A meeting in a tea room in the city center with a television executive turned into a three-hour exchange of ideas between the executive, Hasmik, film director Araik Shirinian, and composer Tigran Mansuryan.
“I remember going to one of the most remote villages of Talin, to hear songs of Sassoun from those who grew up with that music,” Mansuryan said. “An old man refused to sing, saying that in Soviet times singing the songs of Western Armenia, especially those that were patriotic in nature, were prohibited. He said they started singing the songs in Kurdish, and that was the only way he remembered them, and he was ashamed not to be able to sing them in Armenian.
“The Soviets destroyed our folk culture. They said it was something low, that it smelled of the village. They choreographed our songs and our dances. We’re lucky there are those, even though few, that perform folk culture as it was intended. But our urban existence has taken us from the roots of folk culture. I went into a village once and asked a man to sing a horovel. He looked at me strangely and said, ‘How can I do that, I’m not in the fields, behind a plow.’ This was great folk wisdom, something very few understand today.
“These are the times, and there is nothing we can do about it. But it’s sad. I was at a music festival in Amsterdam, in which Armenians and Azeris were participating. On a table in the lobby, CDs of Azeri folk music, vocal and instrumental, were for sale. They must have been stacked a foot high. Good music, vocal and instrumental. Do you know how many Armenian CDs were there? Almost none. It was embarrassing.
“I think the day will come, when I don’t know, when Armenians realize who they are, and start singing their songs, and dancing their dances. I just hope it doesn’t take a national tragedy for them to understand who they are, and what a classic culture they have.
“Don’t go to the ministries, or anybody else, and expect them to understand. We, as artists, need to continue our work, knowing one day it will be appreciated.”