Decoding the Rise of the Buffalo

Paul Chaderjian

BY PAUL CHADERJIAN

Once there was and there was not …

In a haunting phonograph recording from 100 years ago in Paris, the scratchy and hollow, melancholic and faraway voice of genius priest Komitas comes to life via 0’s and 1’s, bits and bytes, on an iPhone 4S in Hawaii.

Prologue
Monochromatic images follow on the screen of the mind: a round cylindrical or maybe a flat 7-inch disc, spinning unevenly at 70 rotations a minute. There goes a motherless child sent to the seminary. Here comes the celibate monk, a driven genius crisscrossing the lands of the Armens to create an encyclopedia and playlist of songs spanning thousands of years.

The famous ‘notaji vartabed’ gives his people their modern musical identity and perhaps more. He finds notoriety in Europe. There he is in Berlin, Paris, then back to Constantinople, where he is jailed on April 24, 1915.

He sees the Great Catastrophe, Genocide, experiences the indescribable trauma we have yet to understand a hundred years later. And he breaks his vows to humanity, temporarily deciding not to speak, not to sing, nor write… until he can resurface digitally in 0’s and 1’s.

Act One
Before Komitas’ vow of silence, before the so-called mental breakdowns, and long before his long depressive states in asylums, came days when his voice was so potent and clear that it impregnated the future.

“Lorva Kutan Yerk” he sings. It’s a plow song he heard and transcribed from the region of Lori, a song ancient Armenian farmers sang as far back as our pre-Christian Era.

Call it a ‘horovel’ sung by generations who tilled the soil, labored until they broke their back, but always humbly honored the life force that gave them a chance to grow their food, nourish their young and quench their souls through prayers, music and art.

Komitas’ voice captured on a gramophone begins a song titled “Brrreh Gomesh” (PreGomesh on iTunes).

His legendary voice sings a complex melody, a sequence of fast changing pitches of sound, the equivalent of trills on the piano, notes unexpectedly jumping far and near in what is authentic Armenian music.

32 seconds into this column’s musical score, the song started by our 19th century genius priest, a 21st century pop icon turns it on its ear to plow a new musical path, one inspired by a plow song.

The beat and base of club music begins. Cue the Dubstep, the light show and dancing. Atoms from centuries apart create a fusion to empower generations to come.

Brrreh Gomesh, sings the pop star Sirusho, and thus she and her lyricist Avet Barseghyan flash us back 2000 years, melding the ancient into the here and now and towards Singularity – the forever.

Komitas is in Da House, and he is singing again. His people’s music has been thrust into eternity.

Act Two
Brrreh Gomesh, Arise Buffalo, arise beast, she sings, making the ancient Brrreh sound herders called out to lord over their animals.

It’s the ‘giddy up’ of yesteryear when surviving meant a tougher fight, when it took the physical power, silent strength and marathon-worthy endurance of a buffalo for men (the ArMENians) to survive Mother Nature and their animal and human predators, be they familial or foreign.

Arise, and let the world know
that your path is just
Arise, and let your fair fight
receive its honor in heave
n.

It’s the voice of pop icon Sirusho, the very same beautiful and energetic young woman who rocked the airwaves across Europe and Eurasia on the Eurovision stage in 2008.

She is the glamorous daughter-in-law of the former First Family of Armenia, the powerful voice who represented her nation in the Eurovision contest.

Her song then ‘Kele Kele’ (Come On, Come On) was the rallying cry from the teenaged independent Republic of Armenia to the established nations of the world.

As horovels helped the masses get through the labor-intensive pre-Christian Armenian Kingdom that spanned all of the region we know today as the Middle East, and as revolutionary songs motivated victims to take up arms against the pan-Turkic agenda, music became more than lullabies to get through the long days of tilling the soil or Schlager to entertain a captive audience.

These songs, what Komitas put to paper, what Sayat Nova put to memory, the hymns heard in churches and the images seen in music videos turned into messages and lessons from the past that are beyond the grasp of our narrative-making, storytelling conscious mind.

These songs are our Carl Jung’s theoretical connections to god and the collective unconscious, a place universally understood symbols connect us to one another and the creator without language and regardless of culture, nationality, time in history, education or experience.

Epilogue
Could Sirusho’s gomesh, the buffalo, be the collective symbol, a code for the essence of the hardworking Armenians who have not faded from history no matter what circumstances they’ve found themselves in?

Is Sirusho’s call for the rise of the symbolic buffalo a message to the progeny of the herders, be they in the Homeland or on a remote Pacific island?

Are we the buffalo of the world, those beastly animals without predators, without fear, subjected only to the annoying Brrreh’s of insignificant rules and rulers, irrelevant bosses and customers, and governments and for profit corporations that try to lord over us, break our spirits and backs?

he is disobedient and courageous
in the eyes live his silent struggle
life is a duel with earth only
overcome by the unbending soul

Yes. A pop song via iTunes and YouTube can be how Komitas, Sayat Nova and Parajanov are reminding our subconscious about how to be true to our true essence, how to be righteous, do good and fight a fair fight in the eyes of heaven.

Sirusho is telling us to listen to the voice of the genius, Komitas, who cultivated these ancient codes of a people to pass on to future generations. His notations on paper were more than cadences and “khaz” but keys to survival in a chaotic future of uncertainty. His were the lessons from the first humans to walk the Earth to modern Armenians, who have survived no matter who was or is lording over us or who has tried to destroy us.

there’s only one law in nature
a strong will finds the way
and continues to multiply.
there’s only one requirement of nature
that the mind never rest
and never give up

Madonna & Fayruz
Brrreh Gomesh’s use of Komitas is reminiscent of Madonna’s code-breaking in “the Beast Within,” which sampled the Arabic hymn, “El Yom Oulika,” sung by the Lebanese icon Fayruz. Both Sirusho and Madonna’s use of the ancient are calls to action for modern man.

Just as rap artists in the 80s rallied for an uprising, sampling well-known melodies before their marginalized, underground genre became the mainstream, Sirusho is also asking you to fight the power and set aside corporate-set values and what your conscious mind believes is man’s reality.

Brrreh, she rallies, grasp the unseen, dispel the myths, listen to the dreams from your sleep. The conscious mind, the modern world, sees white and black; the subconscious sees rainbows and unity.

Prologue

The dynamic, kick-up-the-dirt dancing of the Brrreh Gomesh music video features a stunning and fantastically clad, gorgeous Sirusho. She is our new Siren, born to destruct the inhumane and redirect, herd the buffalo.

Her song is about all things Armenian, all things human: perseverance, cultural preservation, doing right versus wrong, family values, hard work, optimism, worship and the love for making and sharing the arts, books, knowledge and the wisdom of the ages.      These elements are innate human dynamics, learned as man progressed from god’s first creation on the Armenian Plateau through ages when villagers made wine and carpets, made microchips and the computer programs that unfortunately run the modern era’s giant information technologies of consumerism.

Like prayers and constitutions and corporate mission statements, the symbols unleashed in song, videos and print can refocus us on who we are, who we’ve been, whose we are and how we should be.

Pain is sure to pass as waters
from a mountainside are always cold,
The face of fate is in your blood
and the path you follow violates nothing

The non-narrative dialogue and meaning of the buffalo and the call to those hearing it to once again giddy up and do something about their circumstances are what Sirusho Kocharian and Avet Barseghyan are telling their pop-loving global audiences.

What else is Brrreh Gomesh than a reconfirmation about our potency and the message that no economic crisis, closed borders, unruly neighbors can dissolve our spirit. No ruler can ever lord above fair and just people, be the rulers Soviet, post-Soviet, businessmen-parliamentarians in power for power, Azeri, Ottoman or Martian.

Arise, and let the world know
that your path is just
Arise, and let your fair fight
receive its honor in heaven
.

And three apples fell from heaven: one for Sirusho, one for Avet, and one for Komitas.

Paul Chaderjian is a television news producer at the ABC station serving the Hawaiian Islands. He began his career at Horizon Armenian Television and has worked at ABC News in New York as a writer-producer for “World News Now” and as a reporter in Fresno. He served as the Arts & Culture and West Coast Editor of the Armenian Reporter, anchored English-language news at Armenia TV and has hosted the annual Armenia Fund Telethon. He may be reached via atwater@live.com

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3 Comments

  1. Mari Tovmasyan said:

    Well said Paul. Indeed, living in the Last Frontier (Alaska), few to hardly anyone knows what or who an Armenian is. But it is the spirit of the Armenian, no matter what parts of the world they find themselves that is resilient. There may be times when the generations get skewed in their path but they always come back.
    As you said, “His were the lessons from the first humans to walk the Earth to modern Armenians, who have survived no matter who was or is lording over us or who has tried to destroy us.”
    At times our future may seem dim but the hope and fight of our people will never end because within every lost generation or time comes out a warrior.

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