Jazz Gigs, Telethons, and This Blog
Vardan Ovsepian is a Yerevan born pianist and composer who has recently drawn praise from the likes of Brad Mehdlau and Downbeat magazine as being an artist to watch in the coming years. After studying in Yerevan, Estonia, Helsinki, and Berklee College of Music (Masters Degree), Vardan recorded three critically acclaimed albums for Barcelona, Spain label Fresh Sound New Talent. A forth is being recorded right now with his chamber orchestra called VOCE (Vardan Ovsepian Chamber Orchestra) featuring percussion, drums, Celtic harp, two violins, cello, double bass, flute, duduk, and probably a few others I have forgotten about. Vardan and I have kept in touch over the years ever since I first started by own record label in 2001 and when my wife and I saw him in concert at Boston Conservatory. My interest in signing him to Pomegranate was ignited by his performance last month at Rutman's after hearing and seeing how far his music had progressed. It is no secret that my favorite album of 2005 was his "Akunc" on Fresh Sound.
After the April concert, I was able to get together with Vardan and discuss possibilities for his 5th album to be recorded for Pomegranate. We both seemed very enthusiastic about it and we are currently in negotiations. Last weeks concerts was similarly impressive. The venue, which is a violin makers shop was perfectly suited for the standing room only crowd which included mostly Berklee Music students, alumni of the school, dedicated Vardan fans, and a nice handful of local Armenians. Vardan's concerts usually bring out the most sophisticated Armenian Diaspora music enthusiasts and this concert was no exception. Mingling amongst such eclectic personalities is one of the joys of the after concert glow. After the show, the creator of Armenians and the Left as well as the co-creator of Armenstock Sevag Arzoumanian and his wife Alik (who did the cover of our Iakovos Kolanian "Shoror") were invited back to my house back in Dorchester where we talked about the concert and caught up with things. All in all, a great low key, yet, culturally rich evening in the Hub.
Over on the other side of the Cilicia blog, Arsineh has posted an interest thought that brought in some comments that made me think. With ANCA's recent telethon to raise money ($2.7) for their new DC building they recently purchased, it seems some readers have argued that this money would make more sense going directly to Armenia or "why bother" at all when Turkey has so much more at their disposal. Having seen the building myself the first day the ANCA moved in and knowing most of the ANCA staff such as Aram, Yeghso, Arsineh, etc, the amount of positive work they do with so little funds is astounding to me. Anyone who knows how politics works knows that in order to change policy (Genocide Recognition, Direct US aid to Armenia, etc), you have to play the political game with the big boys. Unlike some other self proclaimed Armenian Diasporan activists who work the bake sale tables and kebab stands at their local churches all while shunning getting involved directly in Armenia or in politics here in the US, the folks at the ANCA are the real deal and they form a nice tandem with other organizations such as the Armenian Assembly in raising awareness of Armenian issues in DC.
I think the popular notion floated around in blogs or in general comments is reality is that our Diasporan and non-Diasporan community can't walk and chew gum at once- that is support the US recognition of the Genocide and support organizations such as ANCA in their political goals AND directly get involved in immedate Armenian issues such as poverty and corruption. It is naive to think that Armenian Diasporans are so one dimensional. Of course, some are, but other certainly aren't. It's not an either/or proposition to either support issues that Diasporans champion or to help Armenia directly. You can do both, and it is done more often than critics realize. It's just not advertised.