Sunday, September 14, 2008

Upon returning to Yerevan, I learned of an earlier-published article, written about world-class bass singer Barsegh Tumanyan (left), in which conductor Edward Topjian accused Tumanyan of selling out, as Tumanyan had apparently sided with protesters, and not the government, concerning the March 1 events in Yerevan. This continued the naming of those opposing the current rulers as being unpatriotic, or worse, as put by one of Armenia’s better known pop singers, who said, “Those who were beaten or killed on March 1 shouldn’t have been out protesting . . . they deserve what they got.”

Continuing on the Tumanyan-Topjian issue, a concert was to be held celebrating Tumanyan’s fiftieth birthday, but Topjian persuaded his orchestra to not participate in the concert, which now will not take place. Later, when the culture ministry asked Tumanyan to sing for celebrations for the 100th birthday of His Holiness Vazgen I, Tumanyan refused, undoubtedly remembering the culture ministry’s earlier silence concerning Topjian’s actions. “Suddenly,” a prominent figure in culture stated, “Tumanyan became worthy of singing, no doubt because there were going to be a lot of foreign guests at the concerts/celebrations for Vazgen I.”

I was reminded of when the ministry asked Shoghaken to take part in Armenian culture days in Belarus, and when asked why they weren’t taking any of their state-sponsored groups there, they answered, “What, and end up being a laughing stock?”


Lana Chowdhury said...

Are we being fair, then, when we accuse the artists of being unpatriotic if they leave for greener pastures? Brain drain, as well as talent drain, does not happen by accident and is not a result of one incident, but rather an indication of the ills in the social and political system. I know Barsegh well, and I know of his success overseas - a talent like Barsegh Tumanyan could live a much appreciated, productive, and, of course, financially secure life in Europe on the USA; instead, he opted to stay in Armenia. Kudos to you, Barsegh, you are much braver that many of us who simply fled! "Tired of all these, for restful death I cry,...And art made tongue-tied by authority, And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill..." lamented Shakespeare. Lana Chowdhury, aka Svetlana Sarkisian, USA.

Andranik Michaelian said...

I remember when a Yerevan-born artist told me that “even though I travel to Europe where I am able to have exhibitions and sell my paintings, I always return to live in Armenia, as I know my art will suffer if I live elsewhere.” Although I understand and agree with his statement, I agree that no one can blame the artist who leaves Armenia, as the reality that struck Barsegh Tumanyan strikes singers, writers, and painters every day in Armenia, where culture is now controlled by the dictates of untalented people who have no love for art and would undoubtedly pursue other paths if their games in Armenia came to an end. Being familiar with the situation of folk musicians in Armenia, whose numbers are becoming fewer, I see it becoming more and more difficult to stand against the fraud in today’s culture scene in Armenia … where pop stars steal people’s songs and creations while declaring themselves, or having themselves declared as “singers of pristine folk music” and the like … a pity, in other words, that so many good artists have left Armenia, as if there were a large number of these good artists in Armenia, those lesser talents running the show would be a little less bold. And if true artists, be they painters, singers, or composers, stayed in Armenia, people like Barsegh Tumanyan wouldn’t be standing alone.