Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Conversations heard at a Yerevan fundraiser for a charity that finds and assists Armenian families in extreme poverty, in Armenia and Karabagh, proved quite interesting. First, a French Armenian, talking about the possible opening of the border between Armenia and Turkey, said, “You know, it might be a good idea. If the border opens, Turks will do the most menial jobs here, cleaning streets, doing garbage pickup, that sort of thing.” I answered him, saying that the less fortunate here need those jobs, that there’s no need to feel superior and say that Turks will work at menial jobs such as those he mentioned, that they have other plans, like opening factories, buying land, and other activities (like taking over Armenia without firing a shot) far more sophisticated than cleaning streets.

Then, as the fundraiser came to an end, the person in charge whispered in our ear that a foreign born Armenian who had donated a hall for the evening’s events had insisted on taking his “cut” from the night’s income, to “cover his expenses.” This led to several Hayastantsis condemning foreign born Armenians, saying that they come here only to make money, while saying they’re here “to help the homeland and its people.” The French Armenian responded that there are plenty of Hayastantsis with the same mentality, joking not only about the average person taking advantage of Armenian tourists, but about Armenian oligarchs bleeding the country dry.

In any event, life continues here, with the talk of border opening, Karabagh, the upcoming oppostion rally (to be held on Friday), the Armenians of Javakhk, lack of good employment, and similar topics dominating the political and everyday life of people here.

With all this in mind, the Yerevan Journal blog will take a temporary hiatus until approximately November 26, as Hasmik and I will be departing soon for San Francisco and Oregon for concerts featuring Hasmik and the Kitka Ensemble, not to mention an appearance at the World Music Festival in San Francisco, at which Hasmik will appear with the children’s choir from the Krouzian Zekarian School, performing songs of Komitas.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

It happens that certain of Armenia’s oligarch/monopolists (roots outside Armenia proper) have decided to add to their resume and take over the country’s fast-connection Internet service. Independent providers are facing financial challenges, to put it mildly, with their actual physical providing mechanisms now being interfered with by the monopolists. Many individuals have been forced to change providers, as their Internet connections became close to impossible to use. My connection recently became almost unusable, but I decided to give my service provider as much time as possible to straighten out the problem. Last night, dedicated workers struggled, until 4 a.m., trying what they could with an antenna on top of a nearby 13-story apartment building, until finally reaching success.

Friday, September 11, 2009

An Armenian from a village in Yeghegnadzor expressed his disgust about sects in Armenia: “During the war, a member of a sect that prohibits bearing arms, no matter the danger, was told to stand guard at an outpost bordering Nakhichevan. One night the Turks came. The sect member didn’t raise his rifle or fire a shot at the Turks. Not only was he killed, but his fellow soldiers all died. I suppose members of his sect would say he did the right thing. But to me, he was a traitor, and a stupid one at that.

“And the West, the US and Europe, tell us that this is part of democracy, that these cowards have ‘rights?’”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Concerning the massacre of Armenians in Adana in 1909, the Austro-Hungarian diplomatic missions stationed in Aleppo and Adana, eye witnesses to the massacres, stated that some 25,000 Armenians were killed, in the vilayet of Adana alone. But for the tragic nature of the events, Turkish estimates would be considered comical: 1,700 dead, mostly Moslems....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

News reached the Armenian communities of the world that the Israeli government had decided to deport two seminarians from the Armenian monastery in Jerusalem for getting into a brawl with Jews who had spat on them during a procession to the Holy Sepulcher. This reminded me of the general atmosphere in Jerusalem, at least the atmosphere that reigned in 1984, when I stayed and studied at the monastery for several months. Although supposedly a city of brotherly love, representatives of the different religions were constantly at each other’s throats. One day Armenian deacons placed bats and pieces of wood in their boots before leaving on a procession, due to the possibility that day of something happening similar to what happened recently to the Armenian seminarians.

Also, in 1984, during a procession from the Armenian monastery to the Holy Sepulcher, the same thing happened to us...fundamental Jews spat on the seminarians. Luckily, Israeli police stepped between the Jews and the Armenians, preventing a scene that would no doubt have been the same as the recent altercation.

Due to the politics of the world, this event won’t make world headlines, as the destruction of Armenian khachkars by the Azeris was similarly barely mentioned in world press. One wonders if a filmmaker’s opinion was right when he said that “The Armenian army should have entered Nakhichevan when the Azeris started bulldozing our khachkars. If they knew we weren’t such cowards, and were going to fight for what’s ours, they wouldn’t have done this. If we were destroying Azeri monuments in Armenia, not that there are any, they wouldn’t have sat still like we did. We need to learn from the Turks, and be a little barbaric like them.”

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hayrik Mouradian told how he taught Ruben Altunyan, son of Tatul Altunyan and director of a 1980s folk/ashoughagan group, the song “Adanayi Voghbu.” Hayrik was disappointed in Altunyan’s arrangement of the song, the version most are now familiar with, saying, “Now if you listen to the song, and don’t know the words or what the song is about, you can’t even tell it’s about something tragic. The original song was the story of the tragedy of Adana, and when you heard it, you knew it was about something sad, something tragic.”

Hasmik sang the original version for our guest from Europe, who couldn’t listen until the end. The song, in its original version, was similar to Avetis Aharonian’s “Nazei Oror,” a lullaby recollecting the horrors of the Armenian Genocide.

Earlier, our guest was in another room, and, hearing a song on television, asked, “Are you listening to Turkish television?” It happened that she heard the pop/rabiz singer Razmik, whose singing style is influenced by his upbringing in Karabagh, where music from Baku ruled (and to some extent still does).

Later, of all things, on a concert on “Armenia” television, pop singer Nune Yesayan, after singing a medley of folk-style songs, sang a few lines in Turkish, leading to some conversation on Armenian news networks the next day. Hearing the Turkish lyrics, our guest commented that it was strange that a people who had a culture like the Armenians would so seriously imitate the music of their neighbors, saying, “many nations have lost their folk music, and are doing their best to revive what they lost, and the Armenians don’t seem to appreciate what they have. When they lose it, they will.”

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Probably the most meaningful comment after last night’s Shoghaken Ensemble concert in Yerevan was, “Tonight, I felt like an Armenian.”

In the end, Shoghaken had done what it set out to do: give the audience a taste of Armenian folklore in a non-academic style, and show that in true folklore, one must be able to sing, dance, and play a musical instrument, not sit and perform your specialty when called on. As opposed to the usual “song and applause” or “dance and applause” of basic concerts, the program was set up in musical cycles, or medleys, of wedding songs, dance songs, work songs, and others, so that a thought or mood could be set and completed without interruption. The musicians and singers “communicated” with each other on stage as they performed the music of Komitas, Toumajan, and Hayrik Mouradian, taking the audience on a journey from Moush and Sassoun to Shatakh and Van and Kharberd.

In “Angin Yars,” the musicians alternated between “Angin Yars” and “Tamzara,” weaving in parts of the Armenian mugham on duduk, kamancha, shvi, and kanon.

As the concert concluded, to the dance songs of Mayroke and Yarkhooshta, the younger set could be seen in the upper parts of the amphitheater dancing in long rows, and even more inspiring was when after the concert, in front of the hall, some of the same youth, as young as 10 years old, were singing “Hay Merik, Merik, Merik,” a song about returning to the lost lands of Moush and Sassoun.

One could be negative and tell about how stage workers refused to remove the layered wooden stage at the rear of the main stage, used by the symphony orchestra, as this temporary wooden stage definitely didn’t add to the atmosphere or looks of things, or how the Culture Minister didn’t find the time to attend a concert by the ensemble the ministry constantly requests to “uphold our honor and perform for this or that president, in this or that country (without pay),” but when the typical response by concert attendees was “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I didn’t want the concert to end...” not to mention what I’ll simply call quite positive comments by composer Tigran Mansuryan, anything negative that might have happened merely showed the difference between the average, patriotic Armenian and those who seem to only use their being Armenian as a business.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

At yesterday’s on-stage rehearsal for Friday’s Shoghaken Ensemble concert, at the Aram Khachatryan concert hall, the group was interrupted by a small army of workers who came to set up the stage for a pop concert planned for the next day. We were amazed at the effort they put into their “show,” hoping only for their sake that their music matched up with their rich staging. In any event, with just a day remaining, activity is at a fever pitch for Shoghaken’s Friday evening performance, the very existence of an actual folk concert becoming a point of interest for much of the city’s population.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A recent report on Azatutyan Radio told of a commander beating a recruit to death, on Armenian territory in southern Armenia. As usual, nobody expects anything to happen, punishment-wise, to the commander. This follows a similar event in Shamshadin, at the border post there. According to a resident of Shamshadin, a Yerevantsi soldier had asked his commander for leave, but was turned down. Later, while the commander was on vacation, his replacement granted the soldier a 10-day leave. When the commander returned, he was infuriated that the soldier had accepted permission from his replacement. Soon after, the soldier was found dead, in a dangerous border area near the village of Chinari, close to Khoranashat monastery. Locals believe that the soldier was murdered and then his corpse taken to the border area, so Azeris could be blamed for the killing.

“Azatutyan Radio won’t carry this story,” the Shamshadintsi said. “But we know what happened. People shouldn’t wonder why parents do anything they can, including bribery, so their sons don’t have to serve in the Armenian army. I know these things happen in Azerbaijan, Russia, and elsewhere. But we’re a small nation. We can’t afford this.”