Tired of the Silence

I will make this short.

As the title of this post suggests, I, along with every Armenian, is tired of the ongoing silence that resonates over the treatment of our people by the Turkish government.

The latest.

In the early hours of September 13th, Azerbaijani troops struck once again with a major military assault on the Armenians around 200 kilometers from the cease-fire border in the Republic of Armenia. By the end of this assault, 200 Armenian soldiers were killed and over 7000 Armenian residents displaced. Azeri troops advanced on Armenian soil. All in a matter of hours.

Armenian were attacked less than two years ago ending with a cease-fire which was established. This latest attack is the deadliest since the 2020 attacks and once again, Azeri troops once again broke that peace and where is the rest of the world stand while our people get attacked? Silence.

Without stepping too far into politics with this blog, as an Armenian, I am disgusted that more isn’t done to help our brothers and sisters in Armenia. When is enough going to be enough and our world leaders speak up and stand up for Armenia? When will there be reparations for the brutal killings that have occurred?

How much more must we lose – our land, lives and culture before anyone hears our cries?

 

Azerbaijan Attacks Armenia: Take Action Now to Block U.S. Military Aid to Baku

 

Congressional leaders condemn Azerbaijani attack on Armenia; demand Biden cut all military aid to Azerbaijan

https://www.euractiv.com/section/azerbaijan/opinion/what-azerbaijans-assault-on-armenia-says-about-the-new-world-order/ 

https://www.reuters.com/world/pelosi-condemns-illegal-attacks-by-azerbaijan-armenia-2022-09-18/

 

Posted in Armenian, armenian genocide, Artsakh, Genocide | 2 Comments

When commercials were fun

The other day I was looking for a graphic to go along with another post I created when I stumbled on an old commercial on YouTube that I remember in my youth. I got a short chuckle out of it and I began to think about the creativity that went into creating such television advertising several decades go. Now, it seems that we only see creativity in television commercials (well, that’s debatable I guess) when it comes to Super Bowl commercials. Millions of dollars are spent for a short 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl, so I guess they need to bring their ‘A’ game when it comes to creativity.

It got me to search for other commercials that I felt hit a home run on creativity – most of the time, humor was involved. Tell me if these commercials were your favorites or if you can recommend some newer ones:

This was such an iconic phrase when I was growing up.

Can’t publish this blog without asking “Where is the Beef?!”

Classic!

This was shown in Detroit all the time, featuring the radio icon, the Great Gildersleeve…

I remember this one as a kid…

Never saw this one, but had to include because I am a fan of Jackie Gleason.

… and who doesn’t remember “You can call me Ray…”

Ok, well, this is an outtake from Orson Welles famous Paul Masson wine commercials. I have to include, so funny.

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Mal Barsamian & Qawsaan (Two Bows) Concert Recital at Tufts University

It is not every day that I watch a concert of live Middle Eastern music and become completely impressed and immersed into the entire performance. That is not to mean that I haven’t been impressed by Middle Eastern musical artistry, but it has been sometime since I heard a group of artists perform together with such flawless talents that captivated my attention for the entire performance.

On Sunday, February 20th, Tufts University presented a recital featuring Armenian musical virtuoso, Mal Barsamian on oud (Middle Eastern lute). He was joined by Layth Sidiq, violin and Naseem Alatrash, cello in a performance of 20th century music by Arabic, Egyptian, Lebanese, Iraqi, and Armenian composers. In a word – fabulous.

The hour and a half long recital consisted of an array of classical and folk related material chosen by Mal who led the trio. All three musicians have an affiliation with the Tufts musical program but this was the first time this trio has performed together. Remarkably, they had only one day of rehearsal, the day before this concert. You would have never known it. Flawless as they moved through a myriad of scales and rhythms.

All of the songs were carefully chosen in order to highlight the string instrumentation such as the intro song Samai Lami by Iraqi oudist/composer Ghanem Haddad. This song set the warm tone for the rest of the concert.

A major influencer of Arabic music was Egyptian oudist/composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab who composed many popular tunes to a point where it would be uncommon not to hear one of his compositions in a Middle Eastern musical concert. The trio performed two songs by Wahab: Ibn El Balad and Leilet Hob, both songs were considered popular tunes for belly dancers.

The trio included another favorite song that Mal recorded on his solo album a few years by Tunisian composer Anouar Brahem called Itr El Ghajar.

It was a natural assumption that Mal would bring Armenian composers and songs to center stage of this recital including many Armenian composers ranging from Tatul Altunyan (Yarimo), Kemani Tatyos Ekserciyan (Rast Semai) Vagharshak Kotoyan ( Sevani Tsgnorsneru Bar), Boghos Kirechjian ( Vart Kaghelen Goukas Var & Yaylouges Gorav) to contemporary oudist/composer Ara Dinkjian (Invisible Lover). I cant say that I have a favorite as all of these songs were performed with perfection but extra kudos goes to the trio performing Yarimo which can be a complex song that changes rhythms with every measure.

Mal Barsamian represents the third generation of oud (lute) players in his family. Having obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical guitar performance under Robert Paul Sullivan at the New England Conservatory of Music, he went on to become a sought-after player of the oud and dumbeg (hand drum). He has played within Armenian, Greek, and Middle Eastern musical communities throughout the country for over thirty years, and also performs on guitar, clarinet and saxophone. He teaches private and ensemble sessions at Tufts University.

Layth Sidiq is a Jordanian-Iraqi award-winning violinist, composer and educator and the current artistic director of the New York Arabic Orchestra. He has toured the world and shared the stage with major artists such as Simon Shaheen, Danilo Perez, Javier Limon and Jack Dejohnette, as well as performing in prestigious venues like the London Jazz Festival, Boston Symphony Hall, WOMEX Expo, and Panama Jazz Festival.

Naseem Alatrash is a Palestinian cellist and composer. He has appeared at numerous international festivals, including the Newport Jazz Festival, the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, and many more. Alatrash has received international acclaim from media around the world, for his musical arrangement/producing a cover of the Beatles song “Drive My Car.” As a collaboration with Public Radio International’s radio show The World and the Berklee College of Music, he arranged/adapted the Beatles song with an Arabic twist.

 

 

Posted in Armenian, creativity, culture, Middle Eastern music, music, oud, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Armenia and Ukraine – Common Victims of Genocide

Each year through this blog, I do my best to commemorate April 24th, a date too well known to Armenians worldwide when 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered by the hands of the Turkish government, then referred to as the Ottoman Empire. This is a hard story to write each year, but nevertheless an important one and its the only time I allow myself to wander off the path of the theme of these blogs.

Often we use the phrase “if we are not careful, history will repeat itself”. For the Armenians, we know this phrase all too well.  Just close to two years ago, the Armenians once again suffered the fate of the hands of the Turkish government, this time from their cousins – Azerbaijan. Some have called it the Nagorno-Karabagh Conflict, but what it has been (since 1988) is Azerbaijan looking to take land historically under Armenia’s domain (for centuries) for their own. They used the same tactics used by their ancestral cousins deployed 100 years ago, however this time they had double the force with the aid of Turkey.

Innocent Armenians were killed and land was taken

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin told his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev to “take care of Christian shrines”. A joke as Aliyev destroyed those sacred buildings.

Fast forward, the attack on Armenians continues to this day. Yet, 107 years after our ancestors were murdered – we do not forget and can never begin to heal until Turkey acknowledges their hideous actions. Even today, their PR machine continues as they attempt to erase the past or cloud the internet with their falsehoods by claiming it was a “civil war” or “death occurred on both sides”.

Let there be no mistake – it happened. It continues to happen and sadly, history will repeat itself.

Now we see the poor people of Ukraine that have been killed and displaced like the Armenians once were. At least the USA has decided to aid and help these refugees. However, where were the allies when Armenian was being killed 107 years ago … and two years ago?

Genocide is just that – man’s inhumanity to man. We continue to allow history to repeat itself…over and over again.

To the millions of Armenians and Ukrainians that have perished due to government control, may their memories be eternal.

 

 

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What time are you creative?

Recently, I saw an article headline which immediately grabbed my attention.

The Quiet Joys of the Very, Very Early Morning Club. It was written by Jason Gay and published in the Wall Street Journal. When I opened the article, I was expecting a real in-depth look at statistics and other mental wellness for getting up early, but it was more of a humorous (and pretty relatable) perspective of Mr. Gay’s (a sports columnist for Wall Street Journal) writing habits. It is definitely worth the read, especially if you can identify with the notion of getting up early in the morning and how that could be the most productive part of the day. 

For me, his anecdotes were fitting. I have been part of the early morning club for several years and know of several friends that operate and thrive the same way, including my wife – who gets up now even earlier then me.

Getting up early has been a way of life for most of my professional life. We all experienced sleeping in late as teenagers and now if I wake up past 8am on a Saturday I feel like I have overslept and half of my day is wasted. Funny what getting old does to ones brain!

Getting up when it is still dark out is when my mind seems to be at its clearest. It is quiet in the house and after a (hopefully) good nights sleep and a little jolt of caffeine, I seem to get the creative juices flowing. My ideas for blogs come to me most of the time first thing in the morning and I am able to compartmentalize my thoughts for my day job activities at this time. If I know that I have a lot to catch up on, the alarm is set for 4am and by 7am, I feel like I have put in a full day and got a lot done. 

Like Mr. Gay’s article, this does come with drawbacks. He indicates his brain is “fried” by mid-afternoon and especially in a almost post-Covid era where we are working from home, I cant look at my computer come late afternoon without a long break. 

Another component that works with the early morning club is interment fasting. Now, I would be the last person to talk about dieting and such, but I must say that the combo of fasting and early morning working (I walk on my treadmill between 1 and 2 miles each morning) seems to work great for me – creatively speaking. Food can certainly create the sleepy environment so I have found that this combination keeps my mind sharp. It is amazing how the brain works

Are you an early bird or night owl?

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Guardians of Music: History of Armenian Music in Detroit NOW ON AMAZON

In 2015 which marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, I released a film documentary. Guardians of Music: History of Armenian Music in Detroit followed the journey of Detroit Armenian musicians that were children of Armenian Genocide survivors and continued the tradition of performing Armenian folk music and creating a sense of community for the Armenian people.

This film featured rare photos and film clips of musicians and bands that entertained Armenian audiences in the metro Detroit area for decades.

Now, I am happy to announce that my film is available on Amazon.

If you haven’t seen this film, I would hope that you would give it a try and rent it or buy it on Amazon for a fraction of the cost it took to produce. This was a labor of love and the message of perpetuating the story of Armenian music and the musicians that allowed the music to live on even after a horrific Genocide continues to be a focal point whenever I am performing for live audiences.

If you have seen the film and would be so kind as to give it a favorable review, that is also appreciative!

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Michigan State University: Creativity in the Time of Covid-19

In this blog I have often discussed how the pandemic affected Michigan artists. The ability to adjust to an environment that disabled the ability to perform in front of a live audience, to be able to see instant gratification for their efforts.

Recently, I was contacted by a group within Michigan State University that is working on a a project on creativity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here is a brief video describing the project:

They are collecting creative work people have been making throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly creative pieces that encourage new conversations, activism, and creativity around the racial and social injustices revealed by the pandemic. Everyone who submits a creative piece and agrees to be included will:

  • Have their creative work and connected stories documented and included in a major online collection, and have the option to share them with wider audiences
  • Contribute to history by preserving crucial moments and memories from COVID-19 for themselves and future generations
  • Help ensure that diverse peoples, experiences, and communities are represented in our collective stories about the pandemic

They welcome everyone, from first time creators to experienced professional artists, to share their artwork. They also welcome all forms of expression. Creativity can be defined in many ways, and we are interested in anything you have used to help understand, process, and communicate your individual experience of the pandemic, including but not limited to:

  • Painting
  • Pottery
  • Sculpture
  • Protest art
  • Traditional Arts
  • Basket making
  • Fiber arts
  • Poetry
  • Wood working
  • Comics
  • Photography
  • Cooking
  • Building
  • Gardening
  • Making music Dancing

And, other everyday activities that have become meaningful during the pandemic.

Everything submitted will be showcased in an online archive and considered for inclusion in our physical exhibitions.

You can help by responding to the call for artists attached in the link below and by sharing this link throughout your networks. The following link will close: May 2022.

Link: https://tinyurl.com/CreativityInTheTimeOfCovid19

This project is funded by the Mellon Foundation “Just Futures” initiative. If you would like assistance distributing the call for artists, reach out to our Graduate Project Coordinators, Mitch Carr and Soohyun Cho, at creativityandcovid@gmail.com.

Visit the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition Lab website for more information.

Posted in art, art work, covid19, Creative Industries, creativity, culture, music, Reflections | Leave a comment

March is Arts Advocacy Month

“The arts create connection, community, belonging, and joy. In the worst of times, the arts create all of that and more—and most of all, the arts create hope” from the American for the Arts website.

As a council member of Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs (MACC) I recently had the opportunity to share some brief personal thoughts on the importance of advocacy in the arts sector as March has been designated as Arts Advocacy month in Michigan.

In years past, becoming involved in public policy issues was not much of a priority to me. I felt that it is meant for a certain type of individual to pursue those efforts and it was low on my radar screen. However, I have seen the light in recent years! Not only for the work that I do with my day job as an association leader, but what is needed in the arts community. Everyone needs to have a voice, it is important and I have learned more times than not, that policy makers are not as informed on these subjects as you would think and that is why outreach is vital. Now, I think the responsibility of outreach to policy makers relies on us in order to inform and educate — hence, I wanted to pen this short article.

Over a year ago, the Cultural Advocacy Network of Michigan (CAN) was formed in answer to a need to have a concentrated effort (along with the cultural organizations around the state) to lead in being a voice of influence to all levels of government about the importance of arts and culture. Some of the important wins from CAN (in 2021) centered around advocating for an additional $1.5M increase in funding for MACC.

Michiganders, such as myself, have deep roots in our state and love to live here for a myriad of reasons. How often do we think about the importance arts & culture have within our communities?

Part of my professional background is in economic development. For several years I was directing business attraction and retention for a major suburban city. I can honestly say that back then, we didn’t talk much about ‘sense of place’ or how the arts community is a job creator and the economic impact it has on a particular city. What we sold were the same things most municipalities were promoting – safety, beauty, schools, etc. It is comforting to know there has been a bit of a switch in attitude on what else makes a community. However, the job is far from done.

Communities need to be more informed to the arts identities they have in their community. For example, I have been active with the City of Farmington Hills for several years. The city recently had the foresight to purchase an older high school and retransformed it into a community icon that has a wide variety of offerings – including a vigorous arts and culture element. Also, the City of Novi  acquired a four-acre property, previously owned by David Barr and dancer Beth Dwaihy Barr, includes a home, studio and multiple sculpture installations in a park setting. You need to check out the Artist Residence program at this park.

Think about your community and how art and culture make a difference in the quality of life both for the residential and business community.

Learn more about Michigan’s 2022 Advocacy Day by CLICKING HERE.

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The Importance of Spontaneous Composition

As artists, we are told to tell a story with our work.

Storytelling is an art form in itself, but mastering this art form is just as difficult as any form of artistry.

However, storytelling can be expressed in different ways. A painter tells a story by what they create with color. A writer tells a story by word and a musician tells their story by performing certain notes in a specific pattern.

In Middle Eastern music, the expressionist form of telling a story is through the art of a taksim. The word taksim itself is of Turkish/Arabic origin and means ‘”improvisational”. It is through taksim that an Armenian or Middle Eastern musician can tell a story while playing their instrument. Often playing a taksim demonstrates a musicians mastery of their instrument – whether it is an oud, kanun, violin, etc. Performing in a specific mode or makam (scale) displays their innate ability to demonstrate their knowledge of a scale or a range of different scales.

I don’t think that playing a taksim should be limited to how a musician understands the makam but more of how they can express themselves by notes. Their soul, the touch of their instrument, can say much more than their understanding of their instrument or the scale in which they are performed. Their passion for the music, the love of their instrument or a connection to their heritage can be felt through their improvisation.

The importance of spontaneous composition can tell a musician life’s story. For me, playing a taksim or improvised solo is less about displaying my knowledge of the scale as it is the warmth of the music or my passion for playing the instrument. I want to be able to express to audience why I play this music more than how good I may be at playing it.  Performing a solo is much more expressive than playing a song from the first note to last.

Playing an improvised solo allows you to free yourself from the chains of a particular melody and open allows you to open your soul.

Sting once said ” If you play music with passion and love and honesty, then it will nourish your soul, heal your wounds and make your life worth living. Music is its own reward”.

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The arts industry is back on the rollercoaster

It certainly feels like Groundhogs Day when it comes to the pandemic. What was once ‘on hold’ due to COVID and then opens up seems to close again. It is a viscous cycle that is taking its toll in many ways. We are seeing large name branded restaurants close without notice and concerts cancelling shows along with concert goers not showing up even after they purchase tickets.

The pandemic is great at one thing for sure – creating an emotional rollercoaster. Its claws are deep into the musical industry (just one of many industries affected within the arts arena) and it is concerning to watch how it is still holding back local concert venues and musicians from making a living. As one COVID variant feeds into another we will all potentially learn to live with a pandemic that will hopefully morph into an endemic allowing us to realign some things.

Broadway has been affected again:

But the Omicron variant that has barreled into the city, sending coronavirus case counts soaring, is now battering Broadway, leaving the industry facing an unexpected and enormous setback on its road back from the pandemic.

Sure, I would admit that we are also seeing concert planners reinvent themselves with outdoor options, but this is limited and not an option everyone can achieve successfully.

What this tells me is that we need to continue to find ways to support the musical community whenever possible. Basically, this is a friendly reminder that we are not out of the woods yet and our local artists and venues still need our ongoing support.

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