03 November 2014, 17:33
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Is Armenian Rock 'n' Roll All Dried Up?

Any Armenian rock band will tell you their creativity is like an endless well. Locked away in recording studios, everyone is actively producing. All this is fine and good, but we music fans are anxiously wondering—when will we see the end of this prolonged creative process and enjoy its fruits? Only a few would readily admit that Armenian rock, to put it mildly, is seeing hard times. ImYerevan asks why to some of Armenia's most well-known rock 'n' rollers, and these are the responses we got.

I may be older, but not to the extent that I sit nostalgically on benches in our backyard, tie a kerchief round my head, and long melancholically for the days when nearly every night a rock group would perform in Yerevan’s underground. Regardless, I do miss those years when we would eagerly await new posters on Stop Club’s wall and upcoming festivals in the Tumanyan Puppet Theater. I can’t even begin to explain the atmosphere at the concerts themselves. Somehow you would break through the crowd, dive into the front row and, accompanied by the sounds of your favorite band, engage in smoe serious head-banging. All the while, caring little about those around you or the money you spent on your hair-do. And when you finally called it a night, you'd be hanging your clothes on the laundry line because they reeked so badly of sweat, smoke, and alcohol.

And really, how can one forget the disapproving, nervous faces of the women keeping watch at Tumanyan Puppet Theater? They were counting down the seconds until the concerts' end, so the rockers would vacate the area. But all that is history now. And the few bands that remain on the rock scene have either become remarkable representatives of the local showbiz industry, or have gone deep into the city's underground. So, I ask, where have Armenian rock bands disappeared to? And when can we expect to see a rock renaissance? In order to get an answer, we decided to ask the musicians themselves.

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Dogma is a band that just won’t allow itself be forgotten. At the moment, the group is recording its third album and planning an interesting project and concert which aims to promote start-up bands. Dogma is also attracting audiences outside Armenia. An interview the band gave with a music station in Tokyo, as well as coverage by a well-known British rock magazine, are indicative of that fact.

According to Vardan Grigoryan, the band’s bass guitarist, Dogma is weary of the standard scene. Getting up on stage as beginners, performing covers, and then having to ask to be included in fests and concerts. Grigoryan suggests that the unified silence of numerous rock bands might be due to the fact that everything is mixed up and nothing is in its place.

“We’ve never stopped playing. It’s just that we don’t want to sing in restaurants for five thousand dram. We don’t want this to become everyday work for us—but at the same time I don’t criticize those musicians for whom this is the case. Evidently we are tired of the rock gatherings that we’ve inherited from Soviet times, from partying—we just aren’t that group. We are in our own space”. 

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When Empirey entered the scene, everyone suddenly found themselves in seventh heaven. The band’s unique members and compositions made it stand out from the others. Indeed, the group had its moment of stardom even though lead singer Sarkis Manukyan soon left for the United States (Suren Poghosyan is the group’s new vocalist). The band’s co-founder and bass guitarist, Karen Arzumanyan talked a bit about Empirey’s current status:

“We are actively creating now. Every band goes through a period when they lock themselves up in the studio. That’s what we’re going through now. With the new members this year we did four shows, produced a new song, and the second is on its way”.

In terms of passivity, Arzumanyan considers it an issue that stems from a rather widespread problem, the social and political status quo.  Nevertheless, the musician suggested not to worry for Armenia’s rockers. Rock is the music of strong, honest people, they will certainly find their way out of this predicament.

As opposed to other bands, The Beautified Project shows up relatively often. This is probably thanks to heightened activity on part of the band’s lead singer, Andre Simonian. Recently he decided to try a different tactic and bring his group onto larger stages and television. Of course, not all rock fans liked this strategy, but it may very well be the reason why we hear this band’s name more often than others. Simonian explained that the group will soon partner with singer Sona Rubenyan, and on December 1st will have a solo performance at the Tumanyan Puppet Theater. Simonian thinks that rock is pretty active in Armenia. He would like it, however, if rock groups could expand beyond the club platform and perform in larger venues. 

When you hear Bambir, it feels like you're on another planet. They compose their own music and sometimes give live performances. Their last concert was in Freedom Square. Band member Arik said that the group is working in their studio now as they always have. As for the passivity of Yerevan's rock scene, he's not too interested in the question. He suggests that the problem comes from musicians themselves, and that it’s not really a general, widespread issue.

When asked the question, Vordan Karmir’s lead singer, Vahan Poghosyan, answered succinctly. The group is passive because they are recording and also have to deal with the basic problem of supporting themselves. Poghosyan also noted that passivity in Armenian rock comes from the community. 

“The youth spend more time in front of the computer now. But besides that, being a rock musician here doesn’t garner one the means to cover even the basic costs of living”.

E.V.A., founded by singer Eva, told us that the group is dormant for now.  Since she has to work three jobs to support herself, there is little time to do what she loves, and she is creating alone. “I hope that 2015 will give me the opportunity to return to the work that I treasure most”. In terms of passivity in rock, in Eva’s opinion, it’s all due to the fact that the sphere has gained mass popularity:

“On the one hand that’s amazing; on the other it hurt the genre because that which is available to everyone, that doesn’t require much effort, is not interesting”. 

Perception Way’s guitarist, Hakob Torgomyan, has played in several groups but has found his haven in this one. Torgomyan says that they are now located in a summerhouse cut off from everyone. It’s a period of recording. In terms of passivity, it’s not just the rock sphere that’s suffering.

There was a time when Degh was eagerly welcomed by rock fans. It’s not every day that you meet a red-haired rocker chick in Armenia like the band’s lead singer. Still, we seldom hear this band’s name anymore. Robert Khudaverdyan, the group’s guitarist and songwriter, spoke about the band: “Now we are busy with new songs and preparing a performance repertoire. Of course, the number of fests has declined, but the quality of bands has gone up. If before there were ten bands, now there are only be five, but of high quality”. 

The band Lav Eli went on tour across Armenia last year, performing for kids in summer camps. This band is also currently busy with recording a new album. Lead singer Mher Manukyan said that he doesn’t really follow happenings in the field, but he thinks there are good groups both in Vanadzor and in Yerevan. He also offers a unique take on passivity, he finds that you cannot demand people to be active, it’s something that simply isn’t subject to demand. 

The guys from Dorians haven’t been around for a while. After speaking with Gor Sujyan of the group it became clear that the band really doesn’t have much to report. Sujyan even had a hard time remembering the last they did a solo show. At the moment Sujyan performs more on his own; he will soon collaborate on a performance with Arto Tunçboyacıyan. Sujyan thinks that the passivity in Armenian rock has been around for a while, but he can’t say much as to why. 

Another Story really is another story. This group started out playing Russian rock. Lead singer Armen Sargsyan was so good at performing Viktor Tsoi [famous front man of the Soviet rock band, Kino], that fans started to call him, “Tsoi”. During the seven years that the group has been around, they haven’t stopped working and still perform every month. Sargsyan said that they now have their own songs and perform Armenian songs as well; every now and then they also refresh their set list of Russian songs. This November, in honor of their seventh year, the group will perform twice. Everything is good with them, as for the spreading passivity, Sargsyan doesn’t have an explanation, but at the same time he agrees that, yes, we are passive. 

It never hurts to be extra cautious when speaking about Vostan Hayots. This band has seen and perservered through a lot. You might say that they are the ultimate role model for anyone trying to enter the rock scene. This group has seen break periods, but the musicians have always continued to create and have managed to stick together since the band’s inception in the 1980s. Currently they are working on a new album that is expected to come out in the spring. They also expressed a wish to dedicate the new recordings to the genocide anniversary in April.  As the band’s front man Iohan Costani says, now there are many rock groups and each has its own loyal audience that doesn’t like to attend shows of other bands. This may be why there doesn’t seem to be much activity in the rock scene. “Rock doesn’t feed, in Armenia it isn’t considered commercial. For that reason, many musicians have moved towards other, commercial genres. We got lucky in the sense that at all times we have had our audience.”

*Note: The order of the bands in this article was determined by the order in which we received their responses.

 

Այս հոդվածի հայերեն տարբերակի համար սեղմեք այստեղ:

 

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