The right questions—a world of answersPhoto credit: Norayr Kasper, "I Will Talk to You About Time." Fotoistanbul 2015.
‘Critical Distance’: Raffi Joe Wartanian challenges himself to make more with less Armenian-born, Baltimore-bred, world-traveled, Raffi Joe Wartanian, digs deep in his new album, “Critical Distance,” which is expected to drop in time for Armenian Christmas. We had a chance to chat with Raffi about the record’s all-acoustic sound, the magic of the oud, and which tracks his grandmother, Knarig, loves jamming to!
Jivan Avetisyan's mission: Telling Artsakh’s story—one film at a time If one thing stuck with me during my introduction to director Jivan Avetisyan about a decade ago, it was that in spite of his humble nature, he was very proud of where he was from. Fast forward several years and it seems little has changed. “I am from Artsakh. You know, my roots run deep in Artsakh,” he tells me, without even giving me the chance to utter my first question. As we converse in his downtown Yerevan office over strong Armenian coffee and in between a barrage of phone calls he has to ignore, years on, his focus—and his creative output—continues to be zeroed in on one thing: his beloved, still-unrecognized nation…
Between the ephemeral and the eternal: Levon Eskenian’s de/re-construction of Gurdjieff and Komitas You do not see him on stage, yet Levon Eskenian has been taking his world-class Gurdjieff Ensemble to major festivals and music venues around the world, rendering ethnographically authentic music on traditional Eastern folk instruments and evoking the deep stirrings of ancient rituals. While invitations continue to pour in, we meet the man behind this unprecedented musical excavation, which has opened a new page in classical music.
When the aberrant come out to play: A chat with Lebanese-Armenian musician Gurumiran Long before mainstream publications like GQ and Bandcamp were making hipsteresque lists like “Ten Artists Redefining the Sound of the Middle East” or “Five Middle Eastern musicians to stream right now,” Miran Gurunian was quietly tearing up the underground Middle Eastern rock scene. From his early days as co-founder and guitarist of the pioneering rock band, Blend, to his current solo career as Gurumiran, this Lebanese-Armenian rocker has been pushing the envelope at every corner.
Sevan Kabakian: 'At Birthright Armenia, we give flight to people' If you’re a diasporan Armenian between the ages of 21-32 and seek a unique and thrilling experience in the homeland, then look no further than Birthright Armenia! For the past 15+ years, this volunteer internship enhancement program has provided over 1,000 diasporan youth from across the globe with countless professional and personal enrichment opportunities, connections with other engaged souls, and an abundance of unforgettable memories.
Resurrecting the exiled: A conversation with John Hodian of the Naghash Ensemble When Armenian-American composer John Hodian first heard Hasmik Baghdasaryan’s striking timbre, ringing across the sacred columns of Armenia’s Garni Temple, he was transfixed—he knew he had to work with her, but had no idea how. It took several years of ruminating and rummaging through some dusty manuscripts before he came across a fragment of a poem by Mkrtich Naghash, a long-forgotten 15th-century Armenian priest and poet from Dikranagerd (modern-day Diyarbakir). Hodian—at that point, a listless NYC composer who had just moved to Armenia—had finally found his inspiration: or in show tune-speak, the Hammerstein to his Rodgers.
Garabala: ‘Our interaction with other cultures shouldn’t be seen as a threat to our identity’ Garabala has increasingly become part and parcel of musical life in Beirut—a cherished phenomenon that brings the thrill of experimental concerts to the party spirit of modern-day kefs. After a captivating performance at this year’s installment of Innovate Armenia in LA, we met some of the band members before they hit the stage for a hometown concert.
Arevik Tserunyan: Where the sun and clouds converge, art lives They say that the minds of the most creative people live up in the clouds. Artist Arevik Tserunyan has taken that to heart—and then some. Her exhibition, aptly titled “Clouds,” which premieres next month at the Armenian Museum of America, will tackle the weighty topic of the Armenian Genocide with a much-welcomed breath of fresh air—and the clouds and spirits that reside in it.
Zulal: The floating triangle From performances at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the MET’s upcoming exhibition on Armenia, to concerts in churches, museums, and universities, it seems as though the Zulal a cappella trio is really after only one thing: to immortalize the essence of Armenian folk songs. But they are not mere archivists or preservationists. On the contrary, their joy in breathing new life into ancient tunes and narratives, the sweet nuances of their voices, the graceful choreography of their movements, all come together to reveal a cornucopia of songs that defy age and language. They feed the soul with intricate rhythms celebrating love and our relationship with nature, evoking an appreciation for the beauty of a simpler and slower life. How do they do this? My in-depth interview with the trio, conducted on the morning of their last concert in Beirut, reveals the secrets behind their meticulously refined performances and the wealth of their shared perspectives.