The right questions—a world of answersPhoto credit: Norayr Kasper, "I Will Talk to You About Time." Fotoistanbul 2015.
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.
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.
Eric Nazarian: 'Storytelling is a medicine and a drug' His projects run the gamut—from documentaries on nearly-forgotten cultural relics to award-winning short films to beautiful animation videos for nonprofit campaigns. The list goes on. Eric Nazarian’s uphill climb in the world of cinema has been meticulous yet approached with the levity of a schoolboy, still excited at the prospect of living out his childhood dream every day. Tall, gregarious, yet almost unbelievably humble, his cadence is distinctly Angelino, but his prose reads like a carefully crafted Faulkner novel—fitting, as the writer was one of his childhood influences. Somehow, we managed to snag the busy filmmaker for a chat, and with the help of a little ale from the Irish pub across the street, he opened up about a variety of topics—not the least of which, his artistic muses and mistresses, inspirations and heroes.
Ruben Malayan: Saving an intangible Armenian art form, one stroke at a time Since the days of Mesrop Mashtots (the fifth century inventor of the Armenian alphabet*), the Armenian script has played a vital role in the cultural and artistic legacy of her people. Like ancient relics in a museum, each decorative stroke illustrates a story that is steeped in thousands of years of history, literature, art, and religion. Fast forward 1,600 years and this ancient tradition is at a crossroads for survival, with knowledge and usage almost all but forgotten. Yet, once again, one man is at the helm of a movement—a new zartonk (“renaissance”) in Armenian calligraphy. Using a wide range of multimedia, artist Ruben Malayan is ushering in a new era for this unique, yet overlooked art form
Vahé Berberian: 'You need to have some kind of a mirror' He is a seasoned stand-up comedian who makes awkward confessions and tells hilarious real-life anecdotes in a daring effort to break taboos. He is best known for his use of local words and flavors of the Armenian language to help us laugh at ourselves, yet he's a versatile artist who paints and writes with equal passion. Even at his most serious moment, when reflecting on everything from the creative process to why it matters to be Armenian, Vahé Berberian never fails to strike an ironic chord. We meet him twice in his birthplace Beirut, between his shows and lectures, in an attempt to connect with the wizard of art and humor behind the celebrity.