Music: In Armenia, a peace prize .. and a music festival?

Agence France Presse -- English
June 3, 2017 Saturday 1:56 AM GMT


In Armenia, a peace prize .. and a music festival?

New York, June 3 2017

A year after Armenians launched a generous new peace prize, the
frontman of rockers System of a Down sees more to come in the country
-- including perhaps a music festival.

Serj Tankian, singer of the chart-topping California hard rock band,
composed a theme song for the Aurora Prize, which was inaugurated a
year ago in the Armenian capital Yerevan.

The award, backed by Hollywood A-lister George Clooney, is presented
on behalf of Armenians who survived the bloodletting that claimed 1.5
million lives in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

Armenia and Western historians describe the killings as genocide, but
Turkey vehemently objects to the term.

The second edition of the award was presented on May 28 to Tom Catena,
the sole doctor in Sudan's conflict-ravaged Nuba Mountains who has
cared for thousands of people, treating everything from war injuries
to measles.

Catena, an American and Catholic missionary, will receive $100,000
plus an additional $1 million which will feed charities of his choice.

Tankian, who congratulated Catena in a video appearance at the
ceremony as the band prepared for a European tour, said the Aurora
Prize showed gratitude to those who helped survivors.

"Any group of people that have suffered immensely, whether it's
genocide or any other type of human-created catastrophe, should embody
compassion and an understanding of that pain better than anyone else,"
Tankian told AFP.

The Lebanese-born Tankian, whose grandparents survived with help from
a Turkish mayor and an American missionary orphanage, said that too
often, people fail to draw lessons from their ancestors' pain.

"I find it really disheartening that there are people who have
suffered immensely, or whose grandparents have suffered immensely, and
yet their position in life has been unequivocally egotistical and
myopic in terms of how they see their lives and how they spend their
money," he said.

- Integrating Armenia with music festivals -

Tankian said he wanted to do more in Armenia and was in the early
stages of looking to set up a music festival.

The singer voiced hope that Armenia, rarely a destination for Western
artists, could be integrated into the European summer festival circuit
with touring bands carrying on to the Caucasus country.

"I've always dreamed of setting up an international music festival in
Armenia," he said.

"As much as I have tried to do political work and social work," he
said, "I would also like to carve out time to do art work, music
work."

For the centennial in 2015, System of a Down played its first-ever
concert in Armenia. Tankian said he felt overcome with a sense of
history, seeing young people and remembering his grandparents. He
viewed his band as "part of that catalyst between old and new."

"It felt like our whole career was built to play that one show in some
ways," he said.

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