Ruben Hakhverdyan Evokes Nostalgia for Homeland at LA Performance

Ruben on stage on Sunday. Photo by Nora Yacoubian

LOS ANGELES—Legendary poet, Ruben Hakhverdyan, returned to Los Angeles after seven years on Sunday to perform in one of the oldest theaters in Downtown for an audience of nearly 2,000.

The United State’s largest Armenian community crowded into the Orpheum Theatre’s majestic halls on Valentine’s Eve to pay homage to the bard of Armenia’s Independence movement, whose passionate prose inspired a generation to question injustice and demand freedom. The event was organized by the Armenian Youth Federation, which rallied its resources to help make the one-time performance a truly unforgettable one.

The marque at the Orpheum Theater. Photo by Nora Yacoubian

“The AYF is very honored to have presented the music of our beloved troubadour, Ruben Hakhverdyan, and his wonderful band to our community in Southern California,” said David Arakelyan, a member of the AYF’s Central Executive body. “Armenian-Americans of all generations admire Ruben Hakhverdyan’s talent and have been looking forward to this event for a very long time.”

In addition to being a performer, Ruben Hakhverdyan is a storyteller, making him all the more unique. On Sunday, he captivated his audience not only with his beautiful music but also with the memories and stories that lie beneath his lyrics.

Performing both old and new songs, Hakhverdyan’s verses dealt with everything from fatherhood to societal ills, all the while awakening a yearning for Armenia for all those in attendance.

Just as he explained to his fans when he began his show with “This is Yerevan,” Hakhverdyan described any place inhabited by Armenians as Yerevan, giving the feel that one could walk out of the Orpheum theatre onto the streets of Armenia at any second. “I have given concerts for Czech, Serbian, and French audiences, and those performances are not very different from one another. The reception everywhere has been very warm,” Hakhverdyan said after the concert.

Given his much anticipated return to Los Angeles, the diverse audience that filled the nearly sold out theatre was composed of both old fans and new fans of Hakhverdyan, eager to experience his timeless music first-hand.

Accompanied by his four-member band, the performance took the crowd through an emotional musical journey that reverberated in the hearts and minds of everyone who packed the halls. On the heels of his 60th birthday, Hakhverdyan’s concert was not only a celebration of his contributions to Armenian music, but of the modern day Armenian experience itself.

“Promoting Armenian culture within the Diaspora is a responsibility of the Armenian Youth Federation and we hope that we were able to achieve that through this concert,” remarked AYF Central Executive member Caspar Jivalagian. “Ruben is a truly amazing artist as evidenced by his exquisite performance on Sunday and we hope to keep working with him to organize future events.”

The legendary singer, composer, and poet promised another concert to his fans in September of this year, which will feature his repertoire of new songs. 

Overheard at the Concert
The singer and composer, Armen Movsisyan stated, “There are songs that do not get old with time.  They do not get covered with dust, but rather, generations of people grow up on those songs, and every new generation somehow finds itself in those songs.  This pertains to Ruben’s art.  And today, I have an opportunity to listen and to enjoy Ruben’s music, and – why not – once again experience the same feelings I have experienced in my younger years.  Today is a great celebration for us, a celebration of brilliant, intellectually stimulating Armenian songs/music.”

For many people, the presence at the concert was a way of celebrating St. Valentine’s Day.  “For me, Ruben is associated with the city of Yerevan.  And I miss him the same way I miss Yerevan.  I think every person, at some point in his or her life, has fallen in love under Ruben’s songs.  Many of us have done just that, and I think Ruben’s concert is very appropriate to celebrate this holiday:  I cannot think of a better choice of a performer,” said poetess Sona Van, a concert attendee. 

A long-time friend of Ruben, Harout Pamboukjian, has exclusive rights to perform the songs authored by Hakhverdyan.  Harout Pamboukjian said:  “Composing [songs] is very difficult, and Ruben is a composer.  And I can even say that he is the only person among the artists in Armenia who writes songs that surprise us every time.  I am very glad to have this opportunity to enjoy this concert tonight.  Ruben is my friend. I am very proud of him, and I think that our nation should take good care of people like Ruben.  He represents the ‘cream of the crop’ of the Armenian art and culture, and I am very proud of him.” 

On the day of the concert, Ruben was accompanied by the members of his band.  Artyom Manoukyan, band member said, “Ruben’s concerts are always beautiful and emotional, and tonight’s concert was not an exception.  The previous concerts had set the bar very high, so we had a great responsibility of meeting the high expectations of the audience tonight.  I think we succeeded.” 

Another band member, Armen Janikyan, was reflecting on his relationship with Ruben Hakhverdyan. He said, “The first time we performed together in 1998, and today, 14 years later, we came together again for another concert.”

The audience also celebrated the artist’s 60th birthday, never doubting that our beloved songs will not get old with time.

“As always, I am very impressed [with the concert].  I never miss Ruben’s concerts, in Los Angeles or in Armenia.  I have been listening to his music since 1980’s when he was regularly detained [by the authorities] for performing anti-Soviet songs at the State Engineering University [of Armenia],” said a Hakhverdyan fan Vehik Gabrielian

Another fan, Nora Keleshian, remarked: “We are enjoying Ruben Hakhverdyan’s concert tonight.  In my opinion, Ruben’s songs and poems say a lot about the way we live.”

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