22 August 2014, 17:53
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AramMP3: What it Means to be 'Yerevantsi'

Aram Sargsyan, a doctor by profession, is known to the public as Aram Mp3. A medical professional by day and showman, singer and comedian by night means Aram has a tough schedule. Yet while he may not have time to stroll down the city streets often, he still knows every nook and cranny like the back of his hand. The showman's love for this city is immeasurable and in this interview, he talks to ImYerevan about his childhood and hopes to stick around.

I was born in the Hospital No. 1, around one o’clock in the morning. I am the elder child in my family, the anticipated boy, but, personally, I don’t have any interesting memories of that day.

We used to live in Kayaran until I was six; I went to kindergarten there. On the day of the Earthquake I was in the kindergarten classroom; the teacher screamed, “Earthquake, earthquake!” We didn’t feel anything, neither did we understand what was happening, and we shouted, “Yaaay!”

My childhood days passed in Cheremushka: the Hrazdan Gorge, the small bridge, Chashkek-Chrikner (Cups-and-Gutters), Bidzu Gyol (Old Man’s Pool) [artesian water sources at the Hrazdan River]… Here is where I grew up. They installed a big airplane in Tumanyan Park which was made into a restaurant. Later a fire broke out in the airplane and I remember we watched the flames with tears in our eyes.

There was an ongoing construction of a subway station near our yard. Around that site we used to play games like “taking captives” or “hide-and-seek”; we would make feasts, steal kerosene, oil or petroleum and make a fire in a pit in our yard. The construction ceased in the nineties. Until last year the dilapidated station was still there. But one day I saw that the site had been cleaned and covered with new concrete. Of course, that was correct, because it was a useless space, but on that moment I felt as if my childhood had been covered with concrete.

In the fifth grade I started singing in a choir and the stage of the Academic Theatre of Opera became for me a familiar place. I developed confidence and learned to have no stage-fright. After that, the stage of Sundukyan Theatre seemed small to me.

I went for painting lessons, engraving, pottery, karate. When I was five years old, my parents decided that I should become a track and field athlete. I was a little chubby as a boy, and the trainer said, “Try to hang on that bar.” The only thing I remember is that I tried to climb on the bar and when I came down, the trainer said, “Don’t bring your kid here anymore.”

Until the fifth grade I went to the School No. 122 after Alexander Blok. Then I moved to a college, but I came back and graduated from the Blok school. We are the generation in whose time the schools were heated with oil and kerosene furnaces. We used to drop ampoules in the furnace to make them pop. My father is a dentist, and I took a big 120 ml ampoule to the school. We dropped it in… And the furnace just jumped into the air.

I have graduated from the Medical University. Student Council, Student Spring [a popular art and comedy contest], KVN (“Club of the Funny and Inventive”), university radio, night-stays, no sleep, singing… I had sovietic student years.

Seryog and I were preparing for the chemistry admission examination. One day he said, “Do you have any plans for today? Let’s go to the Student Spring.” Everything in my life started from this phrase.

When we were playing in KVN, we used to rent apartments and write scenarios there: in Kanaker, on Aghbyur Serob, Tpagrichner Streets, in the building next to the Prospekt market. Together with the 32 Teeth Club, we used to rent apartments on Saryan, Nalbandyan Streets, and then we moved to the House of Radio, then to the Public Television. Now we are at Vitamin Club on Tumanyan Street; I have no idea where else we may move in the future.

The first time I saw my wife, Anna, was at their home in Aygestan. A mutual friend, who lived in Germany and had come to Yerevan, introduced us to each other. By the way, the parents of all three of us used to be classmates, but I didn’t know my wife. Our friend went back to Germany, but we kept in contact. Up to this day.

I am so busy I don’t have time to walk around the city. I miss it so much that sometimes I make night-time cruises with my car around my favorite places. I see people walking in the streets and wish I could take a stroll, as well! Recently we made a bicycle tour in Yerevan at 11 o’clock at night!

I know every stone in Cheremushka. I immediately notice every improvement they make in the neighborhood during the elections and I want to bring back the previous state, because that’s what I’m used to seeing.

What I see in Yerevan when I go out is an open-minded generation and I am very happy for that. They are progressive, sophisticated, they have an opportunity to study abroad. When I was their age, we only had Nintendo, cheap chewing gums and Derby chocolate.

However, Yerevan has still become a bit provincial. People have changed, there is a lot of emigration, and there are many things happening that do not seem to fit the vibe of this city. Maybe I'm wrong and maybe nothing serious has changed. Or perhaps I am not old enough to criticize yet. At the age of 60, I may yet yearn for our contemporary time, but now my generation is still very active.

I do not accept the expression Yerevantsi (a native resident of Yerevan). Being a Yerevantsi depends on everyone’s good manners and the respect they have for their own city. You must care for your city, love fellow townspeople and all written and unwritten laws which are for the benefit of Yerevan. This is what I teach to my son, although he’s still very young, he understands nothing.

Tumanyan Park is my son’s Arno favorite place. We run and play there. He actually renamed it “Arno’s park." I hope that he will also have sweet memories from his childhood!

Am I а Yerevantsi now!? My father and grandfather were born in Yerevan, but my great-grandfather was not. I love my city, my life story is here, I have a lot of memories, and I try to keep them. There are people born very far away from here who are much better Yerevantsis than many of those born in Yerevan. One does not become a Yerevantsi only by knowing its history or loving her.

I love Yerevan. I will never throw garbage in the street; it always makes me happy to see new benches and statues in the city. I tremble at every small detail I notice. It made me happy to see that they painted the buildings. And it makes me sad, for example, when a fountain is not functioning.

At first sight, Yerevan may seem colorless, but in reality it is very rich in colors. My city is a blend of red, yellow and orange, and she is fiery! I especially love Yerevan from the end of April until the end of October.

You have an evening walk in town and you meet and say hello to everyone, even to people you don’t know. I miss all this especially when I am out of town for a month or two. I won’t exchange the feeling of being back home with anything!

I always close my concerts with the song “My Yerevan”. The audience sings with us, “I was born here, I grew up here, and I drank this crystalline water.” Sometimes it seems like giving a lesson about loving Yerevan regardless of where they live. After the show I often hear them say, “Good for him! That was a great song in the end!”

I have folders in my computer that I have named “Summer”, “Mid-summer”, “Spring”, “Beginning of Winter”, etc. There, I keep photos of the trees growing in our yard. From time to time, I open them and I think, “Oh dear, they’re so beautiful! Could it always be like that!? I don’t want to leave this place.” On such moments, I am in harmony with myself and my city.

Yerevan Magazine, N7-8, 2013

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