Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Today on Yerkir Media television, singer Rubik Hakhverdyan commented on Armenian Independence Day and what has been accomplished in the years since independence was declared. He said the Yerevan of Tamanyan no longer exists, that not one of the new structures (meaning mainly the new apartment buildings scattered all over central Yerevan and elsewhere) has the beauty of those buildings constructed before independence. Hakhverdyan especially complained about what has happened with the Armenian language, saying that the Soviets, in spite of whatever faults they may have had, maintained the Armenian language at a high level. “You on television,” he said, “don’t speak good Armenian. You put accents on your words like they do in England or the US, like you’re trying to show how Western you are or something similar, I don’t know what.”

Hakhverdyan went on to talk about the low level of culture produced since independence, forcing those with real talent, especially folk artists, into the background or completely out of the country, then continued by mentioning the recent announcements of “vastakavor artist” (meritorious artist).

“I’d like to have seen Harout Pampoukjian get this award, even though he doesn’t live in Armenia,” he said. “But I know many here who are worthy, but don’t have the right connections. This is sad.”

I am reminded of when, a couple of months ago, a friend at the culture ministry phoned Hasmik and asked her to prepare a document stating all the work she had done for Armenian culture, about the folklore CDs she had performed for and produced, her presenting of Armenian folk music around the world, her founding and directing the Hayrik Mouradyan Children’s Ensemble, then saying that she thought that with this resume that Hasmik would without doubt earn the “vastakavor artist” calling. Hasmik told her friend that she wouldn’t receive the calling, due to not having the right connections and other reasons, but she would apply, just to show her friend that such a thing was impossible in the current cultural atmosphere. When announcements were made, Hasmik’s name wasn’t amongst the “winners.”

Thinking of Hasmik’s earlier prediction, I remembered a concert several years ago when a quite mediocre actor who is at minimum a “vastakavor artist,” and likely possesses the higher “jhoghovrdakan artist” title, told Hasmik before the concert, “You are not going to sing tonight” — this because his daughter was trying to establish herself as a singer, and was going to sing a number or two that night. Such is the current state of culture in Armenia, when someone like actor Khoren Aprahamyan, whose acting abilities were far above and beyond the usual mediocrities here, was denied the directorship of the Sundukian Theater troupe, Aprahamyan then moving to Los Angeles and eventually dying an early death at around age sixty.

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