The Genocide defines who I am as an Armenian

Those that follow my articles know that the focus has always been on arts and culture. I don’t debate politics or engage in those thoughts, unless it is about my ethnic background, being an Armenian. To me, that’s a different ball of wax.

This is the logo by Government of Armenia for 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

As an Armenian, I think of the Genocide on a regular basis. I refer to its history when I publicly play music (which seems like a million years ago), I think about it when I meet a new Armenian and ask them about what village their family came from, and I especially thought of the Genocide during the war against the Armenians in Artsakh by Azeri Turks. Unfortunately, the Genocide defines who I am as an Armenian. I didn’t have a choice in that. It shapes most discussions and conversations that I have about being an Armenian, whether its arts/culture, current events or even general conversation with a fellow Armenian. Words don’t need to be spoken about it, its present.   It’s a subject that is with me all the time and manifests itself in different ways. It will undoubtedly be with me for my entire life.

Once a year, I reflect on the Genocide in this blog, but as you may be aware, this is not the only time I speak or think of the subject.  However, I feel obligated to devote some time every April to cover this topic in a written form.

106 years later Armenians still want justice for lands stolen from them and families that were murdered and displaced. Each year, Armenians around the world wait for the sitting President of the United States to use the words ‘Armenian Genocide’ to commemorate the loss of 1.5 million lives by hands of Ottoman Turkey. Each year, Armenians have been disappointed not hearing those words. Rumor has it President Biden will utilize the word Genocide when he commemorates (with a proclamation) his first Armenian Genocide on April 25th. It would be grand for our country to acknowledge what we have known for over 100 years. However, to me, what does this change? Yes, we still wait to hear the immortal word, Genocide, from a US President (last time was President Reagan), but that alone doesn’t define us as a people and culture. The world has yet to come together and condemn the acts taken by the Turkish government, the former Ottoman Empire for masterminding the plan to rid the country of Armenians.

Each year, I fight to find new words that describe the emotion I feel about the loss of life, family, and culture. It is an obligation that I feel, as an Armenian. I would be untruthful if I said finding new words was easy as there are only so many ways to express emotions one feels on a topic. As an musician, I choose to show some examples of Armenian composers that lived in the Ottoman Empire, prior to the Genocide that created some of the best classical music still heard in Turkey. To this day, many of these pieces are performed live and on recordings. The breathe of these composers talents are remarkable. If they lived to see the Genocide – would they have suffered the same fate as Komitas? Just a few names to share…

Kemani Tatyos Ekserciyan (1858-1913): One of the most famous composers of the Ottoman Empire.
Tigran Chukhajian (1837-1898): a composer and conductor, and the founder of the first opera institution in the Ottoman Empire. He is considered the first opera composer in Turkish history as well as the founder of the Armenian national opera.
Hampartsoum Limondjian (1768-1839): a composer of Armenian church and classical music, as well as Ottoman classical music, and musical theorist who developed the “Hamparsum” notation system. The system was the main music notation for Western Armenian and Ottoman classical music until the 20th-century introduction of European notation systems, and is still in use by the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Finally, I recently asked my eleven year old daughter about her thoughts on what the Genocide meant to her. Words that might describe her thoughts. She said the following:

Terrifying – The fear of the unknown for those Armenians that were hunted and killed. Knowing they would eventually die. Knowing that at any moment their lives would change forever.
Sadness – Simply put, the loss of life.
Aggravation – The hatred and distaste of the Turkish government attacking innocent people.

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