A New Year that comes with…

We rung out 2022 and rung in 2023 and like many of us do, we either really loved the previous year and look forward to the new year, or we say “good riddens” to the previous year and pray for a better one.

Articles and social media postings will focus on either end of the spectrum as well as provide resolutions for the new year. When I thought about commenting on this with my bloggy bit, I first said “Well, I wrote about this before – I am no different than the other postings!” However, upon a little digging into my bloggy pasts, I did not see anything that even resembled a post like this. Huzzah!

I must agree that with any new year, its hard not to reflect and grade the previous year with aspirations of the new and fresh year. The resolution thing…I dunno….seems overkill and a short lived goal session (I know…bah humbug)

Having aspirations and goals for a new year is a good thing, but lets keep those realistic and obtainable. The last thing you want is to get towards the end of the year and get upset that you didn’t hit your resolution on winning the lottery.

Too be honest, I am probably behind the eight ball a bit because I have goals swirling in my head that need to be put on paper. As a visual guy, I like to see what my path is and check those off as accomplished. Instead, I am writing about what I want to do – seems backwards or I am just trying to get into the groove to put pen to paper, metaphorically speaking.

A goal I never wrote down was to make sure I blogged at least once a month. I’m off to a good start…this is my second post within the same month (actually…2 in one day!!)

Happy new year to all of you and I hope your goals are obtained in 2023!

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Public Domain Day was January 1st

January 1st of each year marks Public Domain Day. I have to be honest and tell you that I had never paid attention to this annual “holiday”, but this year there seems to be some additional buzz surrounding the different creative works which are now public domain. (Keep reading to learn why)

Public domain is when a creative work’s copyright expires and essentially is up for grabs after a period of 70 years. (Realizing, I am over simplifying the definition) There was a 20-year freeze back in 1998 (thanks to Sonny Bono) that was federally established, so we are now seeing many creative works fall under public domain.

What caught my eye this year was an article by Jennifer Jenkins, Director of Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. In this article she not only lists many books, soundtracks and movies that now fall under public domain but she discusses why we should celebrate Public Domain Day. Before reading her full article, I didn’t fully appreciate how a creative piece entering public domain was a benefit to the greater community. As a musician, I have always viewed public domain from the standpoint of protection/ownership of a creative work. However, after reading Jenkin’s article/guide, I can appreciate the notion of something entering public domain which allows greater access. As she puts it – “where future authors can legally build on the past—reimagining the books, making them into films, adapting the songs and movies”. Read her article, it provides some fascinating information on both copyright issues and public domain.

As I said earlier, what drew my attention to this topic were the actual creative works which fell under public domain this year. Many well known authors like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Ernest Hemingway have works which now qualify under public domain as well as several soundtracks by jazz legends “Fats” Waller and Louis Armstrong. As a old movie buff, especially some of the great silent movies, there are several classics which now fall under public domain. Notably, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and the lost film featuring Lon Chaney, London After Midnight (1927). A pivotal year in movie creation as the talkies emerged with the Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer.

Next year…will be interesting. As an avid admirer of Charlie Chaplin’s work, The Circus (1928) will enter public domain. A footnote though, the version that falls under public domain (like other movie titles) is the silent version only, not when this was re-released including music composed and added by Chaplin.

Wow, we could talk more about all of this!

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The Magic and Sustainability of the Silver Screen

Photo Courtesy: Emagine Theater (Michigan) https://www.emagine-entertainment.com/

We all can relate to the fact that the pandemic halted or altered our lives for over two years. As we seem to have returned to a new norm of a ‘normal life’, on occasion, certain thoughts attract my attention. This time I was captivated by the thought of returning to the movie theater more often. 

Truth be told, I haven’t stayed away due to fear of COVID, there just hasn’t been an abundant amount of movies I wish to see over the last few years. 

Several months back, I went to our local theater with the family and the theater quickly filled up with eager patrons. This blog really didn’t dawn on me until the opening studio credits appeared on screen and the music began in all of its glory. At that moment, it felt like it had been a hundred years since I last saw movie. I didn’t care what the movie was about to be honest, I just wanted to see something on the big screen. 

What is remarkable is the staying power the cinema has had since the early 20th century. Even in an age of streaming movies at home, there is still something magical about going to the theater. Similar comments like mine have been repeated often, there is nothing unique about it, but when you are facing a massive screen and you are about to watch a movie, you can’t help but think of what has come and gone over many lifetimes – but the enjoyment of heading to a theater to watch a movie hasn’t diminished.

We all know that the streaming business grew exponentially during the pandemic with everyone hunkered in their homes. It certainly made its place these last few years and in many cases – saved families from going cuckoo at home. This industry will never go away and it will be part of our lives moving forward. However, I challenge anyone that is reading this blog to tell me it is the perfect substitute for going to the movie theater. Yes, you are paying for the experience and it’s cheaper to stay at home and watch – but unless you have a mansion and a 100 seat theater with a 100 ft screen – you won’t have the same feeling as to heading to your local theater.

Posted in detroit, film, Reflections, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Building my YouTube channel


Not too long ago, I decided that I wanted to grow my video music YouTube channel. Currently I have over 100 videos that I have posted over the last several years. In the past, I didn’t put much effort into this channel, it was a space where I would “park” performance clips so that when potential event organizers needed video clips (aka demo reel) I could direct them to my channel. However, since the pandemic portion of COVID seems to have ended and an influx of performances, I have noticed many new viewers of my channel. So, I decided to focus on this channel for awhile.

Image from a recent TikTok ad I posted promoting a performance.

The journey has been fun and interesting especially as I found some new methods of promoting and growing the channel.

  • I am on TikTok. Yep, you heard me right. Just one post alone has created over 1200 views in a week. I am no Kardashian, but I am happy with the early results! (The video is above) Also created this one, click here.
  • I have created mini videos and placed them on my musical Facebook and Instagram pages asking folks to help me reach 1,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel.
  • At a recent performance, I gave away musical CDs as an incentive for people to subscriber to my channel. We all like free things and this went over well.

So…if you are a fan of my playing or the music itself and want to help me out..I would love for you to help me reach 1,000 subscribers.

Please subscribe to my channel at https://www.youtube.com/@atopouzian 

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A Cultural Experience Performing at The Hawk

In the last few years, I have tried to avoid writing blog posts about my performances as I am really looking to create content in these postings which may be more thought provoking or promotional of other topics. However, I would like to make an exception for a performance I did a few weeks ago that needs some attention. Not because I performed, but for the work that went behind the scenes to create this event.

(Photo courtesy: City of Farmington Hills) Lobby of The Hawk

The Hawk is a marvelous venue. It is the former Harrison High School that was purchased by the City of Farmington Hills, Michigan a few years ago. The city transformed the school into a multi useful venue (community center) that includes a fitness center, multiple theater opportunities, sports arenas and much more. Through my affiliation with the Michigan Arts and Culture Council, I was even invited to their Makerspace unveiling which is a great opportunity for all ages that wish to make something and provide them the technical resources to do so.

I have had a long and enjoyable affiliation with the City of Farmington Hills, especially their Special Services Department which includes their robust arts and culture efforts. This is a dynamic team led by Rachel Timlin that provides some of the finest events and ideas I have seen in our region. All of her team are rockstars and they know I am major fans of all of them. For this event, I worked with their Program Coordinator Lindsay Janoch.

Our performance at The Hawk

Last year we discussed putting on a small concert highlighting Armenian music at The Hawk. That quickly turned into discussing how we could incorporate Armenian cultural components. However, I really didn’t realize to what extent the city department would go for this event and I was really blown away by the work and effort (and care!) they took in putting this event together.

Here is what Lindsay and her team helped put together for this event:

  • We utilized The Hawk BlackBox which was the schools old band room. A perfect smaller room that was ideal for this entire event.
  • They decorated the stage and room with artifacts and oriental rugs that were provided by sponsor Hagopian Rugs.
  • They had several stations focused on Armenian culture:
    • You could help weave a rug.
    • Children could color in the Armenian flag or the Republic of Armenia emblem.
    • Children could even make a crown or part of an Armenian costume!
    • They had a map of Armenia and individuals could place a pin on the map where they were from along with post a index card about their family history and what brought them to this country.

During the workshop, participants got the ability to play some music with us!

Drums! We had a ton of different percussion instruments for anyone to play. Prior to the concert, we (George Nigosian & Jerry Gerjekian as well) taught a short workshop where we demonstrated and talked about the instruments. I gave the participants an easy rhythm to learn, a 2/4 tempo, and we played a song together. The song was Karoun, Karoun, a song that Armenians identify with but is also performed by other ethnicities. At the end of our performance, we surprised the audience by having the workshop participants grab a percussion instrument and played along with us.

Kudos to Lindsay and the entire team that took great care in creating more than just a musical event, but a cultural experience that continues to make me proud to be an Armenian. In the meantime…check out the Hawk and their other cultural performances, you will be a better person for it. 🙂

Posted in Armenian, armenian genocide, art, creativity, culture, detroit, music, Reflections | Leave a comment

Musicians Reunite, No Missing Beats

This morning I was thinking about a musical gig I did the other night. Luckily now that the pandemic part of COVID seems to be behind us, playing music has picked up once again and we are seeing live music return in full force.

Last night I was reunited with two musical friends that I have had a long association with and have enjoyed immensely playing music with them. Doug Shimmin is a musician that is part of the legendary Detroit band, Immigrant Suns (amongst other great Detroit-based groups) Doug and I connected many years back and at one point, not only were we playing a lot of music together, we formed a group called Eastern Winds and made an album together. Doug played acoustic guitar last night and it was such a delight to be on stage with him again.

His nephew, Michael Shimmin is an extraordinary percussionist. Mike plays in too many groups to mention in this short group – but he is a working musician always on the go! He played with Doug and I on darbuka at this gig. He is flawless drummer  that provides high energy and excitement to his performances.

The three of us performed at TechCity Jam, an event sponsored by Bank of Ann Arbor that consists of musicians that by day, work in the Michigan entrepreneurial ecosystem. Its event that I was introduced to over three years ago and performed it with Doug & Mike. We had fun in 2019 and we had fun in 2022.

Ironically, the last time I performed with Doug & Mike was this exact event – but you wouldn’t have known it. We performed only one set for about twenty minutes, but the music was tight and rocked. I don’t think any of us missed a beat. That was what got me thinking about this gig and the musicians I have had the good fortune to play with over the years. Some you click with and others you do not. There are times you get reunited with musicians and you may wonder “Gee, why did I ever play with that person?!” Well, with Doug & Mike, that isn’t the case. Good job guys, such a fun gig!

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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.

 

 

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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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