Thursday, November 30, 2006

You "Oud"n't Say So??

Just a quick blog to say that I am alive. Just as God always seems to make a way in the musical venues of my life, I recently developed an urge to explore the oud and see if it is something I could develop in my musical repertoire. It just so happened that a friend of mine Charle had a spare oud sitting in his attic (as you do) and I have been allowed to borrow it to perform my exploration. On top of that I have managed to secure an appointment with Ahmed Mukhtar so that he can have a look at this oud and start me on lessons. You can imagine my excitement. I am thrilled. While talking about this idea to an old aquaintance Lori Khatchadourian, she suggested I look into the music of Souad Massi. I have since acquired her latest CD and I must say I am enjoying it incredibly. She is from Algeria and now based in Paris and plays oud and guitar. It certainly adds an interesting element to the music - taking it away from typical folk and tying it into more Middle Eastern roots :
I have decided to also take it upon myself to organise some concerts for the Armenian Navy Band in London. As they are being invited over to France for the year of Armenia in France I think it is a great opportunity to get them playing in London. I have currently contacted Ronnie Scott's jazz club and will be following up with them soon in hope that the ANB could do a few nights there in May and would also like to envision that we can organise a special acoustic concert in the large Armenian church (St. Yeghishe) in London too. We shall see. I have also personally been asked to perform here in London so it might even be possible to tie in some of that with them. It is a nice project for me to focus on - I enjoy their music immensely as those who have read my blogs would have realised and would love to see more opportunities for them to play and be recognised - especially after winning in the BBC World Music Awards!
Speaking of which, Armenian Life Magazine in Melbourne Australia has been in touch and there is talk of organising a joint Armenian Navy Band and Sonya concert in Melbourne and Sydney for November 2007. I would be incredibly touched, overjoyed and flattered if we can bring this one about. What bigger joy than to travel with other musicians (whom I admire) and share our music with fellow music lovers. Isn't that what it is all about anyway?
So who knows what the future holds. I will keep my head down and keep playing for now - keep writing, learning, exploring and most of all feeling. Feeling is the key :)
Oh yes! For the particular person who decided to "anonymously" comment that this blog website is self-absorbed....let me elaborate. This blog is about my experiences in and out of Armenia and deals with my music as well as the Marts school renovation project. Therefore, if perhaps you would rather I talk about something else - (like yourself for instance) or perhaps tell us how interesting your own life is I would be open to doing that for you (whoever you may be). Furthermore, one is entitled to their own musical opinions and I definitely prefer the Armenian Navy Band over Lilit Pipoyan but I think we are all grown ups here and we can handle having different opinions. If however, you can't handle it - please feel free to not engage in reading my blog. I don't force anyone to share my experiences. Thank you. (Blimey - the nerve of some people!)
That being said - for those of you who have supported me in the music, in the school renovation, with moral support and kindness - thank you. It is a great priviledge for me to share that which I love to do and also my love for my homeland Armenia.
On that note - peace and love and happiness to those who are miserable - life is too short.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

This Woman's Heart

I would like to dedicate this blog to my husband Trevor. He may feel that it is too late to include him in the great journey that my life has taken in the last 14 months but I feel it is due time that I share what it is that he signifies for me. I met my husband in the summer of 2003 at a gastropub in London called the Firestables. I recall at the time that he made me laugh and that no one had made me laugh for a long time. We managed to date for 8 months before we got engaged. In that short period I felt that I had met my soulmate. He took an interest in my family, my culture, and my beliefs. He showered me with the most beautiful roses I had ever received in my life on my birthday that first year. He made me feel beautiful and loved and we developed an incredible relationship in which I wished to support his dreams and see him happy. He surprised me on Christmas by returning from the Canary Islands early and arriving on my doorstep to celebrate Christmas with my family. February of 2005 brought on our engagement in one of the most romantic and wonderful holidays. The simple engagement ring he presented to me symbolised his love in the most profound way as he did not wait to propose until later when we would receive the more elaborate ring that was being made by my cousin in California. Our wedding was planned to the very last detail and I can recall it to be a stunning day surrounded by friends and family who really made the event incredibly special. The speeches were heartfelt and the love that surrounded us was incredibly evident. This was in November of 2004.
Our marriage afterwards presented unforseen and unusual pressures that in hindsight distorted the very beautiful thing we had created. I became ill with thyroid, lost my job in unpleasant circumstances, went though a nerve wracking tribunal, took on a minimum wage job to "keep busy" and found myself in unchartered territory without family or friends. I looked to my husband as my best friend. Taking advantage of that I expressed my frustration at being alone and pleaded to move South so that we could be with our families. In discovering that we were stuck where we were because of his work situation I began to blame his work, and expressed unhappiness about the home we lived in and the fact that we did not have a social life. Perhaps even though I expressed how incredibly I loved him it was muted by the fact that I was frustrated in those other situations. Given the opportunity to go to Armenia as a volunteer in the summer of 2005 I jumped on the occassion for a fresh change and some inspiration.
In Armenia I discovered freedom and with it my passion and love for music resurfaced causing me to want to return and record the new "Janapar" cd. I returned excited and full of ideals and expressed that our lifestyle should change and that I should follow my music. I returned in April for 3 months which turned into 4 and recorded the CD. At this time I was in my own world - eager to create something with all of me and positive that it would make me a better person. I focused on evaluating my life, spending a lot of time thinking and hoping to strike a balance between music and life with my family.
I want to say that I could have never done it without the basis of having a husband who loved me the way he did and gave me the freedom to go and record a CD that is love at its best through and through. I want to say that I have carried him with me always and although at times I may have seemed elsewhere that the music never took his place, Armenia never took his place and no one else took it either.
Despite so many new experiences, I am the same girl who enjoyed the Epsom horse races, who loves countryside walks and pints of Guinness at the pub, the same girl who loves Boys Choir music and the Kingly Street Blues Bar, the same girl who prayed for the success of my husband, who put love and care into our home to make it ours, who walked along the riverside in Putney and in the gardens of Richmond Park, who embraced my husband when he came home from work and even ran him a hot bath at times! I am faced with the fact that he feels that our lives have changed and that his path needs to take him elsewhere. I know that standing in front of the altar with the cross over our heads and his eyes looking into mine that I thought my path would always be with his. I am thankful for the times in which he supported me. I am that very same girl.
Thank you husband for the positive things in my life and take care not to delve on the negatives which only grow and distort themselves into unrealistic little ugly monsters if we let them. Remember the very reading at our wedding: 1st Corinthians Chapter 13: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Peace and love

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Artsy Concert Photos

Just got some photos from my photographer friend Artur who was at Thursday's concert. Thought I would share a few!

Winding Down in Style

Since my last concert on the 26th, I have had the priviledge of riding the metro in Armenia for the first time and discovering a whole new underworld at the Baregamutyun metro station. The metro costs a mere 50AMD ($1.00 =380AMD to give you an idea of how cheap it is). The metro is fast, clean, efficient and even has a tv screen on the platform to provide you with entertainment (some funny clips to keep you smiling) while you wait. I went to Baregamutyun to check out the area and was surprised to see a whole world of underground shops as soon as I walked off the escalator to exit. In the same area you can buy a kebab, exchange money, buy stockings, rent a dvd, get some fresh flowers, fruits, batteries, shampoo, slippers, clothes,... I felt like I was in a film that takes place in China. All very interesting.
After the concert I have been invited to do some more radio and tv. I am holding off on some invites as it has been planned that I will be the opening act for a concert that will take place on the 3rd of December at the Avante Garde Folk Club. This will be jointly with my friend and fellow England musician Andre Simonian who will be having his debut in Yerevan. The idea is that I will sing 6 or so of my English songs, join him for two of his songs, and then join his band for another two. I think it will be an interesting evening - certainly different and refreshing for Yerevan which has a lack of English music. Andre's band is called the Beautified Project and can be checked out on: He's spelled my name completely wrong on the website but I'll forgive him - it's been happening to me since I was 6. Anyway - we'll probably do some radio and tv together before the 3rd so Armenia will once again have to see my face on the teli - at this rate I need to reinvent myself rather soon - red hair perhaps???
So I went to see some of the Armenian Navy Band members who call themselves "Gatuner" (the Cats) for the first time ever at the Stop Club. It was a fantastic evening. They are such incredible musicians it would be fantastic to collaborate with them in future. Saturday was Bet & John Williams at The Club. Beautiful medieavel acoustic type folk music. The lady can really sing! I rushed off to a Halloween party to find I was the only one in costume and I of course felt like an idiot for the first part of the evening until I realised I was the one who was positively experiencing Halloween. With a few minor adjustments (the removal of the wig, long gloves, and cape) I managed to have a splendid evening and felt better for not going home to change.
Sunday night was a play at the Stanislavski theatre called "Bari Kaloust" (Welcome) which was a story of 3 Armenians who end up in the waiting/security area of LAX Airport. One is an Armenian from Lebanon, one from Iran, and the other from Armenia. The story plays upon the differences in dialect, mentality, and outlook yet also points out the points that bring them together. It is a fantastic comedy with a very strong and clever message - I hope it tours. If anyone out there reading this can invite these guys to their hometown I suggest it strongly. (Perhaps you would like to invite me and the musicians as well?) :)
I spent Monday evening in the recording studio with Arto Tuncboyaciyan, Norayr, and Vahak (Navy Band members) watching them create and very interestingly watching a video of their trip to Western Turkey (not too long ago Armenian territory) to give a concert. It was bizarre to see a land so obviously Armenian in architecture now being transformed by Turks into something completely Muslim. It was emotional to see their reactions and feelings on camera and I couldn't help but feel as if someone had steamrolled over me.
Wednesday night I had the priviledge of seeing Artur Meschian in concert for the first time. He also plays in a similiar genre as myself (what I would classify as folk) and I must say his lyrics are fabulous. Thursday was Shushan Petrossyan - a very popular singer here and although there were a lot of Armenian celebs there and the show was something out of Los Angeles inclusive of dancers and costumes, I felt it lacked emotion and truth but nevertheless it was entertaining. Friday we went to see an Armenian rock band called Empiray and IT ROCKED. It was an assembly hall full of people who really should have been in a stadium. Well done to the band for power driven music and the singer for a voice that really is the dogs bollocks. The week ended with Lilit Pipoyan's concert at the opera which drove me into deep depression and finally tears. Though she has a unique voice and wonderful musical arrangements I reckon she should be listened to in small doses and come with a warning that says "not suitable for those contemplating suicide and/or clinically depressed individuals". I enjoyed some of the songs immensely but it was short-lived. So as not to jump off the balcony in my misery I rushed to a Bambir concert at The Club which was the older Bambir (ie: the parents of the rockers from Gyumri) and immediately I felt I was transferred to the pubs of Ireland. Having been inspired by this experience I then transferred myself to Cheers to meet up with friends and of course have a pint.
Sunday 7 of us hired a Marshutka (mini bus) and headed to Bars Lij (Plain Lake) in Dilijan to catch the end of autumn. This is about 2 hours out of the city. Seems we were a little late and most of the foliage was on the floor but we still managed to throw down some blankets, have some cheese, bread, olives and vodka and enjoy ourselves in the outdoors. Our Marshutka got stuck in the mud so they had to send another one from Yerevan and soon enough our vodka supply was depleted. When the new vehicle got to us we stopped en route to have a fantastic feast of kebab where I beat a local Armenian man at backgammon (3-0). I am not sure he liked that but I have to admit I lost to the last two people I played so I was feeling quite pleased about it.
And so the new week is here and one must get a bit more serious about things. The cold has officially kicked in and I am now wrapping up in layers and finding the streets are less busy than usual as people are staying home and keeping warm. Who knows what the next week will bring but enough babbling for now. I have not philosophized or discussed serious matters in this blog so naturally this week of quiet (did I mention my birthday at the end of the week?) Hee hee....I actually have had a lot of alone time in the days - and all those concerts were inspirational so hopefully the creativity will flow.
From the freezing cold streets of Yerevan where inevitably you will almost get hit by a car at least once a day.
Peace and love

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Concert Photos