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Գոռ Մխիթարյան

Original Article   

Հայտնի երաժիշտը Լոս-Անջելեսում հայկականն է քարոզում
“Քնից թանկ բան չկա կյանքում”… Այս բառերի ներքո արթնանում էի առավոտյան այնքան թանկ քնից ու սիրված հնչյունների ներքո ուղղվում համալսարան: 90-ականների կեսին վանաձորյան “Լավ էլի” ռոք-խումբը հայտնվեց մեր կյանքում հանկարծակի եւ նույնքան հանկարծակի անհետացավ` այն տարիներին մատուցելով մեզ այնքան անհրաժեշտ լավ տրամադրություն: Խմբի գործունեությունը դադարեց, երբ խմբի անդամները որոշեցին զբաղվել անհատական գործունեությամբ: “Լավ էլի”-ի համահիմնադիր Գոռ Մխիթարյանին լսել էի միայն հայաստանյան ռադիոեթերում, եւ տասնամյակ անց հանդիպումս ռոք-երաժիշտի հետ տեղի ունեցավ Լոս-Անջելեսում:

Գոռ Մխիթարյան

Գոռ Մխիթարյան Ամերիկա Նյու Յորք, անպարկեշտություն,
Նյու Յորք, իմ համեստությունն ավանդական,
Որ կարված չէր քո չափսով գիգանտական,
Ես թողնում եմ քեզ առանց ափսոսանք… Գոռն արդեն յոթ տարի բնակվում է Միացյալ Նահանգներում: Փնտրտուքի, բացահայտումների տարիներն արտահայտվել են Գոռի ստեղծագործություններում, որոնց արդյունքում ստեղծվել են յոթ ձայնասկավառակները… “Փորձում եմ որեւէ շրջանակի մեջ չտեղավորվել եւ ազատ լինել ոճերի ընտրության հարցում: Նվագում եմ արեւմտյան երաժշտություն: Շատ հոգեհարազատ է նաեւ էթնոյի էլեմենտը: Նախավերջին իմ ալբոմը, որ կոչվում էր “Ակուստիկ ֆոլկլոր”, ամբողջությամբ ֆոլկլորի վրա հիմնված մշակումներ են, բայց արեւմտյան ափսեի մեջ: Փորձում եմ հայկականը ներկայացնել արեւմտյան փաթեթավորմամբ”,- պատմում է Գոռը: Նա համաձայն է նաեւ, երբ իր երաժշտությունը համարում են պոստդեպրեսիոնիստական: Երգերի հիմնական մասի խոսքերի ու երաժշտության հեղինակը Գոռն է: “Երգ ստեղծելը ծանր աշխատանք է: Փորձում եմ գրել բարձրորակ երաժշտություն ամեն ինչի մասին: Ցանկացած պահի կարող է ստեղծվել երգը, որտեղ կա սեր, ցավ, ուրախություն: Կարեւորն անկեղծությունն է”,- խոստովանում է երաժիշտը:

Գոռ Մխիթարյան

Գոռ Մխիթարյան

“Հոգի”

Գոռ Մխիթարյանի վերջին ձայնասկավառակը` “Հոգին” յուրահատուկ նախագիծ է` իրականացված հայ եկեղեցու հետ. “Հայր Մեր” տերունական աղոթքի կատարումը միայն ակուստիկ կիթառով, Նահապետ Քուչակի հայրենները ֆանկ-ռոք ոճում:

“Վաղուց էի մտածում նման ձայնասկավառակ ստեղծելու մասին` հայկական հոգեւոր երաժշտությունը ներկայացնել ժամանակակից ոճում, առավել մատչելի նոր սերնդին: Կարծում եմ, խնդիր ունենք` շատ քարացած ենք, չենք քայլում ժամանակին համընթաց եւ դրանով է նաեւ պայմանավորված երիտասարդների կտրվածությունը արմատներից` թե եկեղեցուց, թե մշակույթից”, – նշում է Գոռ Մխիթարյանը:

Գոռ Մխիթարյան

Գոռ Մխիթարյան

“Հոգի” ձայնասկավառակում ներառված են նաեւ հեղինակային հոգեւոր երգեր հարվածային գործիքների եւ կիթառի նվագակցությամբ: Այսպես է Գոռ Մխիթարյանը փորձում քարոզել հայկականը Հայաստանից դուրս` մասնակիցը դառնալով օտար ափերում ազգային ինքնության պահպանման կարեւոր գործին:

Ազգային երաժշտություն

“Կոմիտասը մի խոսք ունի, ասում է` «Երաժշտությունը ազգի հայելին է»: Կարծում եմ, սրանով ամեն ինչ ասված է: Այսօր հայերի ճնշող մեծամասնությունը լսում է արեւելյան ոչ որակյալ, էժանագին երաժշտություն, եւ ոչ միայն հարսանիքների ժամանակ` այլ մեծ բեմերում, իրենց ամենօրյա կենցաղում: Կարիք չկա, որ թուրքերը երկրորդ անգամ սրով ցեղասպանություն իրականացնեն, այս պահին մենք երկրորդ` “սպիտակ” մշակութային ցեղասպանության զոհն ենք դառնում: Այս տեմպերով շարժվելու դեպքում մենք ընդամենը հարյուր տարի հետո կկորցնենք մեր ազգային ինքնությունը”,- մտահոգված է Գոռը: “Պետք է ունենանք հստակ ազգային գաղափարախոսություն եւ դա պետք է իրականացնենք հետեւողականորեն, առնվազն մի քանի տասնամյակում, եթե ցանկանում ենք ինչ-որ բան փոխել: Ազգային մշակութային ռազմավարություն պետք է ընդունվի, պետք է քաջալերվեն դասական երաժիշտները, ժողովրդական ոճում ստեղծագործողները, այլընտրանք պետք է լինի եւ լինի մեծ պետական հովանավորություն”,- իր լուծումն է առաջարկում Գոռ Մխիթարյանը:

Մշակութային վերածնունդ

“Մշակութային վերածնունդը սկսվում է նրանից, որ մեր երեխաներին պետք է լավ որակի երաժշտություն մատուցենք, հայկական բարձրորակ երաժշտություն, որն իրականում կա: Ինքս մատուցում եմ այլընտրանք, որ չասեն, թե ազգը միայն “վեց-ութ” ունի, այլ նաեւ արեւմտյան ռոքի կամ ջազի ազդեցության կրողն է: Մենք շատ հաճախ ասում ենք, որ գտնվում ենք Եվրոպայի եւ Ասիայի խաչմերուկում, սակայն իրականում մենք խաչմերուկում չենք, այլ միայն Արեւելքից վերցրել ենք նրանց միայն ամենաէժանագինը, ամենաբացասականը եւ դարձրել մեր զանգվածային մշակույթը”,- ասում է երաժիշտը:

Գոռ Մխիթարյան

Գոռ Մխիթարյան

Հայաստանյան ռոք

“Ուրախությամբ պետք է նկատեմ, որ Հայաստանում լավ ռոք երաժշտություն ստեղծելու փորձեր արվում են, սակայն կարծում եմ` շարժումը շատ դանդաղ է”,- նկատում է Գոռը եւ առաջարկում չմեկուսանալ, չսահմանափակվել, այլ ընթացքն արագացնել` հետեւելով համաշխարհային զարգացումներին:
“Չգիտեմ` ինչու ենք մենք հարմարավետ զգում մեզ արեւելյան տուփի մեջ, ինչը թերեւս բնական է` հաշվի առնելով մեր հարեւաններին: Եվ մենք մի հսկայական մաս վերցրել ենք հենց արեւելյան մշակույթից”: Գոռ Մխիթարյանը հայ երաժիշտներին խորհուրդ է տալիս շատ լսել արեւմտյան բարձրորակ երաժշտություն եւ փորձել առաջնորդվել նաեւ արեւմտյան մշակութային արժեքներով:

Երաժշտական դեսպան

“Չկա մի օր, որ չմտածեմ Հայաստանի մասին, նաեւ ամբողջ ընտանիքս է այնտեղ բնակվում: Հայաստանը կարեւոր տեղ է զբաղեցնում իմ կյանքում, եւ այստեղ փորձում եմ լավագույնս ներկայանալ ու ներկայացնել հայրենիքս: Ամերիկայում շատ հաճախ է պատահում, որ չեն ճանաչում Հայաստանը, եւ ես փորձում եմ իմ մասնաբաժինն ունենալ հայի կերպարի ներկայացման գործում»: Գոռը ստեղծագործում է հիմնականում հայ ունկնդրի համար, թեեւ ունի նաեւ անգլալեզու ձայնասկավառակ: Այստեղ շատ հաճախ հենց Գոռի երգերով են ճանաչում հայկական երաժշտությունը:

Կատարելության ճանապարհին

Գոռ Մխիթարյանի ստեղծագործական հաջորդ փուլը խոստանում է լինել առավել Սիրով լի: “Շատ ոգեւորված ժամանակաշրջան եմ ապրում` նոր եմ ամուսնացել սիրած էակիս հետ, եւ այժմ իմ կյանքում սիրո կոնցեպցիայի գագաթնակետն է: Նորածին աղջիկս ամբողջացնում եւ կատարյալ է դարձնում Սերը”:

Վերադարձ

Հայապահպանման միակ միջոց Գոռը համարում է վերադարձը Հայաստան: “Ամերիկյան համակարգը նման է մի մսաղացի, որ վաղ թե ուշ բոլորին կլանում է: Լավագույն լուծումը պետական մակարդակով հայրենադարձության իրականացումն է”,- համոզված է Գոռը, նշելով, որ ինքն էլ պատրաստվում է մի օր վերադառնալ հայրենիք: Մինչ վերջնական վերադարձը Գոռը ցանկանում է Հայաստանում ներկայացնել իր վերջին` “Հոգի” ձայնասկավառակը: “Այն առանձնահատուկ տեղ է գրավում իմ կյանքում, եւ կցանակայի հայաստանյան ունկդրին հասցնել իմ նոր երգերը”:

Հարցազրույցը` Նանե Ավագյանի /ԱՄՆ-ում Bravo.am-ի սեփ. թղթակից/

 

The Armenian Weekly

Gor Mkhitarian

Changing the Face of Armenian Music
—Interview with Gor Mkhitarian
The music scene in Armenia can be paralleled to the emerging and developing identity of the country today. Struggling to preserve the essence of the past and finding a foothold in today's world are the challenges that face all aspects of the Armenian nation.

Singer-songwriter Gor Mkhitarian has characterized this status of the music scene now evolving in Armenia. He is helping to begin this next chapter in Armenia's rich musical history by blending rock, folk, and Armenian traditional music to create a distinct sound that is both compelling and fresh. He presents the meaningful lyrics, simple arrangements, and melodies of the folk songs with a new full-bodied rejuvenation.

Known as the lead guitarist for one of Armenia's rock bands, Lav Elie, Mkhitarian started a solo career in 2001 with the release of "Yeraz," which was nominated for five music industry awards, features two acoustic guitars, percussion, and a banjo, and more than half of Mkhitarian own songs, with re-arrangements of two traditional Armenian folk songs.
Mkhitarian's most recent release, "Godfather Tom," highlights his notable musicianship and adds new instruments to the mix as well as exciting tempo changes and artistic arrangements.

A native of Armenia's Vanazor, Mkhitarian now lives in both Vanazor and Yerevan. Some of Mkhitarians musical influences include Simon and Garfunkel, Elliot Smith, The Dave Matthews Band, Rouben Haghverdian, Bob Dylan, and Harout Bezjian.

Recently, Sossi Essajanian was able to contact the busy singer/songwriter and ask him a few questions about his work, life, and ideas about the future of the Armenian music industry. The following is her interview with Gor Mkhitarian.

Sossi Essajanian: What would you call this genre of music that you are playing?

Gor Mkhitarian: First of all, I would thank you for the interview, Sossi. Regarding your question, I never classify my music into a genre because music is what it is. However if pressed for an answer, Armenians in Haiastan like to call my music "folk-rock." To the general listening public and many Armenian Diasporans, it is considered "underground Armenian music" or simply "world music."

SE : You talk about the British rock and American folk genres as forming the basis of your songwriting. Why do you thing you were so drawn to these styles of music?

GM : My brothers have been the reason for that. About 20-30 years ago, during the Communist Era, Soviet Armenia had a great number of "illegal" American and British records. My brothers listened to very "deep underground" music such as the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple. Naturally that influenced the development of my musical taste into something very different from the mainstream taste. I'm lucky they didn't listen to Azeri music, which was very popular at the time. About 70-80 percent of the people would turn on the radio and listen to the AM frequency coming from Baku. Because Armenia was under Communism at the time, the music was force fed to us and limited choices were all that were available. So, people became comfortable with Azeri and Turkish music in Armenia and that has become the basis for much of the "Rabiz" or pop music that is so popular today.

SE : How did you come up with your album title "Godfather Tom?"

GM : First of all, the term "Godfather Tom" is an attempt at dark humor by expressing to my audience that there are good godfathers and bad godfathers. A "godfather" could be people you work for, your relatives, or your real "godfather."

Some may envision "Godfather Tom" being about the mafia in Armenia. It really doesn't really matter. However, it's about an average guy who picks up a girl who happens to be the wife or lover of his "Godfather" and he catches him in bed with her. I can't spoil the rest of the story, but it has an interesting ending. The title itself was funny and catchy, so we decided to go with it. It is a very light and comical song based on a somewhat real and somewhat fictional story. In contrast, "Yeraz," is a much darker and serious piece of work.

SE : If you had to choose one song on "Godfather Tom," which one would be the one which you like to perform the most?

GM : It would certainly be "Armenian Mirror." With a full band and played live, it is a very energetic song. However, lyrically this song means a lot to me. It's about social awareness and asking Armenians to take a good look at themselves in the mirror to see if they are as good as they claim to be. We've had a proud past, but, perhaps we need to focus on the future while not admiring our history. In short, let's not be so vain.

SE : How did you meet Raffi Meneshian who produced "Yeraz" and was the executive producer on "Godfather Tom?"

GM : I met Raffi Meneshian in Armenia through Aram Hajian. Aram, who is from Boston, is a good friend of mine and has been living and working in Armenia for the past three years. Raffi is a childhood friend of his and had come to Armenia in May of 2001 to visit Aram. Over a two week timeframe, Raffi saw me at a few shows playing electric guitar in rock bands in bars and clubs while in Yerevan.

Finally, during the end of his stay, we all got together for an outdoors khorovads feast at Kobayri, 25 minutes away from my native Vanadzor. I had taken my acoustic guitar with me for a little entertainment and started playing some simple tunes for the crowd. After I was done playing, Raffi asked me if I would consider a CD project and that's how the idea of collaboration came about. We have worked together now for almost three years.

SE : It seems like you enjoy performing live. Do you and why?

GM : I really do like performing because a great synergy is created between me and the audience. I give them my emotions, and they give me back theirs, and so on, continuously. It's good to know that they've come to hear specifically "my" music, which means that there is something they can take from me.

SE : In what direction do you see your music heading in the next year?

GM : The future continues to look bright. I am currently working on my new songs and hope to start recording some new tunes starting this summer. It's too early yet to be talking about a new recording for now, but the plans are there. I would like to collaborate with some experimental musicians, and hope something good will transpire out of it. Working with musicians with no borders who are not afraid to put their music out to the general public without worry about how "it should be," is where my frame of mind is now with regards to my new stuff.

For example, in my song "Little Boy Who Doesn't Want a Drunken Father," you may notice that at the beginning of the song, I start out with a minor chord. Toward the end of the song, the harmonica kicks in with an improvisational solo in a major blues chord against the backdrop of the minor chord. Not a big deal, but, it's different. And, we weren't afraid to take a chance. I define that as fresh.

SE : Can we get a sneak peak at your next project?

GM: For now, I am concentrating on getting the music from "Godfather Tom" out there via live performances with a touch of the new stuff mixed in. While I can't say much about the next project, in general, I can say that there are going to be rather big surprises for my listeners in store, just like the transition from the albums "Yeraz" to "Godfather Tom." I don't believe in reproducing the same sound from album to album.

SE : As for the future of Armenian music, where do you see it heading?

GM : Today's Armenian music seems to have slipped into an era of recycling previous compositions. Personally, I do not see anything new or fresh being created at this time in Armenia. Take a look at the Armenian music market nowadays—you may see most CD's labeled as "Armenian" having songs that are either rehashed folk songs or attempts at imitating Western music with "dumbed down lyrics." If this trend continues, we may not have much quality music in the near future, just a regurgitation of older music being recorded over and over again.

In my opinion, we really need fresh and progressive musicians who are capable of creating something new and intelligent songwriting and innovative arrangers. Unfortunately, there presently are too few of them in Armenia.

SE : How do you think we can preserve traditional Armenian music, at the same time moving it forward into the 21st century?

GM : Armenian traditional music is preserved regardless, for the simple reason that not much else is produced anyway.

I'd rather talk about how to move into the 21st century, while making new and fresh music. People will always listen to traditional music, so that's not something that I worry about. We just need new musicians who will experiment even with that old music and serve it as new, in a different light. I don't see huge progress right now, but I hope that it will come. I like to be optimistic.

SE : In your interview with Kohar Carapetian, you mentioned that you were working on building a studio in Armenia. How is that project going?

GM : Very slowly. But, my goal is to finish everything by the summer of 2005 in Armenia. We're only taking preparatory steps, for now. My goal is to live and work in Armenia, so I don't have to go elsewhere to do what I love to do—play music. Having a studio will give musicians like myself an opportunity to record and make their art be heard.

SE : How is the music program at schools in Armenia?

GM : We have specialized music schools in Armenia. Classical music has always been at a very high level. There has never been a shortage of specialists or programs. The only problem we have is on the technical side. The irony is that even with our high level of training and interest, the lack of musical instruments, recording gear, etc. is our biggest problem. It's a catch 22. The desire and training is there, but, the resources are not.

SE : What is the music atmosphere like in Armenia for an emerging artist?

GM : Very open, but at the same time it is tough to grab an audience. If your music is outside the mainstream circle or not folk or jazz, you have to really work at capturing a segmented audience, starting from scratch. However, as with a lot of things in Armenia, the field is wide open. All you need to do is pave your own path, and hopefully people will take notice.

SE : What advice would you give someone who is interested in pursuing a career in the music industry?

GM : They can't be just "interested." They have to thoroughly believe in themselves, and then no obstacle will stop them. We all know how difficult it is to establish oneself in the music industry, and only the aforementioned belief can take one to success.

SE : How have non-Armenians responded to your music?

GM : There has been a very positive response from non-Armenian fans and the media alike. It really started back in Armenia when I would befriend Peace Corp volunteers. Once their term ended and they went back to the US, they spread the word. When the first album "Yeraz" came out, there was a tremendous response from non-Armenians who were either former Peace Corp volunteers or their friends.

The circle grows at each show. I am happy to say that many times my non-Armenian friends have even started learning Armenian because of my songs. What could be a bigger compliment than that?

Asbarez

Gor Mkhitarian's Music Allures, Even if You Don't Understand the Lyrics

By Gohar Galyan 

Suspicious of most popular Armenian music, Asbarez Summer intern Gohar Galyan soon became attracted to Gor's music and took on the mission to investigate the man behind the compelling songs. She found out his fans include Armenia's Peace Corps volunteers who don't even understand a word he utters. . .  

(Asbarez)--A documentary on Gor shows him on a stage, wearing a thick jacket singing to a crowded hall. As Gor bellows into the microphone, a thick cylinder of smoke escapes his mouth. That was March 1, 2003, at the Rock Club in Yerevan.

The documentary, prepared by Sara Anjargolian and Lauren Kesner, also zooms in on some of the audience. Peace Corp members, Armenians and non-Armenians alike sway to the music, intently listening to the lyrics, though many don't understand what Gor is actually singing. In fact, Gor has what seems like a cult following in Armenia. One woman professes to not having missed a single concert in three years. Though Gor sings in Armenian, non Armenian peace Corp members confess to loving his music.    

In the video, Gor looks tall and husky with rugged features. Almost like someone you would not want to piss off. But when I met Gor, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, he is tall. Yes, he is husky. And yes, he rugged. But in sharp contrast to his physical features, he is uber nice, polite and soft spoken. During the two hour long interview, Gor speaks barely above a whisper never raising his voice. He is pensive, taking his time to answer the questions about his music, life, and Armenia.  

I stumbled onto Gor's music by accident. I, no fan of popular Armenia music, hesitated when my boss suggested putting Gor's demo CD into the player. But from the first verse, I was hooked. The sound, a combination of Bob Dylan and Dave Matthews reminded me of another favorite Ruben Haghverdian. But it was younger and sexier.  

So I played the demo on repeat in the car—only five songs and I had them memorized. And then, that song, that one song, stuck with me. The lyrics were amazing; his husky voice was engulfing, and the Jim Morrison grunt at the end of the chorus just orgasmic. But I am a human being too. I want to dance with you. And I'm waiting for the night to come so we can kiss in the light of a blue light. The blue light stuck with me: why were they kissing under the blue light? I dug into my brain, into rusted knowledge gathered from literature class trying to decipher the true meaning of the blue light. So when I sat down with Gor, that was one of my first questions. “Why was the couple kissing under a blue light instead of a red or yellow or green light?” “Simple,” says Gor. Blue light gives the couple a little privacy because the light is dark and it is hard to see what the couple is actually doing under the light. This is especially important in Armenia where kissing in public is still frowned on” And besides, “ he says with a grin, “who wants to kiss under a yellow light?”  

“Yeraz”

Gor ought to know about Armenian traditions and taboos. He was born in Vanazor in 1973, where he graduated from high school and worked in the Vanazor chamber choir and as a tour organizer in a puppet theater. In 1994 he was invited to play the guitar in a Vanazor rock back Snack. In 1999, Snack changed its name to Lav Eli. After a brief stint working in Russia and singing with another band there, he moved back to Vanazor. In 2001, he moved to Yerevan and started his own band called the Gor Mkhitarian Band. The music was more folky and acoustic with a guitar and a banjo. He also released his first album, Yeraz, in 2001.  

Gor only stared writing in 2000, and focused on the hardship Armenia endured after the collapse of the Soviet Republic. “I didn't write music until I was 27,” he says. He says that by then the memory dam was flooding and the experience was ready to jump from his memories into the paper. “When I was 27, I lived through my lyrics.” So Yeraz is biographical, reflective of the bad years, the poor social conditions. “It is what I had grown up in,” he says. The songs on Yeraz are thus gloomy and dark. “But I like the dark,” he says. “There is depth in darkness.” In Mer Tan Mech , he sings about people wanting to give up the struggle for life; about wanting to go home, lie down, close their eyes and forget about living. “I am just exhausted and have calmly decided to give up. I don't even want to try to think about this anymore. As long as I am in bed, time seems to stand still. Too bad I only now understand I struggled so long in vain,” he sings.  

Gor first came to America in November, 2002 for the Armenian Music Awards. His work was nominated for Best Alternative Folk Album, Best New Comer, and Best Album Cover, which he won. After the awards, he traveled to San Francisco and New York to perform.  

In New York City, he performed in the Knitting Factory. He also traveled to London for a concert, after which he returned to Armenia.  

Gor's writing transitioned after the first album. He started writing about happier topics, about love. “I said I want to have a little fun,” he says. “There is love. Let's talk about it, sing about it, and do it.”  

The later writing is somewhat reflective of the period when Gor formed tight friendships with the Peace Corp volunteers. While still performing with Snack, one of the band members stuck up a friendship with a Peace Corp volunteer and one thing led to another, and the Peace Corp volunteers became a regular feature at the concerts. The band was also invited to perform at the Peace Corp swearing in ceremony parties. Gor formed a close friendship with a handful of the volunteers and started dating one of them. “I was exposed to new things, new culture,” he says. “That affected me a lot.” He still maintains his friendships with the Peace Corp volunteers; two of those friends, Jason Demerjian and Aaron Stayman, are now in his band.  

The Peace Corp friendships helped shape Gor into a nexus between the Armenians in Armenia and the Diaspora. “When you meet and befriend other people, you try to see from their perspective. You tie your cultures together and your friends together because you know them,” he says. According to Gor, exposure to different people is of utmost importance. “If you don't have that, the nexus is not going to form.” But because of the exposure to the Peace Corp volunteers, and because of subsequent employment with a Diaspora group in Armenia, Gor has the unique talent of being comfortable around both Armenians in Armenia, and Diaspora Armenians. But the two culture often interpret his lyrics differently. In Voch Me Ban , he sings about an individual who society has cast aside and is ready to kill. But the discarded individual is so much above those who mock and persecute him, that he ready to die while society entertains giving him another chance. Gor wrote the lyrics with societal outcasts in mind: those who do not fit into society's molds and as a result are cast aside and castigated by society. While Armenians in Armenia understood the song as he meant it, the Diaspora Armenians thought the lyrics were metaphorical; they believed that Armenians in Armenia were saying ‘we don't need you anymore, we can do it ourselves.'  

“It was funny. I read another meaning into my own song,” says Gor. While Gor does not intentionally load his lyrics with double entendres, he doesn't mind when people interpret his music differently than he intended. “I don't sit and think about what I am writing about,” he says. “I know there is a theme in my head trying to get out, so I sit and write it.”  

New CD, His Future. . . Armenia's Future

Gor is busy performing and wrapping up production on his new album Godfather Tom due out on November 4. But although Gor is busy with work here, he plans to return to Armenia. “I am going to go back to Armenia,” he says. “But the ideal situation for me is to live at both places.” He talks of his family and his roots being in Armenia but of his professional ties and the market for his music being in America.  

With one leg in Armenia and another in the US, Gor would continue acting as a nexus between the two societies. And that is why he understands better than most people Armenia's economic and political hardships and necessities and the effects of the dire economic conditions on Armenian art, especially music. “The economy has to change so that music can become a career option,” he explains. Even talented musicians end up casting their careers aside so that they can feed their families. There is needs to be collaboration between the Diaspora and Armenia in all spheres and society will also become more tolerant with contact and exposure to the Diaspora, says Gor. “Look at the world, you learn from one another.” The other salient component of change in Armenia, according to Gor, is education. “Education needs to be exchange based,” he says. “A big part of my friends studied abroad and work in Armenia.” Because of their experiences abroad, they think differently. “But if it goes on like this, no one will remain in Armenia,” he concludes. “People are running away from it.”  

With better economic conditions, progress can be made in Armenian music. According to Gor, the taste in Armenian music is established in Armenian from where is slowly spreads to the Diaspora communities around the world. But now, there is a statement in Armenian music. “There is always going to be traditional Armenian music. That is good but you can't always stay on that root,” he says. Exposure with the Diaspora will not only improve conditions economically in Armenia, but it will also make the country more tolerant. As a result, society will not cast aside outsiders as easily and great musicians, who are often thought to be ‘different' will have the opportunity to emerge.  

For now Gor is doing is part. In March, he sang in Armenia to an audience including Diaspora Armenians and Americans. On Saturday and Sunday in the US, he will sing to an audience composed of American Armenians. And hopefully, this time around, the club will have heating so that he won't have to wear a parka and smoke will not escape his mouth as he sings into the mike.

GODFATHER TOM!

Music from the Armenian Underground in New York: Gor Mkhitarian's Second Appearance in Gothame

By Aleksandr B. Gevorkyan 

MAY 3, 2004 NEW YORK – Who said that Armenian songs were only those that went with lots of electronic instruments, fast beats and ever-present duduk or zurna? Learning from the aces of the Armenian and Western music world Gor Mkhitarian of Armenia has brought a new sound to us that is as purely traditional Armenian as it is modern.  

Last Sunday evening, the New York Armenian Students' Association hosted Gor Mkhitarian and his band at the Knitting Factory in New York City. Gor is currently on tour, promoting his second CD "GODFATHER TOM". It was his second appearance in New York from the start of his musical career. Last year the NY ASA and Armenian Network of New York and New Jersey had organized a similar concert also at the Knitting Factory. It was a debut concert for Gor presenting his first album acoustical "YERAZ". As in last year, this year too, the room was filled with fans and people who were interested in the "Armenian miracle". Running ahead of the story, it is interesting to note, that the organizers counted many non-Armenians in the audience. The whole action took place at the "Old Office" - a bar with a stage and a hall at the Knitting Factory's basement, which drew everyone closer to experience the true spirit of underground culture. 

A special touch, courtesy of thin walls and far from being perfect equipment, was the heavy rock background echo, emanating from the concert rooms above, that accompanied the first few minutes of Gor's performance. Despite that, the crowd picked up with Gor from the very start and chanted all through the end. As Gor would say later, Уthe audience is everything for a musician. I am thankful to everyone who came and helped us make this an enjoyable celebration of our music and culture.Ф Indeed, Gor's music is highly Armenian in every tune and every chord as he starts off modestly and quietly only to reach culmination towards the middle of a composition and then bring it down to the starting pointЕGor's style is a successful mixture of acoustical and modern sounds, going from fast to slow and high to low, often changing tunes entrapping in this, but never diverting too far from, the core melody.  

But even more so one feels the whole complexity of Armenian character in his deeply philosophical lyrics. Each song whether it is about an undying and sincere love of УSasuntsineriФ or the realities and wisdom of life in the УOld AgeФ or jokes of УGodfather TomФ or the mocking УArmenian MirrorФ or the УStone FacesФ that keep one wondering of the meaning of time and history and the legacy of his nationЕeach song is definite to make a change in lives of those who listen carefully and try to see the world, the Armenian world, through the artist's eyes. A pause longer than a minute is required for a listener to think over what has just been sung, only to push a УRepeatФ button on a CD-player and hear the same song over and over again.  

Getting back to last night's concert it should also be noted that the performance lasted for two full hours, it was absolutely unplugged, acoustic performance with Aaron Stayman (or "Eric Clapton II" as the crowd nicknamed this brilliant guitarist) playing the lead guitar, Jason Demerjian (yes the one who has founded the Armenian Volunteer Corps) on the dumbeg and Gor on a guitar and lead vocals. The trio exhilarated the crowd to the point that the last half hour they performed with an accompaniment of continuous applause and shouts of УMore, More!Ф and УBravo!Ф Gor and his band performed such well-known Armenian classics as "Gagavig" and "Sarer". Those in the audience who knew the songs cheered and sang along with the musician.  

In all it was a fantastic and unforgettable evening with one of Armenia's most gifted young singers, musicians and (again judging by the lyrics he writes) a great thinkers with an open mind and tremendous talent. It leaves to be desired for the Armenian Diasporan groups to offer greater support to, provide venues, organize concerts and evenings with such artists as Gor Mkhitarian. Armenian culture is a rich and incredibly inspiring to many and young people especially. It is the responsibility of the community groups to offer opportunities for others to learn and enrich their inner world.  

 

For more information about the NY ASA please visit www.asainc.org/newyork
 

The Armenian Mirror Spectator

GOR MKHITARIAN Dazzles Diverse Audience in Somerville, Massachusetts

By Nancy Kalajian

SOMERVILLE, Mass.- Many prefer their toast warm and the crowd at Somerville's new Toast Lounge was just that when Gor Mkhitarian performed there on January 24.tickets for the popularmusical artist, who wasborn ans raised in Vanadzor, Armenia, and enjoys success not only there but in the diaspora, were sold out. Produced by Raffi Meneshian, owner of Cambridge-based Pomegranate Music, Gor's only appearance in the Boston area during this American tour took the crowd by storm.

Though the weather that evening was pretty frigid, it didn't stop old and new fans from attending the concert. “I'm thrilled that Gor's Boston show was sold out. It reaffirms the notion that there is a new generation of Armenian music enthusiasts out there that want's music directly from the homeland (Armenia), whichever style it may be. My hope is that Pomegranate Music serves as the culltural bridge between Armenia and the diaspora,” said Meneshian.

During the concert, not only did some audience members get as close to Gor and his accompanying musicians – some returned Peace Corps Armenia volunteers - as they could, but they were dancing, waving, smiling and really feeling the excitement of the music. Indeed, Gor knows how to move his audience and well appreciates his fans and collaborators. The audience included many returned Peace Corps Armenia volunteers and ex-pats who became very familiar with Gor during their tenure in Armenia; some traveled more than 100 miles to make this special event.

College students and graduates, business people, representative of many ages and nationalities, were also there rocking to the music. New England-based John Berberian, world famous oudist, joined Gor on stage for a few numbers, and they were a glorious sight to hear and behold together. Other artists also gathered on the stage to great acclaim – and appreciation – by Gor.

Narini, a young lady from Watertown, later described the experience as “surreal. It felt good to my heart to see leaders of the Armenian community and also both America and Armenian-born musicians joined together, and feed us the spirit of ancient Armenia and Western music.” Brian Lawson, an impressed audience member with Armenian friends but no Armenian roots, declared, “We went to a night of east meets west in the pop, rock music world, Gor and his group kept a worldly, diverse group of easterners and a worldly, diverse group of westerners happy all night long.”

CD's featuring Gor were available after the concert, and judging by the length of the line and many happy faces, Gor's music is now rocking many New England homes. “Yeraz”, Gor's first CD, came out a few years ago by Pomegranate Music to great acclaim. The folksy, 11-song CD features two acoustic guitars, percussion and a banjo. Mkhitarian wrote 9 songs on “Yeraz” and rearranged two traditional Armenian folk songs including one by Komitas. Released just before this past Christmas season, Gor's newest album is called “Godfather Tom: Music from Armenian Undergroung.” Recorded in Armenia during the summer of 2002, this new album electrifies Gor's distinct style of New Armenian world indie-pop. The sounds of banjos, acoustic/electric guitars, flutes, an African djembe and harmonicas are heard on this latest effort.

Gor, a tall, striking figure, interacted with his audience off stage as well, shaking hands and giving hugs to many admirers including Arthur Queenan, a Peace Corps volunteer who served in Vanadzor for two years and now lives in the Boston area. “I've had the privilege to know Gor in hiw own hometown, Vanadzor, in Armenia. It has been a treat to see his music mature and begin to evolve, but still keeping his Armenian roots. I think his greatest strength is composing songs and he is very talented at constructing melodies and choosing the right instruments to complement his ideas,” he said. “To see him in American soil, with talented musicians playing the oud or banjo, filling out a rhythm so perfectly, brought a smile to myself, as well as to many others, tonight in Somerville.”

Usanogh.com

Armenian Underground Music
is “Over” at LA

By Ashot Tadevosian

Contributed by ashot on Tuesday December 30, 2003 04:34PM from the dept. The bar drenched in alcohol and the smell of cigarette smoke suddenly grew impatient, as chants of “We Want Gor” grew louder. And Gor is what they got. A whole hour and a half's worth of him. The newest bright addition to the music of the Armenian underground that is: Gor Mkhitarian.

Gor took on the stage and started the performance alone, promising that his friend and fellow musician, John Perfitt, will join shortly. After about 5-6 songs, he kept his promise, as John stepped up on the stage, and the concert “took off for good,” to never look back again. The acoustics of guitar and mandolin created an emotional mix of folk, alternative and a little bit of rock and roll; something previously unheard of in the Armenian music industry. And that is what Gor Mkhitarian brings to the table: music previously unheard to the Armenian ear.
Gor is the latest talented singer/songwriter to hit the scene of Armenian music. Some of his most famous predecessors include Artur Meschian, Ruben Hakhverdian, and Armen Movsisian. Taking little from those who came before him, and more from the likes of The Dave Matthews band, Bob Dylan, and Led Zeppelin, and mixing it up with Armenian folk, he has come up with a unique sound of his own, which is an establishment in its own right. Top that off with the fact that his lyrics give out a comfortable feeling to the listener, and create an impression of chatting with a friend, and you have the makings of something very special.

Actually, Gor's story began in 1990, when he started playing the guitar, and then added “writing songs” to his resume in 1993. Soon after that, he started playing music with others and singing as a secondary vocalist. He started out performing for a band named “Snack,” which later on was renamed to “Lav Eli.” He also had a project of his own called “Force Major” in 2000.

However, Gor's story as an independent musician and performer started in 2000. In 2001, Pomegranate Music released Gor's first “individual” album, entitled “Yeraz” (Dream), which was a nominee for “Best Alternative Folk Album,” and “Best Newcomer,” and won the “Best Album Cover” award at the 2002 Armenian Music Awards. The same album was also a nominee for “Best Ethnic World Album,” and “Yeraz,” the song, was a nominee for “Best Ethnic World Song,” at the 2002 Just Plain Folk Music Awards, where it won third place. A year later, in November of 2003, Pomegranate Music released his second album, called “Godfather Tom,” which expanded on the musical horizon previously experimented on, with an even more melodic and developed sound than the first one.

Currently Gor is learning the trade of show-business, and establishing contacts in the States, meanwhile already working on his third album. He's been residing in the States for the past eight months. At a relatively young age of 30, Gor has performed in several places around the world and in the United States, establishing that much-needed web of contacts that is so important in the volatile career of a musician. We caught up with Gor, and asked him some questions that we thought might interest some of our readers. Here they are.

Usanogh: -What have you dreamed about?
Gor Mkhitarian: -Many things. But I can say that I've accomplished most everything that I've ever dreamed of, which is a rare occurrence. There are not too many people that have accomplished even half of all their dreams. I've accomplished about 80% of all my dreams thus far. I have other dreams now…

U: -Can you share with us, what those are?
GM: -Well, as any other singer, as any other musician, I'd like to share my music with as many people as possible, and be able to support myself doing that, instead of doing something else, which is very important. I want to be doing what I like, and nothing else; that means doing that, which you like, and being financially supported by it. I don't do it (write songs) to make money. I do what I like, and then I try to sell the product, not to be thinking about doing anything else for money, and being miserable while doing it. For example, why sell potatoes, when I can sell my music?

U: -What is your biggest wish?
GM: -I wouldn't say I have a “biggest wish.” I have many wishes. One of the important ones is to create a center for the development and support of underground music in Armenia. That would be a non-profit center, supporting any musicians with an alternative preference. It's part of our history. Twenty years later nobody's going to remember that these bands existed, because they didn't have money to record and release their music.

U: -Are there many bands like that?
GM: -I wouldn't say there's many, but there are several ones, and it would be a pity if they didn't survive. There's a few with good potential. For example, there's a band from Gyumri, called Bambir. This is the second generation of the old “Bambir”: “Bambir 2.” There are many bands from Vanadzor, like “Strangers,” “Push,” and “Gizak.” Read about them here. These are bands that sing in Armenian, but play an alternative (different) style. These are the bands that are going to create something new, because Armenian music of today is in a dead end, and there needs to be something new. Back in the days, when “The Apostles” came about, it was the same thing. Eventually, alternative music is what creates that change.

U: -Are you married?
GM: -No, not yet. I'm still 30 years old. Actually there's two ways to look at that. In Armenia, they would say “you're already 30 years old.” Here, they say “you're only 30 years old.”

U: -Why aren't you married?
GM: -I probably haven't met the right person yet.

U: -Describe your ideal mate.
GM: -There are two different realities. One is the woman you imagine in your mind, and you want her to have these certain characteristics. And then there's the real one. Let's not mistake imagination with reality. However, if you find a good mix of both the ideal and the real, that's the best scenario. How do I imagine my ideal mate? The most important thing for me is for her to be my friend. I would want her to be a woman, literally, but also be like a friend to me. They say the most successful marriages occur between best friends. But I can't mention any specific physical characteristics that I want my mate to have. Of course, I want her to be understanding, kind, forgiving, intelligent… I don't think anyone dreams of any better than that. Also, being loved by her, that's very important.

U: -Do you have any plans to take over the world?
GM: -During a radio interview in 1995, when we were eight years younger, we said “what is the point of living, if you have no plans of taking over at least half of the world…” But I think that even if you're thirty years old, it's worth fighting for. What's the purpose of living and battling, if that desire does not push you along the way? Well, maybe not half of the world… but you have to have a big appetite, to conquer the small obstacles of life easily. You have to think big. Of course we're going to take over the world… Why not?

U: -When was the last time you ate good “khash”?
GM: -I've eaten ok “khash” here about 7 months ago. But the last good “khash” I ate was in Armenia, last year.

U: -Do you notice a change in the mood of the opposite sex, after becoming a singer?
GM: -I would say yes. Any girl and any woman is more sensitive and reacts more hastily to music. After all, any musician, any singer, and even any person who plays a musical instrument has a magnetic effect on girls, because of this.

U: -Have you encountered girls who approach you not because of your music, but because of your image?
GM: -Of course, that happens too. Not all females think alike, want alike, and expect alike. But I think it's pleasant for most women to be with a man who has established himself in a specific domain or walk of life. And music is one of those domains. Of course it's important for her to appreciate you first as a person, but appreciating you as a musician is not a bad thing either.

U: -What is the craziest idea you have ever come up with?
GM: -I have come up with a very crazy idea, the craziest idea of my life… and I've put it into action, but I'll talk about it maybe one or two years later.

U: -What will save the world?
GM: -God.

U: -So you're religious.
GM: -I believe that God exists, that he's among us. Yes, I believe that God will save the world… definitely not man.

U: -In one of your songs (Gladiator) from the previous album, you ask “the senators” how much they would pay for you, so that when they look back, they don't feel bad about it. So how much did they buy you for?
GM: -Very little.

U: -What's your favorite color?
GM: -I've always liked ambiguous colors, like gray, brown… nothing that belongs to a specific category. I like mixed colors.

U: -What would you wish to students (usanogh's) out there?
GM: -To Usanogh and students out there… I've always thought that students are a progressive group of people. I wish that they don't numb down, and I don't think they will. And if they're not going to conquer new grounds, at least not give up what they've already accomplished. After all, students are the ones that bring in new ideas. All big changes, even revolutions, have been started by students, and I hope they continue that trend. I wish you all the best.

U: -Thank you

THE GOR INTERVIEW:

For Pomegranate Music

by Aram Hajian.

Yerevan, Armenia in October of 2001

AH: How did you learn to play guitar?

Gor: I taught myself primarily. I had a guitar when I was fifteen, but didn't take it seriously until age 21.

AH: Are there any friends who got you interested in music?


Gor: From 1992-1994 I sang in a church choir in Vanadzor. Sarer, the first song, on the album was one of the songs was performed. Another choir member and friend of mine, David Arshakian, arranged this song for a rock group we had started together. The idea of a traditional Armenian tune in a contemporary musical setting worked out beautifully, I became excited about developing the idea. David taught me a great deal about melody in and of itself. I must also mention Mehr Manukian (friend and songwriting partner in "Lav Eli"), who taught me about melody within a harmonic context. Aaron Stayman helped me appreciate that my songwriting style is essentially derived from melody. This solidified my approach to composition.

AH: Name some of your influences both musical and non-musical?

Gor: In the non-musical category, I'd place William Saroyan, Mark Twain, and Herman Melville. Among my deepest musical influences there is my mom. I recall her singing folk and spiritual songs to me as a child.In modern western rock, I really like Dave Matthews. I also love Arto Tuncboyajian, he is a tremendous musician, who understands the depth and complexity of Armenian music. He is a brilliant cultural ambassador for Armenian culture.

AH: Armenian music has a fantastically strong and unique tradition. Do you draw from it?

Gor: Most definitely. Armenian music in general is sad, but for me it is uplifting to endure the somberness and recognize the beauty within it. There are also many joyful folk songs, spirituals (sharakans) and church music that has influenced my sense of melody. While Armenian music is traditionally sorrowful, now is the time for music that inspires hope and optimism.

AH: Do you think it would be the same for a non-Armenian drawing upon this tradition or do you feel a stronger attachment as an Armenian?

Gor: I grew up with this music and it is part of my life. I don't, however, feel compelled to draw upon it other than when the song calls for it. For instance, I don't feel obligated to throw a duduk in the mix just because I am an Armenian musician. I use whatever the music demands.

AH: You live in a country that has gone through tremendous social and political change in the past ten years. Has that influenced your writing? How?

Gor: Having experienced hunger and cold around me, I feel I can paint authentic, emotional sketches in my songs. Perhaps living here has heightened my senses to loneliness, happiness, sadness, and pain. While technically, the last ten years have symbolized freedom, more than anything it has meant ambiguity and
insecurity for Armenians. This atmosphere of confusion and doubt about the future influences my thinking and therefore my writing.

AH: You have always been involved in playing and writing. Tell me about some of your earlier projects.

Gor: In Vanadzor, there has always been a solid performing tradition. My first Vanadzor group "Snack" was formed by a drummer and singer, Ashot Chobanian. We played that version of "Sarer" and many other things as well. We recorded a double album of 17 songs. In 1996, Mehr Manukian and I formed "Lav Eli". We continue to play as "Lav Eli" today. In 1997, I went to Moscow to work for a year. I did some playing there as well with Russian bands. I've recorded two album with "Lav Eli". I also recorded and album with a side project called "Force Major" in 2000.

AH: Do you feel the material on the new album is similar to what you have written in the past?

Gor: No. This style is a first for me. Previously, I have always written for a standard rock combo (electric guitar, bass, drums)-this is a big change. It's a simpler sound, just acoustic guitar, banjo and percussion. In the past, the music had always taken precedence over the lyrics. This time I intended to have the lyrics and music have equal importance. On this album I felt the need to have the music more strongly reflect the words.

AH: This album will expose many western listeners to your music for the first time. Do you have any message to convey to this new audience?

Gor: Many people listening to modern Armenian music know pop singers, Tata and Nune. I would like people not to base their opinions of Armenian music solely on this style. I encourage them to see what else is coming out of Armenia.

AH: Your solo album features two other musicians. Who are they and how did you meet them?

Gor: I've known Jason (Demerjian-percussion) for five years. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Stepanavan. We met through a mutual friend in Vanadzor and became very close. Aaron (Stayman-banjo/guitar), a current Peace Corps Volunteer, did his training in Vanadzor last summer. I would frequently distract him from his classes to drink beer and play guitar. In both cases the playing relationship is based on friendship.

AH: What's next?

Gor: We are working on another album. The style will be similar to that of the previous album, but with an emphasis on richer instrumentation, I envision flute, strings, accordion, and more percussion. As for the future, God knows.