Tanking Up on Music and Activism: Serj Tankian in Yerevan

Tankian performed in Yerevan on August 12.

BY NAREG SEFERIAN

Tankian: “Wherever a majority do not think, democracy cannot exist.”

YEREVAN—Some would call it a historical first, while others are already used to big names performing in Yerevan. However you would have it, Serj Tankian certainly created a stir in more than one way with his concert which took place at Yerevan’s Hamalir (The Karen Demirchian Sports and Culture Complex) on Thursday, August 12.

Organized by Deem Communications and Fugitive Studios, the event had corporate sponsorship and received additional support from the office of the Prime Minister himself. The latter is known as a rock fan, and has helped bring such celebrated bands as Jethro Tull and Deep Purple to perform in Armenia in recent years.

There was no doubt that Serj Tankian did not fall behind in terms of star power, as the Hamalir was filled to capacity. And even with a late start, the opening act by Viza—another Los Angeles-based band with more than one Armenian connection—was well received, before the man himself came on to excited shouts and applause.

The crowd was pretty wild, and had more than one active and interactive contingent, with shouts of “I love you, Serj!” or even “LA loves you!” often resounding in the concert hall. Tankian himself, despite some technical difficulties and sometimes halting command over Armenian, was visibly excited and put on a memorable show.

Serj Tankian is well-known for his activism both on and off the stage. His short time in Armenia, about a day or so, did not lack any efforts in either direction. A group of young environmental activists, declaring Tankian their “eco-hero,” put on a show of welcome on the road from the airport, as well as at the hotel where Tankian was staying. The star approached the group and exchanged a few words of encouragement, and even took a bite out of a melon which was offered to him. The group is, in particular, attempting to stave off government-backed plans on rendering the Teghout forest in the north of the country into a copper mine, and is also helping promote the use of bicycles as a means of transport in Armenia. For his part, Tankian spoke a little bit on the necessity of respecting the environment during the concert itself, as an introduction to a song.

He also made a couple of political statements in the course of the concert, such as: “Wherever a majority do not think, democracy cannot exist,” and “The Armenian people can tear down any [expletive] wall,” or words to that effect. It was not terribly clear, however, whether his words were comprehensible, or whether many in the audience would concern themselves with such matters within the context of the concert, especially if they were expressed below a certain number of decibels.

Regardless, the much-anticipated presence of Serj Tankian heated things up in the already-warm atmosphere of the Armenian capital, and the people of Yerevan—young or old, prime minister or otherwise—look forward to similar events.

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