Thursday, March 18, 2010

Even though greeted by a strong snowstorm and what turned out to be Slovenia’s last day of winter, the weather settled down as the Shoghaken Ensemble rehearsed and prepared for a concert at Cankarjev dom, a cultural organization in Ljubljana that arranges cultural programs for the government of Slovenia, and which this year is presenting the culture of Armenia. On March 12, Shoghaken performed a concert of Armenian folk song and dance, resulting in what locals said was a rarely seen, if ever, standing ovation in Slovenia.

In the two-part concert, Shoghaken followed the Sharakan ensemble, billed as an ensemble presenting “ancient Armenian music,” thus, their preceding Shoghaken at the event. A pre-concert discussion unfolded among ensemble members about how Sharakan’s music from the Middle Ages, combined with ashoughagan songs and even new songs written by the group’s director, played older music than Shoghaken — Sharakan’s arguments not helped by the fact they sang a new patriotic song or two, along with their sometimes strange mixture of songs.

During our days there, along with Hasmik’s folk song and dance workshops, Shoghaken enjoyed the sights of Ljubljana, also meeting with a few of the Armenians living in Slovenia. Unfortunately, one was a fellow who got himself “invited” to the country, after which he obtained legal status and remained in the country. Another man, a hard-working type, said he had come from Poland, but was so embarrassed by what Armenians were doing there, that he left and came to Slovenia. Apparently Armenians from Armenia were going to Poland and paying local girls (or men, depending) to get married, then receiving citizenship and staying in the country, often afterward not leading exemplary lives. It got to the point, he said, that the Polish government stopped accepting such marriages, insisting these couples go to Armenia and get married before applying for residence in Poland, stopping many from this practice as they had illegally left Armenia and couldn't return to the country to get married. Many, he said, were actually deported from Poland.

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