Putting Tiles in Place

Saturday January 26, 2008 marked the second Mosaic presented to the greater LA Armenian community. I missed it last year, but enjoyed it this year, enough to want to comment on it.
The program consisted of five musical groups, interspersed with comedy, quite humorous. It was well structured and presented an eclectic mix of musical styles. The overall program was a bit lengthy, perhaps each of the acts should play a shorter set. I liked the lighting theme– it looked like fragmen’s, presumably resembling the tiles composing a mosaic. The order in which the acts performed should also have been different. It seemed to me that the groupies (generally younger) of the first two bands left after hearing their favorites, perceptibly impacting the fullness of Glendale’s Alex Theatre.
The first half of the program consisted of two rock bands. This is where things get really interesting. Some were offended that this was “passed off” as Armenian culture. The lyrics were in English, mostly indistinguishable to me. The music didn’t have an Armenian sound to it, except the rendition of one verse of “Giligia”. All but one of the baker’s dozen musicians involved in these two bands was Armenian. So, does this qualify? As Armenian, that is.
I’m reminded of the analogous question that Vahe Oshagan had posed in a class I took from him in college. “Do Armenia’s who write in foreign languages fall into the realm of Armenian literature?”
If nothing else, for selfish and national preservation reasons, the answers to both those questions must be “yes” resoundingly. No matter what other factors affect the music or literature produced, it is Armenia’s producing it. These human beings, to at least some degree, bear an Armenian imprint on their being. This will permeate the art produced. Otherwise, our churches, sharagans, and illuminated bibles would also have to be deemed non-Armenian since they manifest a foreign, borrowed, non-native religion. Which brings us to the notion that as we borrow art forms, in this case musical, developed elsewhere, we (and other nations for that matter) eventually put our own stamp on it, modifying and Armenianizing it. No one complained during the second half of the evening when jazz was performed or another performer sang Armenian themed songs but with music that sounded non-Armenian, was produced on non-Armenian instrumen’s, and had English lyrics.
I also came to a conclusion on an issue that’s been troubling me since 2007’s Genocide commemorations. If you’ll recall, I had described a plethora of bands playing at the various events I attended. The open question was the propriety of those acts playing their not-necessarily-thematically-related music at those gatherings. I was torn. On the one hand, we must provide fora for our developing talent. On the other, Genocide commemorative activities can become trivialized through their presence. The solution to this dilemma is for these types of groups to play at gatherings like Mosaic, NOT at genocide related gatherings in April. More should be organized, perhaps all day festivals where band after band plays. Homenetmen’s Navasartian games could provide another great forum for such performances.
The post intermission program was less controversial. The trio performing old Armenian songs was the most interesting part for me. Their telling the story of each song (in English) then performing it in our now largely vanished dialects is very illuminating presentation. For me this was the most interesting part of the program.
I look forward to more of these events. Don’t miss them.

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