When I started to prepare for my ArtXDetroit concert and lecture last year, one of the Armenian musicians I had to get in touch with in order to receive some verbal history was Simon Javizian.
Simon has been a friend for many years and we have shared many laughs and kef (party) together along with his late wife Alice. Back in 1997, we even traveled to Armenia (my first and only trip there). He is a warm and generous man of both his time and heart and has given back to the community. His wife Alice had a heart of gold and one of the fondest memories I like to share happened several years ago when we would go on a Caribbean cruise focused on Armenian and Middle Eastern music with dozens of talented musicians. Simon and Alice always had the cabin next to me and when I would go on the veranda for morning air..Alice would reach around the partition with a pot of coffee for me. She kept an eye out for me for sure on those cruises. Good people. Back to my story about Simon…
Simon (or Si as his friends call him) was a clarinet player and vocalist that formed an Armenian band in Detroit called Ardziv. The name was in dedication to his uncle who originally used this name for his group. As you can see by the picture in this story, the types of instrumentation used from the 1920s through the late 1960s is a bit different than traditional bands of today. (Note the drum set and mandolin in Simon’s band)
When I met with Simon early last year, I asked if I could document our conversation on video and he was more than happy to help out. He is now in his early eighties and his mind is sharp as a ever. He loves to discuss the “old days” of playing and listening to music and tells it with passion and enthusiasm that I am sure he had when he was playing music. He talks about seeing some of the old masters of music such as Udi Hrant (blind Armenian oudist) and Marko Melkon play on stage and at different house partys. It’s great to see his smile as he willingly tells stories about who played and when and even some great anecdotes about his playing years. He retired from playing music many years ago, but you can still occasionally hear Simon at a khnjook (Armenian party) in Detroit belting out his signature song: Hayde Kaleh!
There are many musicians I plan to interview for the Detroit HYE Times documentary, I only wish I accomplished this project ten years ago as I would have been able to have gathered stories from a half a dozen musicians that have now passed.
Their music and memories will always live on.