29 October 2014, 14:29
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"...All of this is Yerevan": Musings of a Tar-Player

We approached musician and tar-player, Miqayel Voskanyan, for an interview and what resulted was this deep monologue. In what we can only describe as a contemplative conversation with himself, Voskanyan's reflects on his childhood in the slums, his nostalgia for old Yerevan, and lastly, his hopes for the future. What we found most intriguing, however, was the first-hand insight into what it means to be creative in a society in transition.

I grew up in the slums of Yerevan's Yerord Mas [the Third District of the city], surrounded by its unique coloring and interesting people. My childhood home was on the bank of Yerevan Lake, and that is the reason why I have been so tied to nature since I was little. Even though we lived in Yerevan, it always felt like we were somewhere outside the city. It was a totally unique place with caves, waterfalls, a large common yard, and a few houses. Everyone knew each other, children, dogs, cats. We had a habit of catching snakes, sledding in winter, and getting into trouble. Then there were the dark and cold years, the [Nagorno-Karabakh] war.

We would often go to Yerevan Lake. Since it is a reservoir, the water is let out twice a year. Whenever they did this the bottom of the lake would turn to sludge and become difficult to traverse. In those days, our entire neighborhood would get on a bus called the “Icarus” and, from the spot that is now the American Embassy, go down to the lake and eagerly collect crayfish.

The people who lived near us were from all walks of life. There was a criminal, a scholar, merchants, repatriates, people from other regions, and so on. The culture within that diversity had a great effect on me. For example, all our neighbors made dolma with grape leaves, but the dish tasted completely different depending on who made it. From the taste, you could always tell which neighbor was the cook.

My grandfather was a bus driver. The battery of his bus turned out to be a savior for our neighborhood. Everyone would gather at our house to watch soap operas. The more people we had over on a given night, the better I would sleep.

My love for music began in kindergarten. The kindergarten was in a forest. Every day I would walk through that forest and see rabbits and squirrels. It was a completely different reality.  As long as I can remember I have been singing. I am one of those happy souls who began with childhood songs. It’s not like that anymore, but I used to sing folk songs, national songs and traditional songs.

Everything was clear; I saw my future in music. I graduated from School No. 66 that was named after Alexander Myasnikyan.  During events and gatherings I was often a representative for our school. Thus, besides music, I participated in many different types of Olympiads. Later I enrolled in Yerord Mas’s cultural center for pioneers, and then also, a music school and a children’s philharmonic song and dance group.  Later, I studied history at Yerevan State University. At the same time, I was also attending the conservatory part-time. You could say I studied there for five years.

I met my soon to be wife for the first time in Yerord Mas. I was in a taxi and she was crossing the street. We almost hit her. Her angry face made an impression on my mind, and when my friends later introduced me to some girl, I recognized her from the angry face I had seen on the street.

Honestly, I really love Yerevan and consider it to be my city. This is the place where I need to be, live, create and work. I have been to many other cities that are more beautiful and developed, but there is some force, comparable to breathlessness, that makes me come back to Yerevan. 

I miss Yerevan even when I am here. I am constantly idealizing it. It makes me sad to come across those who express only negative sentiments. Ugly actions that take place in the city, I take very personally. Yerevan is a part of me. 

When I’m outside the center, I don’t contemplate often as I do when I am there. I love the center because compared with the outskirts it is relatively maintained. I love the history of Yerevan and its people. Yerevan’s spirit is born from that history, and in turn gives breath to the city.

Whenever I walk through Yerevan and see signs posted on buildings stating that this or that famous person used to live here, I try to imagine myself in that time period and feel the presence of our predecessors, the atmosphere they created, and environment.

I like the area around Paplavok, Cascade, but I don’t like the slums anymore. That’s where I left my childhood, my best memories. It’s been about month now that I live in Nor Nork. There is nature here, and that is why it is close to my heart.

The weather is not of one note in Yerevan. All four seasons are expressed in Yerevan. The summer is unbearably hot, and you want to get away from the heat. Autumn here is one of the most beautiful in the world.  Spring comes with its gentle weather. The winter has a cold-breath.

Yerevan is a mature woman, but she is young, conscious of the future and a believer in the good. At the end of spring and beginning of autumn I sense a certain smell in the air, a fragrance that only exists in Yerevan. That essence mixed with dust has such a positive effect, especially on the creative person.

Indeed, it is a musical city. The best and most honest songs about Yerevan were written in the 1960s. I can hear intonations of a melody sounding from Abovyan and Sayat Nova streets. I wrote a piece called In Yerevan, inspired by Yerevan. Through the work I have tried to express memories of the old city, warmth from childhood, and a perspective looking to the future. 

Yerevan inspires one to create, but during the process of execution it hinders. For example, New York gives one the opportunity to become endlessly immersed in work. But here, you get to a certain point, and stop.

If I had a magic wand, with one fell swoop I would move all the new buildings from downtown to the outskirts of the city. In their place I would put back the houses of old Yerevan. Many Yerevan locals don’t like their city, because they don’t understand what it is for them. For many of them it is simply the city where they were born and now live. Being born in a place is never reason enough for it to feel dear.

People waiting in line to drink from the water fountain, Golden Apricot, people who experience world fame in small streets, people who swear, brawling but also loving character, life… All this is Yerevan.

 "Yerevan" Magazine, N10, 2014

Այս հոդվածի հայերեն տարբերակի համար սեղմեք այստեղ։

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