of
Paris, including the Paris Opera, and the Harkness Dance Company of
Though he did quite a few stage designs, Carzou admitted that they
took too much time from his other creative endeavors, so he decided to
return to his paintings.
At the age of 81, Carzou completed painting the walls of a chapel
in the south of France. He painted the Apocalypse of Saint Joan in the
Chapel at Monosque in Vaucluse, France. This chapel became a tribute
to the artist when in 1995 it was dedicated as the Museum de Jean
He even left an indelible mark in the artistic world when in the
late 1930s his work took on color. He created a distinct shade of
emerald blue and later in his career a distinct shade of deep, flaming
red, known today as "Carzou Blue" and "Carzou Red" respectively.
The artist named one of the 10 major painters of his generation in a
1955 survey conducted by the Connaissance des Arts magazine was
primarily influenced by music — especially Armenian music — which
inspired him to paint.
Carzou had more than 100 solo exhibitions all around the world,
including one in 1943 when he sold 30 of his 40 canvases in one
His work was so prominent that in 1976 he became the first living
artist to have one of his drawings appear on a French postage stamp.
But while his work appealed to the public, Carzou was not embraced
by art critics, according to the August 2000 obituary in the London
newspaper, The Independent.
His body of work, which continues to be celebrated seven years after
his death, remains proof of an artist who explored his passion in
countless mediums and refused to be pigeon-holed by art historians.
"I detest Picasso and Cezanne. They are responsible for the
decadence of art," he said in his acceptance speech as a new member of
the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1977. "They want to classify
me — romantic, fantastic, concrete graphic. . . . That’s not me. My
painting cannot be defined."
* * *
5a. See the show
If you live in Southern California you will be able to attend the
exhibition in La Canada in honor of Carzou’s 100th birthday, with
opening night on Friday November 8 from 6 to 10 p.m. The exhibition
will continue until November 30, Monday through Saturday, 10:00–5:30,
at Stephanie’s Art Gallery. Admission is free.
Stephanie’s Art Gallery is located at 466 Foothill Blvd. in La Canada.
6. Review: No reason to keep up with the Kardashians
by Adrineh Gregorian
Welcome to a world where everyone has silky long brunette hair, Range
Rover SUVs, and a small dog. No, this isn’t the parking lot of a
private Armenian school in Southern California; it’s the new reality
show called Keeping Up with the Kardashians, on E! Entertainment
Television (Sundays at 10:30 p.m.)
At the center of the show is Kim Kardashian, daughter of the late
defense attorney Robert Kardashian, who became famous for his
association with O.J. Simpson. The Kardashian name obtained a new wave
of notoriety when a sex tape featuring Kim was widely distributed
earlier this year.
Capitalizing on this newly found fame, Keeping Up captures the life
of famous-for-being-famous socialite Kim and her rambunctious family,
complete with Olympic gold winning stepdad Bruce Jenner, mom/manager
Kris Jenner, and siblings Kourtney (28), Khloe (23), Robert (20),
Kendall (11), and Kylie (9).
Of the staggering 10 children between Bruce and Kris, seven are
featured on the show juggling their privileged lives and careers. The
Kardashian women stay busy operating their high-end clothing
boutiques, Smooch and Dash, in the affluent Los Angeles suburb of
Calabasas, while Robert, Kendall, and Kylie just try to be normal
Kim recently celebrated her 27th birthday in Las Vegas, solidifying
her place as the "it girl" to watch out for. However, this program
shows a less promising future. In the sea of reality shows, Keeping Up
does not rise to the surface.
Keeping Up is a weak derivative of earlier reality series featuring
famous families and remains consistent with the textbook formula: a
nice house, dramatic mother, clueless father, and siblings that bicker
in a sea of small dogs.
The show may be "unscripted," but each episode is a choreographed
self-contained train wreck where family members make up a cast of
quirky characters who amplify their personae for airtime.
* The women
First, there is the sultry one, Kim. She’s gorgeous and stunning, no
doubt. Then there are the two sisters, Kourtney and Khloe. In the same
vein as Drizella and Anastasia (Cinderella’s stepsisters, remember?),
are neither as pretty nor as famous as Kim. But don’t get the wrong
impression: the Kardashian family is a group of lookers. Most
noticeably camera-starved is their mother, Kris, who usurps the
limelight from her young daughters. Finally, there are the two
adorable little sisters, Kendall and Kylie, following in these
* The men
Bruce Jenner is typecast as "Mr. Mom," the sensible one. Unassuming
brother Robert Kardashian, Jr., seems the most normal, not appearing
in most of the shots, and thus not having a chance to fake it for the
cameras. Finally, famous-for-being-famous stepbrother Brody Jenner, a
seasoned reality star who knows how to make reality TV look marginally
real, makes a few guest appearances.
Topics range from Kim posing for Playboy, taking sexy photos,
contemplating a sex tape scandal, and hiring a sexy nanny — all in
the first three episodes. Rest assured, this show is not meant solely
for 13-year-old boys with no access to the Internet, but I’ll stick to
the Discovery Channel to learn about how animals procreate.
Bordering on pedophilia, scenes show the adolescent little sisters
pole dancing, making cocktails, and pretending to be on Girls Gone
Wild. I consider myself a flaming liberal, but finding humor in
juxtaposing young girls with adult actions is crossing way over the
What made reality TV such a phenomenon is the ultimate guilty
pleasure — getting a peak inside how people live. The Osbournes were
successful because they were kitschy and oddball, yet at the end of
the day, they were a family you could relate to, with boundaries. I’m
not passing judgment on the Kardashians’ off-camera lives, but using
children for shock value entertainment is deplorable.
Though the show sheds light on a family bound together by their
blunt honesty and salacious humor, the Kardashians surpass normality
making this as contrived reality as Flava of Love. Understandably, the
entertainment factor gets people tuning in, but the staged scenes,
amateur acting, and camera hogging are disengaging. I would prefer to
see a more natural look inside how this modern-day Brady Bunch lives.
Keeping Up won’t be winning Emmy nominations any time soon, but
that’s not their goal. The Kardashians’ aim is to earn ratings and
market themselves. For that, they walk away winners. A show like this
is a brilliant branding move in an era of oversaturated celebrity
As for me, after watching the first three episodes I had to read the
United Nations Geneva Conventionto reinvigorate my IQ.
To remind yourself that TV can be done right:
(c) 2007 Armenian Reporter LLC. All Rights Reserved