Armenian Reporter – 4/19/2008 – arts and culture section

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March 22, 2007 — From the Arts & Culture section

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1. Music: Sofi Mkheyan: the balladeer who can also bop and hop (by
Betty Panossian-Ter Sarkissian)

2. Sling Media CEO Blake Krikorian revolutionizes television
viewership (by Tenny Issakhanian Avanesian)

8. Arts in brief
* New Vahe Berberian exhibition to open in West Hollywood
* Sylvie Vartan performs in Japan

3. Music Video: Ara Soudjian is the whiz kid behind Wiz Khalifa’s
debut music video (by Adrineh Gregorian)

4. Music: Dilijan delivers (by Armine Iknadossian)

5. Poetry Matters: The poems in Roupen Sevag’s pockets (by Lory Bedikian)

6. Poetry in translation (by Yeghishe Charents; trans. Armine Grigoryan)

7. A conversation with Ara Dinkjian (by Lola Koundakjian)

************************************ ***************************************

1. Music: Sofi Mkheyan: the balladeer who can also bop and hop

by Betty Panossian-Ter Sarkissian

YEREVAN — Sofi Mkheyan, the young and dynamic Armenian pop star, is
one of the hits of today’s Armenian music world. In the past year, she
metamorphosed herself to become something the Armenian pop music
industry lacked the most: a dynamic female artist who could be a crowd
mover, a romantic balladeer, and, above all, a straightforward and
spontaneous person.

Within little more than two years, Sofi managed to climb to the top.
At the National Music Awards held in January this year in Yerevan, she
was recognized as the hit of the year. Her duet with Sirusho, Arzhani
e (He Deserves It) only added to her growing popularity in Armenia.

* She could sing even before she could speak

As a child, Sofi would turn on the radio and sing along any given
song. She inherited her good voice and sense of rhythm from her
father, who encouraged her early steps in music. Young Sofi studied
the piano at Sayat Nova Music School in Yerevan and attended the Do Re
Mi children’s music school and studio. As an adolescent, Sofi made a
choice to go deeper into music and continued her studies at the
Romanos Melikian Music College in Yerevan.

However, it was only after joining the State Theater for Song that
she began seriously considering the prospect of a career as a singer.
"Until then it all was a hobby," Sofi recalls. "I simply learned how
to sing English and Armenian popular songs, entertain people at
concerts, and take part in song contests."

It was young Sofi’s love of all things beautiful and fluffy that
showed her the way to the world of Armenian pop music. Back in 1999,
she took part in a contest where the participants were asked to
describe how they would like to spend Valentine’s Day. "I wrote about
how I had had the most wonderful time with my friends," Sofi says.
"But I had added a short postscript, saying that it all was just
wishful thinking." However, her entry won her a three-day trip to a
resort at Dzaghgadzor, together with the whole team and starlets of
the State Theater of Song.

It was at that trip that Sofi was discovered by Arthur Grigoryan,
the director of the State Theater of Song, who invited her to join the
theater. Sofi went on to study at the institution from 2000 until
2004, as a soloist.

* Becoming Sofi

In 2003, Sofi took a step forward in the State Theater of Song. She
was included in a project titled "Hayuhiner," a concert held in the
United States and featuring four young and promising female singers
>From Armenia.

By 2005, Sofi had already departed the State Theater of Song and
headed off to launch her career with her first video clip for the song
Im Unker (My Friend). Those first steps on her own were not exactly
easy, as established songwriters would not trust their creations to
the hands of a novice. "That song means so much to me," Sofi says. "I
finally experienced what it was to have a song written especially for
you."

Soon her determination and hard work were rewarded. In December
2005, the National Music Awards in Yerevan acknowledged Sofi Mkheyan
as the Best Newcomer of the year. Two more video clips for the songs
Ser (Love) and Nayir im Achkerin (Look into my Eyes) hit the Armenian
silver screen in 2006. Nayir im Achkerin received the Best Video Clip
award at the 2006 Armenian Music Awards in the United States.

The year 2007 brought to the fore a long-awaited burst of yet
another facet of her talent. Until then, Sofi had exposed her more
emotional self through three romantic ballads and video clips. It was
time to experiment.

In summer 2007, Sofi shocked her audiences with her energetic
rendition of an upbeat hit, Ore yev Nerkan (The Day and the Present).
This dramatic change in style and image introduced her to new
audiences, showed that she was more than a romantic balladeer with
melodramatic moods.

"I came to realize that I am young, can be very dynamic," she
remembers. "I just wanted to express the fire in me." She explains
that she gave way to the desire of her fans to see her perform
livelier songs with quick beats.

The next upbeat song and video clip came as a duet with Sirusho.
Arzhani e is Sofi’s first-ever duet and it became a quick hit in
Armenia.

That same year, Sofi also recorded Kyanke ko (Your Life), her first
attempt at songwriting. This song was included in her debut album of
the same title, released in 2007. "It was not all premeditated that I
would write a song for my new album and name the album after it. It
all just happened," she says.

Recently, Sofi is seen dancing a lot, both in her video clips and
live on stage. She says that she has always been a good dancer, and
with a little help from her friends at the Amaras Dance Troupe, she
choreographed her rhythmic songs and improved her dance skills.

Sofi says becoming a star has not changed her in essence. "It only
made me become more serious about my life and career," she notes.

At present, this young singer has plenty of upcoming projects. Sofi
is busy preparing a clip for another of her upbeat songs. She is also
recording a couple of new songs which will mark her comeback to ballad
singing.

The only disadvantages that her booming career bring along are
physical exhaustion and the lack of spare time to do anything else.
"My activities and being busy have been doubled since 2007," Sofi
says. "I try to be at the center of events in Armenian pop music and
try my best to have something new for my audience. Sometimes I don’t
even know how the day is gone, as I run from one studio to another
photo shoot. At the end of the day, I always try to find some time to
be with my friends and the people I love."

************************************* **************************************

2. Sling Media CEO Blake Krikorian revolutionizes television viewership

by Tenny Issakhanian Avanesian

FOSTER CITY, Calif. — As I walk down the bright red corridors of the
Sling Media corporate offices here, I sense a certain energy and hip
factor that is unique to the hustle and bustle of young Internet
companies in the still-thriving Silicon Valley. I walk past a photo
shoot and realize that it involves the subject of my interview, the
co-founder and CEO of Sling Media himself, Blake Krikorian. He has a
very casual and pleasant air about him, I suspect, as I await my turn
to speak with him.

Those suspicions are confirmed a few minutes later when we meet in a
conference room appropriately called "The Oval Office." This is just
another ordinary day for Blake, who is interviewed by various
reporters almost daily. Why is he in such demand? Well, allow me to
answer that question with a question.

What do you do when you want to watch your favorite shows at the
time of broadcast — no later — but can’t get yourself in front of
your TV in time to do so? You sling, of course. You sling your
television content onto your laptop computer, cell phone, or nearby
television screen. That is the basic concept behind Sling Media, Inc.,
a company that was founded in 2004 by brothers Blake and Jason
Krikorian out of sheer necessity: theirs.

* For the love of the game

In 2002, when the San Francisco Giants were on their way to the World
Series, Blake and Jason were running their consulting company in the
Bay area, traveling for work, and reluctantly missing the games of
their home team. One day, they went online to watch the game. They
thought they had found an Internet service that offered the games, but
there was a catch: only $19.95 a month. "And I thought to myself, ‘OK,
here we go again.’ Subscription fatigue," Blake explains. "Like most
consumers, I was already paying all these other subscriptions, home
TV, cell phone, and everything else."

But beggars can’t be choosers. He desperately wanted to watch the
game, so he gave in and paid. But the game failed to appear. "What the
heck was going on?," he recalls. "I went to read the fine print and at
the bottom it said that you get all the games except for your local
team, which they black out." And it did not end there. The subscriber
would not have access to his local team’s game even if it was
nationally televised, which was the case for the Giants that year.

Blake and Jason realized how unaccommodating this was for consumers
who, these days, spend more time in front of various display screens,
not just a television. "At the end of the day, we shouldn’t have to
try to figure out which display has what content. I love my
living-room TV, I love my TiVo, I love my DVR. That’s the content I
want, and I want to be able to see that wherever I am and on any
display," says Blake, the consumer. "All the content is there on our
home TV. There has to be some way that I can have some magical
binoculars so that I can reach into my house, get the content onto any
screen, and control it," says Blake, the innovator. And so, tried and
true necessity became the mother of invention. The Slingbox was born.
"I’ve not had a problem catching a Giants game since." He quips, "Now
if I only had time to watch the game."

* Life before slinging

Born and raised in Mountain View, California, Krikorian was the oldest
of three boys to a child-psychologist father and stay-at-home mother.
He earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from UCLA
and then taught himself computer science. "I can write in code once in
a while," he adds.

With no familial attachment to engineering, he attributes his
interest to two factors: where he grew up and his affinity for toys.
"Growing up in Mountain View, it was the birth of Apple computers, so
there was a lot of influence there." The infectious buzz of
technology-centered Silicon Valley aside, Krikorian always enjoyed
toys and gadgets. "I loved technology and video games, so it was fun
to actually make some of them." And to this day, this kid at heart
approaches his work more as play. "There’s nothing better than not
having a J-O-B," he says.

* Convergence and coexistence

When the Slingbox first came onto the scene, television networks were
worried about losing viewership and control. "They thought, ‘Wait a
minute, you’re moving our signal away,’" Krikorian explains. "We
thought, ‘Let’s open up the dialogue with folks to help educate them…’
We turned that corner about two years ago when many of the networks,
the vast majority of them, now realize that we are actually increasing
their viewership." The Slingbox has done this by increasing the reach
and frequency with which a television network can be viewed and
connected to a user.

Sling Media has also bridged the gap between network programming and
their supplemental content online, including deleted scenes,
directors’ cuts, and commentaries. "Slingbox is the first real true
convergence product because it takes those two things, marrying
television with the richness of the Web," he explains. "For 20 years,
people have been talking about bringing interactivity or the Web to
television."

Now, as a result of Sling Media’s efforts, television and Internet
content can be viewed and consumed concurrently. Drawing from personal
preferences, Krikorian offers an example. Using the Slingbox, "I can
watch the game on NBC, but then have the stats alongside the game —
that’s really a webfeed right alongside it."

In the process, television networks continue to get the credit,
Nielsen’s ratings or otherwise, for their consumed content. The
signals transmitted from a television cable box or satellite to
Nielsen’s are sent and measured normally while the Slingbox simply
redirects the displayed images to the users’ designated platform
display screen. As a result, Sling Media and the television networks
are not competitors, but rather allies.

* Emmy and EchoStar

Blake Krikorian’s innovations have already received national and
worldwide acclaim and attention. Without an aggressive television
marketing strategy — it is primarily word of mouth with limited
sports talk-radio ads, sponsorships, and print ads overseas — Sling
Media has been able to sell upward of 500,000 units worldwide. Sales
are quickly approaching the million unit mark.

Further, in January 2007, at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in
Las Vegas, the Slingbox earned Sling Media the 2005-2006 Technology
and Engineering Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Advanced
Media Technology for the Non-Synchronous Enhancement of Original
Television Content.

Although they were considering going public later this year, Sling
Media opted to be acquired instead — the right decision, given the
current economy, Krikorian reflects. They closed the deal with
EchoStar five months ago. Krikorian is hopeful about the prospects.
"We’ve still been growing like gangbusters, which has been terrific,"
he says. "We’re going to find ourselves accelerated quite a bit now
that we have a lot more resources as well as the ability to work with
our sister company, which is the Dish Network."

Brian Jaquet, public relations director at Sling Media, adds, "This
gives us a tremendous amount of opportunity to start to integrate the
technology that’s in this box [the Slingbox] into other set-top
boxes." He continues, "Integrating this kind of technology into the
set-top box can help us reach new customers that maybe we haven’t
reached before."

* There’s more where that came from

Sling Media is now at a turning point, although its key goal remains
constant: making its users’ home television content as portable and
immediate as possible. "We connect consumers to the content they love,
regardless of the location they’re in, regardless of the display,
regardless of the source of that content, and regardless of that
format," Krikorian asserts. "The consumer is king."

Slingboxes can currently connect to any Mac, PC, Palm, and various
Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones. Many other exciting innovations are in
the works, including the Projector, Pro HD Slingbox, and Clip+Sling.

Through Sling Media, Blake Krikorian may have single-handedly
revolutionized the way people consume television content. In the
process, he has won over key television executives, including CBS
President Leslie Moonves. "When he first heard about our products, he
was very concerned," remembers Krikorian. "But he was open enough to
learn about it and listen and say, ‘Hey, what are some new things we
can be doing together?’"

Krikorian is hopeful about the power of technology so long as
consumers and the television industry continue to embrace it. And if
they do, then everyone, whether they have a good pitcher’s arm or not,
can do some slinging of their own. And that is something that Blake
Krikorian, the baseball fan, can appreciate.

connect:
slingmedia.com

************ ************************************************** *************

3. Music Video: Ara Soudjian is the whiz kid behind Wiz Khalifa’s
debut music video

by Adrineh Gregorian

ARLETA, Calif. — It was an unusually warm day here, on December 14,
2007. As I drove up to Laurel Canyon Stages, the scenery was tranquil
and very suburban and I anticipated the sound stage I was about to
enter would stand in direct contrast to the docile surroundings.

My destination was the music-video shoot for newcomer hip-hop artist
Wiz Khalifa’s debut single, "Say Yeah," directed by Los Angeles-based
filmmaker Ara Soudjian.

The first thing I noticed was the row of fancy cars parked outside
and right then I knew I was in the right place. As I walked in, I was
equal parts excited and intimidated. Given the usual perception of the
hip-hop world as a mosaic of luxury cars, scantily clad women, flutes
overflowing with champagne, and money falling from the sky, I wondered
where I would fit in.

On set I wandered through the hallways, passing through Brazilian
Mardi Gras dancers to my right and mariachi musicians to my left, and
continued to feel like a fish out of water. That said, it didn’t take
more than ten seconds for a familiar face to appear, and then another,
then another, then another…

What I expected to be a glamorous, blinged-out music-video shoot was
all that and then some. Ara had recruited his talented friends and
family to join forces in making this a community collaboration and an
AYF camp reunion, all in one.

* Making the director

Ever since Ara was a kid, he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker. Being
the son of an Armenian father and a Mexican mother, he was exposed to
an international flare from a young age. Names like Pedro Almodovar,
Federico Fellini, and Robert Rodriguez were commonplace in
conversations at the Soudjian household.

"My mom was in several theater productions and plays," Ara says. "My
siblings and I would go to rehearsals with her and go to every show. I
guess I loved watching make-believe and I also loved to draw and
illustrate."

Ara’s mom would take him and his younger sister and brother,
Mariette and Armen, to the movies every weekend. "It was a form of
escapism for me," he recalls.

Like most prospective auteurs, he got hold of a handheld camera and
made short films starring his high school classmates. He dabbled in
animation and eventually attended California State
University-Northridge’s notable film school.

After graduating with a film degree, he climbed the
entertainment-business ladder, starting out as a production assistant
then progressing to art-department assistant, art director, assistant
director, editor, and illustrator. He learned the tricks of the trade
and even managed to play basketball with George Clooney on the set of
the Coen brothers’ Intolerable Cruelty, on which he worked as a
production assistant.

"A couple of years ago, I decided to stop taking these jobs and
focus on directing full time," Ara says. "It was a big gamble, I
guess, but something I’ve envisioned myself to be at a young age."

Ara got into music videos when a producer friend, Berj Beramian,
recruited him to direct a music video for Gor Mkhitarian. They shot a
low budget video for Gor, which eventually won them an Armenian Music
Award. "I’m also proud of two other videos, for XO and Vokee," Ara
says. "Both had little or no budget, with a crew of about two to three
people. One of my idols is director Robert Rodriguez, who shoots,
directs, produces, and edits his own movies. I basically took his rule
of a one-man crew and implemented it in my projects."

"Music videos are basically films on crack," Ara says as he comments
about the difference between music videos and traditional films. "It’s
a highly accelerated process. You have one week to prep, a day to
shoot, and two weeks to deliver. It’s crazy, stressful, but hella
fun!"

Music videos also give a filmmaker the opportunity to make what is
in essence a short film and showcase it to a wide audience. "Ara tries
to create a visual representation of the song that really features the
artist, and that’s very different than making any other film genre,"
says producer Garin Hussenjian. Garin has collaborated with Ara on and
off since 2000. They met when Ara joined the crew of the feature film
After Freedom, directed by Vahe Babaian.

* Making "Say Yeah"

Recently Ara and Garin worked together on the video for Serj Tankian’s
"Money," a track from his solo debut, Elect the Dead. George Tonikian
>From Serjical Strike Records gave Ara the opportunity to direct
"Money" and Garin joined in as a producer. When Warner Bros., Serjical
Strike’s parent company, viewed all 12 videos that accompanied the
album, Ara’s "Money" stood out. Impressed by his ability to make a
small-budget video look like it was made with top dollars prompted
Warner to ask Ara for a treatment to make the "Say Yeah" video and the
official video for "Sky Is Over," another song off Elect the Dead.

"There were a lot of hurdles prior to getting the Wiz job," Garin
says. Although there were a lot of directors vying for the job, "Ara
delivered to them something above and beyond what they expected, which
they were very surprised by," Garin adds.

Because this is Wiz’s first big music video under the Warner Bros.
label, Ara’s main goal was to debut Wiz as a really hot hip-hop
artist.

"It’s the first video that’s going to set the tone for who he is as
a hip-hop artist," Garin says. "In this case Ara really took into
consideration and worked closely with the manager and label in order
to get exactly what it is they wanted to present to the world when
they watch a Wiz music video."

Warner Bros. A&R rep Craig Aaronson came up with the concept of Wiz
traveling around the world with his entourage. Then it was up to Ara
to conceptualize the entire video. "I love being alone in my head
coming up with ideas," Ara says. "This is the one place where it’s you
alone, no collaboration, no dealing with managers, etc. It’s the root
of your project and the most exciting."

Ara took the idea of jet-setting around the world and made it into a
computer-generated imaginarium. "We were working with pennies," Ara
recalls. "So I decided to shoot on green screen, and get my very
talented designer friend Sako Shahinian and effects supervisor Garo
Hussenjian [Garin’s husband] to generate the backgrounds."

It starts off with Wiz waking up in his bedroom, then boarding a
plane that would take him and his friends on a wild tour across the
globe, during which they stop off in different countries to party, of
course. The "Say Yeah" video is a colorful explosion that has dancers
representing a flurry of cultures and dance genres moving to the same
beat.

Once the filming commenced, the graphics and composite work kicked
in. For weeks Ara, Garin, Sako, and Garo spent hours on end digitally
creating this magical world.

"Working with Wiz and his management was great," Ara says. "Wiz
would take direction really well, and his manager, Benjy Grinberg, and
I would bounce off ideas from each other, and so on and so forth. The
team at Warner was great as well — especially Craig, who took a major
chance on me with both ‘Sky Is Over’ and the Wiz video."

"He’s given the song a new life," says Garin of the "Say Yeah"
video’s pop feel. "Ara chose to give [the song] a fun, colorful video
that a lot of people that may not listen to hip-hop or could care less
about rap might watch because it’s interesting."

"I actually wanted to send the Wiz off to Armenia, but my producer
fought me on that," Ara says. "I got an Armenian subtitle in there.
That was cool."

Speaking of Armenia, the majority of the crew was Armenian — all
talented professionals in their respective fields, most of whom Ara
and Garin have met on the sets of other jobs.

"Working with Armenians is like working with family," Ara says. "Oh
wait, they were all my family"! Ara’s fiancée, Garinee Akmakjian,
served as the craft-service hostess. His brother, Armen, was the
assistant director. His brother’s girlfriend, Salpi Ovayan, was the
production manager. Garin, his "adopted older sister," ran the show as
producer. Make-up artist Helen Kalognomos went to school with Ara.
Dancer Michelle Papayans and Ara met in Armenia almost ten years ago.
They say Armenians are separated by one degree, and Ara could have
gone on and on linking a common past with each and everyone on the
set, including me (Ara and I went to camp together in the early
1990s).

"To be honest, I was very stressed that day," Ara says. "It was my
first big-label video and to have my friends and family be there
brought everything into perspective. I was literally thanking God and
pinching myself every minute I got."

"Working on this music video was amazing," Garin adds. "It was a
real rush. You’re working so hard, but there’s so much excitement and
enthusiasm and it’s just a thrill. It’s something that all of us want
again and again."

The level of excitement was palpable with every person who walked
onto that sound stage during the 17-hour shoot. With this video, Ara
got the opportunity of a lifetime and in turn presented opportunities
to the people who have supported him all along. "It felt like a big
family working hard on something," Garin notes. "We were lucky to have
that chance to pool all our resources together for this."

"Working on a music was something I have wanted to do since I
started dancing," says Michelle Papayans, who has been dancing since
she was four years old. "Being Armenian and then getting to work with
an Armenian director/producer and a mostly Armenian cast and crew
really made me feel lucky since this was my first music video."

"Garin and Ara worked so hard that I know that Warner Bros. got way
more than their money’s worth," Michelle says. "What most
non-Armenians don’t know is, when you hire an Armenian that is
passionate about what they do, you will always get 110%. On top of
that it even becomes a community thing, like friends and family
bringing any contribution they can to make things even better and
support their friends’ project."

Working with her family on the set made for her favorite moments.
"My cousin Helen was in charge of make-up and wardrobe, which made me
very proud," she says. "As well as getting to perform with my cousin
Alex, who made an entire set crack up laughing while filming."

For Helen Kalognomos, "Working on a music video is fast-paced and
fun." Helen headed three departments: Hair, Make-up, and Wardrobe. "It
means a lot of prep work so you can be ready to nail it in one very
long day," she explains.

"At the end of the day, no matter what your cultural background is,
it’s important that you’re at the top of your game, and everyone was,"
says Helen, referring to the crew. She evidently also witnessed Ara
being crowned Prom King at Rose and Alex Pilibos School. "It’s a great
feeling to look back and think, ‘We had no idea we’d be working
together one day.’ But here we are, and how awesome is it!"

Just days after wrapping "Say Yeah," Ara began working on the "Sky
Is Over" music video with co-director Tony Petrossian. In it Serj
walks through an abandoned city and begins to erase the sky in a
single long shot. Both videos are up for Music Video Production
Association (MVPA) Awards.

In fact, Ara isn’t the only Armenian being recognized for exemplary
work. There are three other Armenians up for nominations at the MVPA
Awards: Tony Petrossian for Best Director, Best Rock Video, and Best
Special Effects; Sevag Vrej for Best Rock Video and Best Video
produced under $25,000; and Vem for Best Hip-Hop Video. In addition,
Sako Shahinian and Garo Hussenjian’s work on "Say Yeah" is up for Best
Computer Effects.

"I would love to direct music videos and commercials for a couple of
years," Ara says. "But my dream is to direct a feature, which is
etched in stone in my five-year plan."

"Say Yeah" is now on rotation on MTV Jams and "Sky Is Over" has
become a staple on MTV Hits.

connect:
tosfilms.com

******************** ************************************************** *****

4. Music: Dilijan delivers

by Armine Iknadossian

LOS ANGELES — If you read the Los Angeles Times Calendar section, you
must know about the Dilijan Chamber Music Series. Since April 2007,
the Times has reviewed all five concerts performed at the Zipper
Auditorium downtown, and all five received favorable reviews, to say
the least. The last concert of this season will take place on April 27
and will be a Genocide commemoration. With music by Gurdjieff,
Komitas, Bach and Shostakovich, Movses Pogossian, Dilijan’s artistic
director and a prize-winning violinist, assesses that it will carry
with it a "life-affirming, eternal feel" and not at all a somber one.

The Dilijan Chamber Music Series is dedicated to showcasing
traditional pieces of Western classical chamber music, as well as
selections from archives of Armenian chamber works. Founded by members
of the Lark Musical Society, under the guidance of Executive Director
Vatsche Barsoumian, Dilijan’s mission is to present to the public a
variety of distinguished instrumentalists of an international caliber.
Moreover, Dilijan strives to present world premieres of chamber music
commissioned by contemporary Armenian composers.

Pogossian, who resides in Glendale with his wife, Los Angeles
Philharmonic violinist Varty Manouelian, and their three young
children, is winner of the 1986 Tchaikovsky International Competition,
and the youngest ever First Prize winner of the 1985 USSR National
Violin Competition. When he performed Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto
with the Boston Pops in 1990, his debut performance in the states, R.
Dyer of the Boston Globe called his playing "fiery, centered" which
sounds like somewhat of an oxymoron. But that is what Pogossion is
like in person as well.

When contemplating the predicament of presenting audiences with
compositions by living Armenian composers who have not yet taken their
seats in the classical music canon, Pogossian challenges, "What is
progressive is not always accepted. But what is the alternative? To
not do it? To continue to play the Sabre Dance over and over with
different instruments?" It is pertinent to point out that the series
is currently finishing up its third season; it is not only thriving,
but gaining momentum, attracting more and more people to the Zipper
and accumulating accolades from reviewers, patrons and local musicians
alike. "L.A. is very unusual. ….you see a lot of young people at the
concerts. That’s why I like playing here. For example, today at the
concert we will be playing six pieces, four of them by living
composers, the fifth just died three years ago. One of them, Tigran
Mansourian, will be present. Two live in Armenia, one in Hungary. I
could pick up the phone and talk to them. It’s incredibly inspiring!"
His face lights up at this prospect.

This is what he does, propagating new music. According to his bio on
the Dilijan website, Pogossian has premiered over 30 works and worked
closely with composers such as G. Kurtag, A. R. Thomas, A. Arutunian,
T. Mansurian, D. Felder, and V. Sharafyan. His latest releases include
G. Kurtag’s monumental "Kafka Fragments" for soprano and violin on
Bridge label, and a solo violin CD of World Premiere recordings on the
Albany label.

If you paid attention, not all those names end in "-ian", a
strategic move on Pogossian’s part as well as proof that good music is
the aim, not simply national pride. "Since our prime goal is quality,
we really prefer to play the best music with the best possible
performers. We don’t practice affirmative action, where we need to
play only Armenian music….We ought to promote Armenian music, but by
putting it together with Western music, it’s one way of expansion or
advertising our achievements because then they go to their colleagues
and say this is great Armenian music."

Pogossian has performed with orchestras around the world and was
recently appointed to UCLA’s full time faculty. "I’ve always studied
chamber music…it’s more intimate…basically a conversation between a
few people. Every player has it’s own part, so they don’t lose their
personality." Chamber music is written for a small group of
instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace
chamber. With generous support from patrons like Chairman Nazareth
Darakjian, an ardent fan of chamber music, Pogossian is honored to
commission works by Armenian composers who, "for various reasons … are
not played in Armenia. They live in horrible conditions, get paid $10
an hour. I don’t know why, but your own greats are not
acknowledged….It is important to know that at Brahms time, most of the
composers being played were living composers, but today they are not."

Dilijan have achieved a wide acceptance by the Armenian community
and don’t have to fight for recognition. It’s something to brag about
because LA is a big city. One unique aspect of the series is the fact
that some of the pieces don’t have recordings because they are being
performed for the first time. "It’s like being a part of history,"
Pogossian insists, amazing even himself with this statement. During
the first season, at the last concert, Dilijan performed Komitas and
Mansourian, and in the second half, Messiaen’s "Quartet For the End of
Time". But usually, Pogossian tries to include a big Brahms piece or a
big Schubert piece to lure the audience into the newer, lesser known
ones. "It’s like a dinner course where we don’t want to scare people
away with something unusual right away."

Pogossian has big dreams for Dilijan, one being to take the series
to its namesake, the resort town in Armenia located in the Tavush
region. Called "Little Switzerland" by the locals it has served as a
retreat for Armenian composers since the mid-1960s as well as giants
of 20th century music such as Shostakovich and Britten.

connect:
http://dilijan.larkmusicalsocie ty.com/home.php
[email protected]icalSociety.com
818 572-5438
April 27, 2008, 3 p.m.
Genocide commemoration concert
Music by Gurdjieff and Komitas
Bach – Trio Sonata
Shostakovich – Piano Quintet
Performed by: Ensemble Resonance, Movses Pogossian, Varty Manouelian,
Paul Coletti,
Ron Leonard , Joanne Pearce Martin
All concerts performed at:
Zipper Hall , Colburn School of Performing Arts,
200 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, California

************************************** *************************************

5. Poetry Matters: The poems in Roupen’s pockets

by Lory Bedikian

If history is a map, then the history of many poets is a small island
far in the middle of an oceanic mass, visible yet mostly uncharted
territory. I knew that for the columns this month, I not only had to
read the poems of the poets who perished during the Genocide, but it
was also necessary and essential that I find out as much as I can
about their backgrounds, biographies, the details of their private
lives or the letters quoted which were signed with their names.

But the more I researched and read, the more I realized that I would
never find out what I truly wanted to know. I surprised myself of what
interested me – odd details and questions that could never be
answered. Yes, of course, few but important facts of their lives are
available. But not the details that one would find in a memoir or in
the unopened diary of a loved one.

For instance, the more I read about Roupen Sevag – the little that
there is documented – the more I wondered things such as: what was the
song this man hummed to himself in the face of fear, and ultimately,
when he died, what could have been found in the pockets of his coat?
Would one find an unfinished poem, or merely a stamp never used, never
mailed out to a friend a continent away?

Roupen Sevag – the pen name of Roupen Chilingirian – was born in
1885 in Silivri and was arrested in April of 1915 and killed in August
of that same year. He was a poet, writer and physician. An eyewitness
account retells the horrific torture and deaths of Roupen Sevag along
with Daniel Varoujan and others.

Just as I imagine what would have been found in Sevag’s pockets, I
speculate about what types of poems he may have written if he had
lived. One of his poems, "Whisper of Love" translated by Berge
Turabian was featured on the Armenian Poetry Project last year and is
exemplary of a young poet writing on love during the beginning of the
twentieth century.

Whisper Of Love

They sailed away, loaded with mystery and secrets,
The ships of my love sailed away from my gaze,
Their prows high, facing dark and distant shores,
And their sails drunken with the warm sunset breeze.
And I saw how, like ancient and beautiful goddesses,
In their immaculate sanctity, pure as snow,
Wings high, like pilgrims to unknown lands,
The swans of my love silently glided away.
It is evening. I am watching the immense flow,
The sea-breeze is quietly recounting the happy memories
And the boundless waters are rising with an ineffable mystery.
In front of me, gravel and foam are kissing on the shore,
I am looking at the distant horizon beyond which
The ships of my love and the swans of my dreams have silently glided away.
They sailed away, loaded with mystery and secrets…

Sevag writes with many familiar symbols such as shores, sunset,
swans, or the horizon. They are metaphors that have reoccurred in
poetry and poems often. The unique or more refreshing elements in the
poem seem to be those, which are less traditional and predictable,
such as the sudden shorter line and turn in "It is evening." Also, in
the line "In front of me, gravel and foam are kissing on the shore"
Sevag personifies gravel and foam as lovers. These moments help to
take us away from the ship that sails off into the sunset and closer
to the speaker’s world where the elements of nature take on a life of
their own at the close of day.

Who knows what would have become of Roupen Sevag if his life had
lasted long after those brief 30 years. Perhaps his poems would have
continued to lament on the shores of love or, depending on his
experiences, the verse could have suddenly featured crows instead of
swans or lightning storms instead of sunsets. After all, we’ll never
know what filled his pockets – if there were poems that were lost.
There could have been the beginnings of odes to his sweetheart or
small lyrics about how his life was saved one night as the sand
shifted below his feet.

* * *

"Whisper of Love," translated by Berge Turabian, from the Armenian
Poetry Project, July 9, 2007. Reprinted with permission.

* * *

Lory Bedikian received her MFA in Poetry from the University of
Oregon. Her collection of poetry has been selected as a finalist in
both the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition and the Crab
Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award Competition.

************************************ ***************************************

6. Poetry in translation

by Yeghishe Charents; trans. Armine Grigoryan

Of my motherland Armenia, its sun-soaked word I adore,
Of our old, mourning saz, the deep, moving string I adore,
The radiant scent of blood-red roses and sun-dipped flowers I adore,
And the humble, graceful dance of women of Nairi I adore.

I love our sky — deep blue and high, the waters — clear, and the lucent lake,
The sun in summer, and the winter’s ferocious frost outbreak,
The black, dreary walls of the old huts — drowned in the dark,
And the thousand-year-old, tattered stones of the ancient cities I adore.

Never will I ever forget the mournful tunes of our songs,
Will not forget the iron-script books that have become prayers long,
However deep my heart is hurt by our blood-drained wounds of fate,
Still, time and again, though orphaned, weak, but my Armenia I adore.

For my homesick, yearning soul there is no better tale told,
Than Narekatsi’s and Kuchak’s, there are no brighter shining thoughts.
Cross-pass the world, yet Ararat is the whitest peak to be sought,
As an everlasting walk to fame, my Mount Masis I adore!

* * *

Armine Grigoryan lives and works in Yerevan.

**************************************** ***********************************

7. A conversation with Ara Dinkjian

by Lola Koundakjian

NEW YORK — Ara Dinkjian — composer, performer, oud player
extraordinaire, and founder of Night Ark — recently made a rare
appearance on a New York City stage. Much sought-after by
international performers such as Eleftheria Arvanitaki of Greece, he
is a household name in Greece, Turkey, and elsewhere in the Middle
East.

In 2005 Dinkjian performed a concert titled "An Armenian in America"
at the Jerusalem International Oud Festival. He was also a participant
at the first International Oud Meeting, held in Thessaloniki, Greece,
in 2002.

Lola Koundakjian caught up with Dinkjian at his home in New Jersey.

LK: What are your earliest recollections of music? Tell us about
your family’s involvement with the performing arts.

Dinkjian: With a father like Onnik Dinkjian, it was inevitable that
I would be raised in a very musical environment. As an infant, I heard
music at church, at the dances, concerts, picnics, and weddings my
father sang at, on my precious record and tape players, and at house
parties.

LK: When did you first pick up the oud to study? Who was your first teacher?

Dinkjian: When I was a young child, there was an oud in my parents’
bedroom. I was forbidden to go in there for fear that I would break
it. Of course this only made it more desirable. I would sneak into the
bedroom and practice while my father was at work. One day he came home
early to find me playing his oud in his bedroom. He was torn between
being angry for disobeying him and being impressed that I could play
the oud.

My father played the oud a bit, so he was the first oud player I
heard. The only oud lessons I ever had were the few I took with John
Berberian in the 1970s. However, I think I learned quite a bit more by
being on the stage for years with John, my father, and all the others
and just watching, and listening. Ultimately, my real teachers, who I
continue to learn from, are the old masters. I am a passionate
collector of the old 78 rpm records made from 1900 to 1950. I continue
to be inspired and humbled by those old records.

LK: How old were you when you first performed on stage?

Dinkjian: In 1963, when I was five years old, I performed in front
of an audience of thousands at the New York World’s Fair. I had
performed on stage before, but this was my first substantial
appearance. I played the dumbeg [hand drum], accompanying the Ani
Dance Group, a folk dance group led by Sosy Krikorian Kadian. I also
performed at that festival with a group consisting of George
Mgrdichian, John Berberian, Jack Chalikian, Robert Marashlian, John
Vartan, etc.

LK: At what point did you think to yourself, "I want to do this for a career?"

Dinkjian: I never made the conscious decision to make a career out
of music. It’s as if that decision was made for me at birth. Frankly,
I have never considered doing anything else with my life. I believe
that one of the greatest gifts one can have is a sense of one’s
identity. That being the case, I have always felt blessed knowing that
I am Armenian, and I am a student and lover of music.

LK: You studied at the prestigious Hartt College of Music, in
Connecticut and were the first to earn a degree in oud performance.
Tell us about it.

Dinkjian: Although my parents were concerned about what I could do
with a degree in music, they supported my dream of going to music
school. I auditioned on piano at Hartt College of Music. During the
audition, it became clear to the jury that I was not a particularly
gifted classical pianist. I had my oud with me (miraculously), and
when they asked me about it, I played for them. Although the school
offered no ethnic music courses, they were intrigued. I then played
the piano for them again, but this time I played Armenian music —
some of my compositions and improvisations. It was an extremely
unusual audition, especially for a formal classical conservatory.
Well, a few weeks after the audition I received not only a letter of
acceptance, but also a scholarship. The compromise I agreed to with my
parents was that I would major in music education, so that I would
have a way of making a living upon graduation. However, after my first
semester as a music education major, which I hated (I wanted to learn,
play, and compose, not teach), I told the dean of the college that I
wanted to quit. The dean told me that they had taken a big chance with
me and did not want to give up yet. At their suggestion, I wrote up my
own four-year program, including much independent study and courses
>From other colleges, which they accepted. They entered this new major
onto their computer system, and I became the first (and only?) oud
major in the United States.

LK: When did Night Ark come about and how did you find the musicians?

Dinkjian: I continued to write more and more of my own music, until
I, like any composer, wanted to actually hear it! I met percussionist
Arto Tuncboyaciyan at a rehearsal and with him I knew I had a solid
foundation for a group. I auditioned some other musicians until the
quartet was complete.

LK: Tell us about the famous demo tape session.

Dinkjian: I wanted to record these new pieces with this group, just
to have as a document of what I had composed. I had saved about
$2,000, which meant that I could afford only about four hours in the
recording studio. The recording engineer, who, unbeknownst to me, was
the renowned jazz engineer David Baker, went crazy when he heard my
music with the unusual instruments, time signatures, modal systems,
etc. He made some extra copies of the tape and sent one to Steve
Backer, a famous producer at RCA Records. Backer telephoned me, asking
me the name of my group. "What group?" I said, not knowing that he had
a copy of my demo tape. To make a long story short, I came up with the
group name Night Ark, and RCA Records signed me to my first recording
contract.

LK: Your music has been featured by the famous German choreographer
Pina Bausch. Who else?

Dinkjian: In 1988, choreographer Linda Mensch and her modern dance
troupe, Menschwerks, presented an evening of my compositions set to
modern dance at the Good Shepherd Church in New York City.

LK: You’ve played at international jazz festivals throughout the
world. How is your music received today versus 25 years ago?

Dinkjian: My music has always been enthusiastically received
throughout Europe and Asia, as opposed to the United States, where
there has been little interest. I have been asked to present a
[different] concert every year at the Jerusalem International Oud
Festival. In 2005 I presented "An Armenian in America." In 2006 I
presented "Voice of Armenians," featuring my father, Onnik. In 2007 I
presented "Peace on Earth." I am currently developing the theme for
the 2008 festival and have been given carte blanche.

LK: Is the popularity of the oud greater or lesser today than at the
start of your career?

Dinkjian: The oud is the king of instruments in many parts of the
world. Even though Western culture has encroached on most parts of the
world, the oud has had a resurgence due to the Internet. There are
many oud sites, and oud players around the world share their playing,
questions, enthusiasm, recordings, and information. If your question
was meant to suggest that my oud playing has made the oud more
popular, I would have to disagree. My contribution and influence lie
more in some of the more obscure instruments I have played, such as
the cumbus, as well as the fact that I have combined Eastern and
Western musical elements.

LK: Tell us about the oud players and composers who have influenced you.

Dinkjian: The two oud players that I admire most are the blind
Armenian Udi Hrant [Kenkulian] and the Greek Udi Yorgo Bacanos, both
>From Istanbul. They had two completely different styles. Hrant played
very emotional, lyrical taksims [a modal improvised form] and wrote
some highly revered sarkis [a vocal song form]. Yorgo was a true
virtuoso, whose brilliance remains unsurpassed.

LK: How about some top Armenian and international oud players that
we should know about?

Dinkjian: With so much easy access to information and recordings,
today’s oud players around the world have in general reached a very
high level. What seems to be more difficult to achieve is a personal
sound and musical identity. Some that have achieved this include Haig
Yazdjian [Greece via Syria], Yurdal Tokcan [Turkey], and Simon Shaheen
[USA via Palestine]. Of course there are dozens more.

LK: You are now 50 years young, with over 25 years of professional
musical experience. What are your short-term and long-term plans?

Dinkjian: Actually, I’m still 49, with over 40 years of professional
musical experience. Anyway, my plans have never changed. I want to
compose, perform, and record as much as I can.

connect:
aradinkjian.com
International Oud Meeting:
medimuses.gr/meet/oud/oud_meet.html
Jerus alem International Oud Festival:
confederationhouse.org/english/festivals /oud

******************************************** *******************************

8. Arts in brief

* New Vahe Berberian exhibition to open in West Hollywood

LOS ANGELES — A solo exhibition of new paintings by Vahe Berberian,
titled "Four Months in Heaven," will open on May 3 (6:00 to 10:00
p.m.) at the Ambrogi Castanier Gallery in West Hollywood.

The show will come on the heels of the successful run of Baron
Garbis, a play written and directed by Berberian and staged in front
of sold out audiences in Los Angeles (currently being staged at the
AGBU Theatre in Pasadena, Baron Garbis will end its run on April 20).

Featuring a new series of minimalist, abstract paintings, "Four
Months in Heaven" "employs the idea of revisiting simplicity; that a
painter spends time in isolation, in an almost monk-like state of
solitude, and the desire to express is manifested through the paint,"
according to the artist’s statement.

"Four Months in Heaven" will remain open until May 24.

Ambrogi Castanier Gallery is located at 300 N. Robertson Blvd., West
Hollywood, Calif. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10
a.m.-6:30 p.m., Saturday and -Sunday noon-5 p.m.

connect:
ambrogicastaniergallery.com
vaheber berian.com
barongarbis.com

* Sylvie Vartan performs in Japan

TOKYO — French-Armenian pop icon Sylvie Vartan gave a series of
concerts in late March in Japan, as part of her "Nouvelle Vague Tour
2008." During her appearances at Tokyo’s Orchard Hall, Vartan
showcased songs from her latest album, Nouvelle Vague, which includes
French-language covers of 60s and 70s hits such as Bob Dylan’s Blowin’
in the Wind and the Beatles’ Drive My Car.

"I wanted to recreate the atmosphere of the era when music was
cheery — the kind of music that makes you smile and brings back good
memories," Vartan said.

In Tokyo Vartan sang many of her own past hits, among them the
Vietnam War-era protest song Les hommes qui n’ont plus rien a perdre.
A World Health Organization Goodwill Ambassador since 2005, Vartan is
actively involved in international humanitarian projects.

*************************************** ************************************

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