YEREVAN—Deep Purple’s lead vocalist, Ian Gillan, and Black Sabbath’s guitarist, Tony Iommi, are in Yerevan to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Rock Aid Armenia. Previously known as Live Aid Armenia, Rock Aid Armenia is a humanitarian effort facilitated by the British music industry to raise money for individuals affected by the 1988 Armenian earthquake—Spitak.
International charity campaigner Jon Dee, who initiated Rock Aid Armenia, is also visiting Yerevan for the anniversary event.
Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan, Ian Gillan expressed the importance of Rock Aid Armenia, explaining how special the event is to him.
“Here we are again. This project is a very personal experience for me because, I believe it was in June 1990 when I was performing at the sports arena when I became aware of the tragic events of the previous year, and I took a trip to Spitak and I saw the devastation. There are many vivid images, the main one I remember is of an old lady holding a picture of her 28 family members, and she was the only one left alive. I spoke with the Mayor of Spitak and he told me that all music had stopped in the city: on the radio, in the church, even the birds had stopped singing. So we thought that time itself might be a healer and music would, symbolically, be one way for restarting. We got involved with the music school in Gyumri, which I think is absolutely perfect for symbolizing new life,” Gillan said.
Rock Aid Armenia founder Jon Dee thanked Ian Gillan and Tony Iommi and noted that the two legends have continually supported the program throughout the last 30 years, and have also personally visited Armenia to see how they can help further.
“On the occasion of Rock Aid Armenia’s 30th anniversary, an event will take place in the evening to which all tickets are sold out. This shows how important this project is. Next month we will launch a new website that will feature recordings and music videos that haven’t been published until now. Smoke on the Water will be re-released across the world and all proceeds will be directed to Gyumri to supplement the school with musical instruments. We will also release a new album, which won’t contain rock music, but Armenian music,” Dee said.
He discussed the release of an album featuring 5th century Armenian spiritual music, created by Vahan Artsruni and Hasmik Baghdasaryan. The album will be titled Mashtots, with proceeds going directly to the music school in Gyumri.
Dee said they heard the music for the first time in 2013 during a visit to Yerevan’s Matenadaran. He called on all Armenians worldwide to acquire the CD, because all proceeds will go to the school’s funds.
“I am impatiently waiting to see this school with my own eyes. We will continue this project for as long as we are able to,” added Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, who joined the project 10 years ago.
“Smoke on the Water,” a famous Deep Purple song from the 70s, was already once re-recorded for Rock Aid Armenia.