By Sonya Varoujian
Since my last concert on the 26th, I have had the privileged of riding the metro in Armenia for the first time and discovering a whole new underworld at the Baregamutyun metro station. The metro costs a mere 50AMD ($1.00 =380AMD to give you an idea of how cheap it is). The metro is fast, clean, efficient and even has a TV screen on the platform to provide you with entertainment (some funny clips to keep you smiling) while you wait. I went to Baregamutyun to check out the area and was surprised to see a whole world of underground shops as soon as I walked off the escalator to exit. In the same area you can buy a kebab, exchange money, buy stockings, rent a DVD, get some fresh flowers, fruits, batteries, shampoo, slippers, clothes,... I felt like I was in a film that takes place in China. All are very interesting.
After the concert I have been invited to do some more radio and TV. I am holding off on some invites as it has been planned that I will be the opening act for a concert that will take place on the 3rd of December at the Avante Garde Folk Club. This will be jointly with my friend and fellow England musician Andre Simonian who will be having his debut in Yerevan. The idea is that I will sing 6 or so of my English songs, join him for two of his songs, and then join his band for another two. I think it will be an interesting evening - certainly different and refreshing for Yerevan which has a lack of English music. Andre's band is called the Beautified Project and can be checked out on: www.thebeautified.com. He's spelled my name completely wrong on the website but I'll forgive him - it's been happening to me since I was 6. Anyway - we'll probably do some radio and TV together before the 3rd so Armenia will once again have to see my face on the teli - at this rate I need to reinvent myself rather soon - red hair perhaps???
So I went to see some of the Armenian Navy Band members who call themselves "Gatuner" (the Cats) for the first time ever at the Stop Club. It was a fantastic evening. They are such incredible musicians it would be fantastic to collaborate with them in future. Saturday was Bet & John Williams at The Club. Beautiful medieval acoustic type folk music. The lady can really sing! I rushed off to a Halloween party to find I was the only one in costume and I of course felt like an idiot for the first part of the evening until I realized I was the one who was positively experiencing Halloween. With a few minor adjustments (the removal of the wig, long gloves, and cape) I managed to have a splendid evening and felt better for not going home to change.
Sunday night was a play at the Stanislavski theatre called "Bari Kaloust" (Welcome) which was a story of 3 Armenians who end up in the waiting / security area of Los Angeles Airport. One is an Armenian from Lebanon, one from Iran, and the other from Armenia. The story plays upon the differences in dialect, mentality, and outlook yet also points out the points that bring them together. It is a fantastic comedy with a very strong and clever message - I hope it tours. If anyone out there reading this can invite these guys to their hometown I suggest it strongly. (Perhaps you would like to invite me and the musicians as well?) :)
I spent Monday evening in the recording studio with Arto Tuncboyaciyan, Norayr, and Vahak (Navy Band members) watching them create and very interestingly watching a video of their trip to Western Turkey (not too long ago Armenian territory) to give a concert. It was bizarre to see a land so obviously Armenian in architecture now being transformed by Turks into something completely Muslim. It was emotional to see their reactions and feelings on camera and I couldn't help but feel as if someone had steamrolled over me.
Wednesday night I had the privilege of seeing Artur Meschian in concert for the first time. He also plays in a similar genre as myself (what I would classify as folk) and I must say his lyrics are fabulous. Thursday was Shushan Petrossyan - a very popular singer here and although there were a lot of Armenian celebrities there and the show was something out of Los Angeles inclusive of dancers and costumes, I felt it lacked emotion and truth but nevertheless it was entertaining. Friday we went to see an Armenian rock band called Empiray and IT ROCKED. It was an assembly hall full of people who really should have been in a stadium. Well done to the band for power driven music and the singer for a voice that really is the dogs bollocks. The week ended with Lilit Pipoyan's concert at the opera which drove me into deep depression and finally tears. Though she has a unique voice and wonderful musical arrangements I reckon she should be listened to in small doses and come with a warning that says "not suitable for those contemplating suicide and/or clinically depressed individuals". I enjoyed some of the songs immensely but it was short-lived. So as not to jump off the balcony in my misery I rushed to a Bambir concert at The Club which was the older Bambir (ie: the parents of the rockers from Gyumri) and immediately I felt I was transferred to the pubs of Ireland. Having been inspired by this experience I then transferred myself to Cheers to meet up with friends and of course have a pint.
Sunday 7 of us hired a Marshutka (mini bus) and headed to Bars Lij (Plain Lake) in Dilijan to catch the end of autumn. This is about 2 hours out of the city. Seems we were a little late and most of the foliage was on the floor but we still managed to throw down some blankets, have some cheese, bread, olives and vodka and enjoy ourselves in the outdoors. Our Marshutka got stuck in the mud so they had to send another one from Yerevan and soon enough our vodka supply was depleted. When the new vehicle got to us we stopped en route to have a fantastic feast of kebab where I beat a local Armenian man at backgammon (3-0). I am not sure he liked that but I have to admit I lost to the last two people I played so I was feeling quite pleased about it.
And so the new week is here and one must get a bit more serious about things. The cold has officially kicked in and I am now wrapping up in layers and finding the streets are less busy than usual as people are staying home and keeping warm. Who knows what the next week will bring but enough babbling for now. I have not philosophized or discussed serious matters in this blog so naturally this week of quiet (did I mention my birthday at the end of the week?) Hee hee....I actually have had a lot of alone time in the days - and all those concerts were inspirational so hopefully the creativity will flow.
From the freezing cold streets of Yerevan where inevitably you will almost get hit by a car at least once a day.
Peace and love
Source: Blog of Sonia Varoujian (Armenia Project 2006)
Main page of the blog: http://www.sonyavaroujian.blogspot.com/