Several years before social media became a household word, if you wanted to communicate in a collective group across the globe and share ideas, thoughts or questions you either created email groups or listserv forums. About twenty years or so ago, I attempted to have such a group for Armenian and Middle Eastern musicians to come together in a camaraderie-type atmosphere and stay connected. The idea was a good one (in my humble opinion), but the because none of the internet was mainly used for emails and “surfing” the web, the group never caught on. Several years later and with greater technology at our fingertips, two young Armenian musicians and good friends developed a website with the goal to not only connect with other musicians but share their knowledge and enthusiasm. Their website is called taqs.im
Antranig Kzirian and Aram Hovagimian are the musicians behind this new online “community” and I had a chance to interview them and have them share with our readers their inspirations and desires behind putting this community together.
Why did you develop taqs.im? What do you hope to accomplish with the creation of this website?
It started with a discussion at the Philadelphia Armenian Youth Federation Olympic Weekend (September, 2018) where I was talking about producing oud instructional videos to potentially take the place of in-person lessons, while simultaneously Aram was looking for a medium through which he could provide synthetic keyboard sound samples online. Given all our experience and history performing, recording and playing middle eastern music, we decided to put our heads together and developed the concept for TAQS.IM – but we wanted to take things even further than just lessons or sounds because we wanted to provide a dynamic, diverse and versatile forum for exploring middle eastern music through modern means of an online presence, compatibility with mobile devices, video-based content and a robust social media presence. With that said, our objective is for TAQS.IM to be a comprehensive, and fluid, collection of clean, well produced and properly organized resources and information – just to list a few of our offerings, we offer a unique mobile device app, a free radio station featuring some of the most prominent and influential middle eastern artists, professionally produced instructional instrument-specific videos, thoughtful and informative podcasts, compelling artist guest features, cutting edge original synthetic keyboard sound samples, and generally speaking, a broad presence across various platforms and formats – some of the above is already available, and the rest is in the works and will be launched very soon (in a matter of weeks, if not sooner). Overall, I’d say we especially wish to provide musicians and aficionados the guidance and resources to learn and discover for themselves without feeling lost, intimidated or overwhelmed. The hope is for TAQS.IM to be the go to source and one stop shop for people all over the world who want to learn about middle eastern music, who didn’t necessarily grow up surrounded by a middle eastern music scene or network in their respective communities.
How did you come up with the name?
TAQS.IM is based off the well known middle eastern term “taksim” or “taqsim” (excuse the transliteration :)) which in musical terms refers to the practice of improvisation within the framework of melodic progression found in the makam-based music system of the middle east (which of course varies by country and region). This word, and concept, was and is so pervasive in the music we have played all these years that we felt it was a fitting representation of what we were hoping to achieve – as this is an improvisation of sorts in its own way!
How important is our music to each of you? Why?
Our music is supremely important to us – which is a big part of why we are working on this project. Just as critical is the obligation to not only preserve this music and tradition, but also to breathe new life, innovation and creativity into it to keep it alive and thriving in the modern era – and to position it for continued advancement well into the future. This is our way of bringing this vision to life.
Who is your audience for this website – musicians, enthusiasts – both?
The audience is anyone who is interested in the vast expanse of middle eastern music. Musicians, enthusiasts, dancers, or just someone who saw an oud somewhere and is curious about what it is exactly and wants to learn a bit more at his or her own speed and comfort.
While I am putting this story together, I am listing to their radio station which they also created. You can access this by clicking this link.
By the way, this isn’t your ordinary website, it is very professionally put together with high quality graphics, audio and video clips. I am very happy Antranig and Aram have come together to put this community. I encourage you to follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and to share their invention with others.