Yerevan Journal – October 2005

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Our small group of travelers began its journey by way of Ichevan and Sadakhlu before passing Tbilisi and Akhaltsikhe and then on to Kars. Arriving after dark, we spent the night at the Karabagh Hotel before starting our trek through Western Armenia. In the morning, we went to St. Arakelots church, now converted into a mosque. In my previous visit there, in 1996, the conversion hadn’t taken place, and a locked door prevented us from entering the church. This time, us not being Moslems prevented our entry. From the church, we went up the hill to the fortress of Kars, making our way up the steps to the top of the fortress, where Turks told us to leave, telling us the military didn’t allow visitors there. We walked the grounds of the fortress, talking about the disastrous loss of Kars in 1920, before moving on to the City of Ani. We walked the city roads to the round church of St. Prgitch and down the hill to Tigran Honents, where the crumbling church remains a beacon to the wonders of Armenian Ani. Inside, we photographed the wall paintings which covered nearly all of the interior, while Hasmik sang “Aravot Luso,” temporarily returning the church and its visitors to a lost era. Outside, we investigated the foundation of a building before entering the Cathedral of Ani, whose size and classic architecture amazed all of us and also a small group of German tourists, who lamented the condition of the church, blaming the Turks and politics for the sad state of the Cathedral. Then, we walked past the mosque and on to Abughamrents church, Arakelots, and the round Church of Gagik, where we walked amongst the collapsed khachkars and pillars, somehow not wanting to leave the site. But with the town of Gaghzvan (on the road from Kars to Igdir), Mt. Ararat, Van, and, ultimately, the town and region of Moush in our plans, we left Ani.

Our trip continued from Ani along the border with Armenia, where we reached Gaghzvan, where one in our group had roots. I knew the name Gaghzvan from one of the dances on Shoghaken’s Traditional Dances of Armenia CD, where a young man married a girl from Gaghzvan. The town is located in a mountainous region along the Armenian border, and was part of the Armenian republic of 1918-1920, as were Kars, Ani, Igdir, and Bayazet, all of which we would pass before making our way to Van. After viewing Mt. Ararat, we spent the night in Igdir before moving on to Van, where we took a boat to Aghtamar Island and the famous church of St. Khatch. We walked around the church, unable to enter due to ongoing reconstruction, then walked across the island, discovering khachkars, gathering almonds, and later enjoying lunch and swimming in the waters of Lake Van. With only a couple of hours of daylight remaining, we decided to leave for Moush, as Turkish police don’t allow any travel after dark, due to their continuing battles with the Kurds. After passing several military checkpoints, we arrived in Moush, stopping at a bus station, where we hoped to find out the location of Jigrashen, the district in Moush where my grandmother and my visiting cousin’s father lived until 1908. After drinking water from a stone fountain built before 1915, we met with several Kurds, asking them about Jigrashen. One in the group said he was Armenian, and gave us the phone number of an Armenian who he said would know where Jigrashen was. A short wait revealed a Mshetsi Armenian, who warmly welcomed us to Moush before taking us to the Armenian-owned Zumrut Hotel before promising to meet us in the morning and take us to Jigrashen.

Walking the streets of Jigrashen was both exhilarating and devastating, even somewhat surrealistic, knowing our relatives had walked those same steps, and lived in the same houses we were passing. Many of the two-story Armenian-built houses remained, yet were in poor condition, as the Kurds living there had done little or nothing in terms of renovation. As one in our group commented, they know that they have the area only on a temporary basis, thus the lack of upkeep. We walked several of the streets of Jigrashen, taking pictures of the homes and also of Jigrashen’s church, St. Kirakos, now being used as a mosque. Outside St. Kirakos, Kurds offered us tea, greeting and welcoming us in Armenian. Near a mostly collapsed old house, we gathered soil, which will be taken to Fresno to my Jigrashen-born grandmother’s grave and to my cousin’s parents’ (also Jigrashen-born) graves. Our Mshetsi guide then took us to St. Marineh church, which is in ruins, with only parts of the outer walls remaining. After finding an opening to climb into the church, we lit candles and placed them in openings in the wall, as Kurdish women looked on in curiosity from balconies on their two-story houses. From St. Marineh we walked to Verin Tagh, a district located on the upper edge of Moush, at the beginning of mountains leading to Sassoun. As my cousin gathered soil for a relative, I photographed the city of Moush, from the edge of a Moslem graveyard and overlooking a gorge separating Moush from the mountains. On the mountain slopes, we saw an old Armenian graveyard, the gravestones mostly collapsed and overgrown with weeds. As we walked down the hill from Verin Tagh, we again entered Jigrashen, to bid farewell to the district of the Minasians, Egetians, and the Armenians of old Moush. Our guide then told us he had a surprise, so we continued our journey, driving to the Plains of Moush and finally to the Sulukh Bridge, built over the Murat River not far from Moush. It happened that during the war in Karabagh a Turk had blown up part of the thirteenth century bridge, saying he didn’t want anything Armenian remaining in the area. On the edge of the river, Hasmik’s brother sang a song dedicated to Gevorg Chavoush, who had died near the bridge. From the bridge, we drove to the edge of the plains and high into the mountains, searching for St. Karapet, a famous monastery which was in operation until the Genocide. Entering the village where the monastery was located, we were astonished at the primitive appearance of the homes and people, who had taken stones and khachkars from the monastery to build their homes. Only a small part of the one of the church’s walls remained. At the edge of the village, part of the wall which had surrounded the monastery remained, showing the large size of the monastery. Saddened and angered at the condition of St. Karapet, we left the less-than-friendly village. The villagers have apparently offered to leave the area if Armenians paid them enough, yet with the complete devastation of the monastery, such an offer seems a bit too late. Down the mountain, near a spring undoubtedly used by Mshetsis and others in the past, we ate lavash, cheese, tomatoes, and some of the best watermelon we had ever had.

Back in Moush, we walked down the main and side streets looking for maps, pictures, or any sort of souvenir we could take home from the city. In one store, we read newspapers from Istanbul with pictures of St. Karapet and old Moush, and life-sized mannequins dressed in area costume. Outside, as we walked towards the hotel, we met Armenian merchants, all friendly and hospitable, and even though most couldn’t speak Armenian, our kinship overcame the lack of a common language. As two of our local host’s teenaged children joined us, it became clear that the Armenians of Moush, even though living amongst Kurds, had maintained an Armenian look almost unseen in Armenians living among other nationalities. At dinner, several of our new friends joined us, telling stories their grandparents and great-grandparents had told about Moush, and dancing the Kochari before taking pictures and finally returning to the hotel. As we visited, one of the Moush Armenians commented that the real Mshetsis were our grandparents and those before them, not him or the other Armenians now living in Moush. An interesting remark, as Armenians around the world commonly think they live as true Armenians, then hearing an Armenian living in Moush, who knows the language, history, and customs of the area, and, simply, lives in Moush, saying they aren’t worthy to be called real Mshetsis. We were happy to learn that some 3,000 Armenians live in the region, not including those in Van. The next morning, we left our new home, Moush, with plans to return as soon as possible. Driving through the Plains of Moush, toward Bulanukh, we drove up mountain roads to another, second, flat area, passing villages and newly-planted wheat fields before finally entering Bulanukh, now renamed Bulanik. There, we visited an Armenian church, again not entering due to the conversion into a mosque. We drank water from an old fountain before walking around the town, when Turkish police stopped us, saying they had heard we were using a video camera. After convincing them we had no such camera, we left Bulanukh, the region where Hasmik’s grandmother had lived until the 1915 massacres in Moush. Our trip concluded in Van, where we climbed the ancient fortress overlooking the city, before continuing past Kars and across the border into Georgia and the town of Akhaltsikhe. There, we spent the night in a newly-renovated hotel located along the main road towards Tbilisi. During dinner, we were joined by a family of Yezdi Kurds, who took turns singing Armenian songs, them in Kurdish and us in Armenian. In the morning, we walked to an old Georgian fortress overlooking Akhaltsikhe, then talked with an eldery Armenian couple about the situation of area Armenians. They said that the Armenian youth of the town had almost all left, leaving only old people like themselves, yet nearby villages had remained mostly Armenian. We bade farewell and drove to Tbilisi, where we met with relatives and rode the subway before leaving for the Armenian border and on to Yerevan.

Once back in Yerevan, reminders of our trip to Moush continued. The next day, in a taxi, as we talked about our trip, we noticed the driver’s eyes welling with tears. He said his father, who had died only a week earlier, had roots in Bulanukh, and had planned a trip there to see his family’s homeland and to bring back soil for the family plot in Yerevan. Naturally, we offered to give him some of the soil we had gathered from Bulanukh, and exchanged telephone numbers to make sure we didn’t lose touch. Then, the next evening, we went to a concert marking the 100th anniversary of Hayrik Mouradian’s birth at the Aram Khachatryan Concert Hall. Arriving late, we were forced to sit in the highest and farthest place in the hall, as Yerevan Armenians and others filled the seats and aisles to celebrate Hayrik’s life and contributions to Armenian folk music. As Hasmik introduced the various singers and ensembles, all of whom performed traditional songs and dances of Old Armenia, my Mshetsi cousin commented that the dancing, especially, reminded him of Fresno in the Thirties and Forties, when Mshetsis and others had picnics and parties where they danced the same dances as we saw that night. Near the back aisle, in a line stretching at times along the entire back wall of the concert hall, over fifty youth danced along with the dancers of Agunk, Karin, and the Mayroke danced by Hasmik and Aleksan of Shoghaken. Outside, after the concert, as a gopalov dholchi began pounding on his dhol to the beat of the Yarkhooshta, Ververi, and Mayroke, several lines formed and the dancing continued for some thirty minutes in the cool evening breeze, as my cousin stood shaking his head, likely remembering the Fresno of his youth, and his Moush-born father, cousins, and friends.

Alexander Harutyunyan is the last living composer from an era in which Aram Khachatryan and Arno Babajanyan produced world-class classical music, during the peak of Soviet Armenian culture. This weekend, the Armenian symphony performed a concert of Harutyunyan’s works, including a symphony for trumpet, at the Aram Khachatryan concert hall, to a near standing-room audience. As the performance continued, it became clear why Harutyunyan’s music is played worldwide, although not so much in Armenia. With quick entrances required, especially following the trumpet, the symphony players at times had difficult keeping pace with the trumpet or beginning their music simultaneously with the trumpet. At the end of the concert, an aging Harutyunyan walked up to the stage, clapping for the musicians and turning, clapping, towards the audience, which stood applauding for several minutes, in honor of the composer and a great concert. The next evening, in the same hall, the Rosemunde Quartet from Germany performed Shubert and, after intermission, new works by Tigran Mansuryan, who came close to winning a Grammy at this year’s awards. Listening, it was obvious that Mansuryan’s music was not only excellent, but a creation unique and his own. I had known about Mansuryan’s movie scores, but not that he was a classical composer of such stature. Once home, I was shocked when one of the three back-to-back concerts commemorating the invention of the Armenian alphabet, Yerevan’s birthday, and another holiday which doesn’t come to mind, came on National Television, and again Yerevan’s stars pranced across the stage as their CDs played in the background. The night before, the same stars performed at another outdoor stage, probably at the City Square. A cousin visiting Yerevan marveled at all this, saying, aren’t there any other singers than these, where are the folk singers and musicians? Fortunately, various stations have recently featured concerts of Louis Armstrong, John Lee Hooker, and 1970 Beatles music, while Turkish television continues showing their folk songs and dance, all this while National Television continues their policy of promoting their “stars,” for reasons still not clear.

I was shocked today to hear a Hayastantsi say he had no doubt a civil war of sorts would eventually break out between Armenia and Karabagh. The person told me the story after relating about an in-law receiving a pittance for his home in central Yerevan, destroyed along with others in order to build expensive high-rise apartments. A similar circumstance concering Karabaghtisis, which had a different outcome, had Karabaghtsis granted ownership of dwellings across from the new city hall, yet when they were told the area was needed for new construction, each was paid a handsome sum for their property. A pity, in a country the size of Armenia, that such inequalities exist. A positive sign in the cultural battle now being waged in Armenia, with the powers-to-be promoting culture not befitting a country like Armenia, were the recent protests by Dashnak youth against a new “reality” show on a local television station. The show features the daily life of several young male and female Armenians, living together for a certain period of time, with their daily conversations and other uninteresting facets of life being filmed. The Dashnaks are protesting the un-Armenian nature of the program, saying it’s “odaramol,” asking the producers, with our history in film, “is this all you can come up with?”

Our neighborhood grocer said today that he was having a hard time selling chicken, what with the bird flu being discovered in neighboring Turkey. Often, chicken grown in Turkey is sold in Armenia, arriving by way of Georgia or Iran. Although the government here is keeping a close eye on the situation, some, including us, are being cautious. Another reason for caution is the coming election, where voters will decide the fate of the new constitution. Turnout in this case is unpredicatable. Many don’t believe a fair election is possible in Armenia these days, and that the numbers may be altered to make a small turnout look the opposite. The government is making interesting promises, from raising salaries and pensions to making good on part of the huge money people lost when the ruble was turned into dram. People don’t expect the government to make good on these promises, but should the government actually come through, and with the positive changes recently made in the proposed constitution, done partly due to demands from Europe, a change to the better for Armenia is possible.

The Composers’ Union concert hall became a celebration of Armenian folk music this evening, as the Shoghaken Ensemble presented a concert of pure folklore for the UNESCO-sponsored symposium “Folk Music and the Art of Composing.” Musicologist Alina Pehlivanyan, professor of the folklore division of the Komitas Conservatory, introduced the group and its members, and told about their recent concert appearances and recordings of CDs, including the four CDs recorded for Traditional Crossroads. An attentive crowd of musicologists from the Moscow Conservatory, along with several composers and friends of Shoghaken enjoyed the songs of Hasmik Harutyunyan and her brother, Aleksan, and the group’s musicians, led by Gevorg Dabaghyan on duduk and Karine Hovhannisyan on kanon. After Hasmik sang lullabies of Taron and Agn, and Aleksan’s horovels from Aparan and Lori, the musicians presented the Armenian mugham genre, improvisations by duduk, kanon, kamancha, and blul. Hasmik also sang the “Butanya Krunk,” and Aleksan “Sandi Yerger,” followed by Hovhannisyan’s “Shalakho” and “Gyumri Meghediner” performed by Dabaghyan. The concert concluded with Hasmik and Aleksan singing and dancing to the music of the Mayroke. Towards the conclusion of the series of Mayroke songs, as they sang “Hay Merik” of Taron, both came down from the stage and began dancing in front of the audience, several enthusiastic men and women, including Alina Pehlivanyan and festival organizer Robert Amirkhanyan, joining the Harutyunyans. An unplanned “Yarkhooshta” followed, with the crowd of musicologists and others roaring with applause. At the conclusion, Pehlivanyan announced that Shoghaken had donated their compensation to John Hughes’ “Tsmer Papik” organization, which does various kinds of charitable work for the poorest segment of Armenia’s population.

A short, crashing rainstorm that soaked Yerevan yesterday evening resulted in a strikingly clear view of Massis, the sun reflecting from the snow-capped peaks as white clouds drifted over the symbolic mountain, still under Turkish control. From beyond the peak, from the city of Moush, we received a phone call from one of our new acquaintances there, asking about our return to Yerevan from Western Armenia and how things were going in Armenia. After making plans for future meetings, in Moush and in Yerevan, I recorded a cassette of songs and dances from Moush and Sassoun, in preparation for our next meeting. The pull of the homeland also affected writer Herand Markarian, who, at a presentation of his new play, showed pictures of his visit to his father’s birthplace, Shushanats village, where he found the ruins of the church his father had sung in. During the presentation, the subject turned to the region of Van several times, including when Vanetsi architect Varazdat Harutyunyan, now nearing 100 years of age, took to the stage and talked about his birthplace, much to the delight of everyone in the audience, many of whom had roots in Van. A chance meeting today revealed a different theory about the lost homeland, one which is a bit far-fetched but still interesting. As the person told, the souls of Armenians massacred in 1915 are finding some sort of rest or satisfaction by way of the Kurds, who are somewhat independent in Eastern Turkey and are striving for complete independence. It seemed a little strange that the souls of murdered Armenians would find any satisfaction through the successes of Kurds, who murdered Armenians on a large scale during the days of the Genocide, but for a people looking for some kind of satisfaction from a nation (Turkey) who still hasn’t admitted its guilt, even theories and feelings such as these are possible.

After being told how wrong it is for one Armenian to cheat another, I was paid a grand total of thirteen dollars for photographing a piano which would be put up for sale for $26,000. When asked if the thirteen dollars was enough, I said, of course, what else could I ask for? While traveling to Echmiadzin today, a glance to the left revealed snow on Mt. Ararat far lower than what we viewed a month ago from Igdir and Bayazet, across the border in Turkey, as recent storms have not only led to spectacular views of Massis but to the new layer of snow. In Echmiadzin, in the souvenir shop, while I listened to Shoghaken’s Traditional Dances of Armenia with store employees, a smiling priest turned out to be Der Vartan of the St. Mary’s church of Yettem, California. It had been years since we met, so we naturally discussed immediate family members and who had died in the Reedley-Yettem area of the Central Valley of California. He stood in awe as I described our recent trip to Moush, saying it convinced him to go through with a possible trip to Kharpert and Bursa next year. Later, back in Yerevan, while having dinner with neighbors celebrating a new birth in the family, the conversation turned to the deteriorating condition, in Yerevan, of something as basic as garbage pickup. In many areas of Yerevan, it can almost be said in most areas, garbage is piling up, with bins overflowing and people starting piles of trash along roadsides and in places not always easy to clean up. Be it a shortage of trucks, workers, money, or whatever, the situation is deplorable. When we told them that in neighboring Turkey, where we recently traveled, that the Turks and Kurds wouldn’t allow this kind of embarrassment, whether they are short of money or not, our neighbors began cursing the government here for having the money to renovate streets, build coffee shops, and build new apartment buildings but not take care of the basic needs of citizens. One in our group of friends then complained about the huge number of jeeps, Mercedes, BMWs, and even Hummers now crowding the streets of Yerevan, most of which are driven by what he described as “tsootsamol” Armenians, the new-rich who can’t help but show off their new wealth by driving such vehicles, often in a dangerous manner, not caring about who or what they might hit or chase off the road. Another interesting bit of news, the kind that doesn’t usually make the basic news report, is about the Armenian taxi driver who killed an Iranian for an insult he couldn’t swallow. When the Iranian asked for a beer, the Armenian answered that “he is an Iranian, he’s not worthy of a beer.” The Iranian, who understood and spoke Armenian, said “Your Armenian girls are accessible to us, why not your beer?” to which the Armenian took the Iranian to a secret place and killed him. The Armenian is now in jail for the murder. But the reaction of our neighbors was interesting, while one or two thought it was disgusting, killing the Iranian, the others thought it was fine, that finally someone stood up to an insult such as that given by the Iranian.

On the way to the city center, a neighbor told me she was going to a meeting about the proposed constitution, which will be voted on in late November. She also said she would vote against the new constitution. Not a surprise, as I have yet to hear about anyone who might vote for the constitution. My neighbor said that if less than ninety percent of the population voted against the constitution, the authorities would make sure it passed. This isn’t the first time a similar opinion has been expressed, in fact, this is the common opinion in Yerevan. So be it, perhaps this is the way of the world, falsifying elections. Another neighbor said he was thinking about leaving Armenia, saying he never would have thought such a thing, but he said, is this Armenia, where the people have no say, and are slaves to the wealthy bureaucrats, where the country is run by those who have no national feelings whatsoever? What could I say. He continued by asking when I arrived in Yerevan, five years ago, were the girls dressing and acting like they are now? To which I answered, of course not, a more modest atmosphere reigned then. In fact, I might add, perhaps never in Armenian history have girls acted as they do now, some, hopefully few in number, associating with Iranians and whoever else. I remember stories, no doubt true, about Armenian girls jumping off cliffs to avoid capture and whatever else by Turks, yet now some being attracted by such encounters. Yet, the Armenians of Moush and Van, living amongst Kurds and Turks, associate with and marry only Armenians. Some have described the moral situation in current Armenia as out of control. Though a mere moment in history, with a country this small, no time should be lost.

Standing outside of the UN building in downtown Yerevan, a glance to the left revealed dust, noise, and a building mostly destroyed. I asked three acquaintances what was going on, and one said the city had just torn down the oldest theater in Yerevan, some 150 years old. The building had been used by the Russians as a military office until someone decided he wanted to build a hotel there, so, permission for such projects being easy for a select few, the theater building’s fate was decided. I happened to meet an American at the nearby Hy Business Hotel, who, upon hearing about the theater’s destruction, was shocked, declaring that if he were Armenian, he’d be “hopping mad,” that all the new streets and apartment buildings in Yerevan aren’t worth the historic buildings the “powers” have torn down to ensure their profits.
. . . Late that afternoon, the Shoghaken Ensemble took part in another UNESCO-sponsored festival, this one dedicated to Sayat Nova. We were under the impression that with UNESCO’s name involved, the festival would be a serious affair, but as the first three or four singers performed, it became obvious it was just another means of the organizers padding their pockets while arranging a less-than-serious festival. None of the singers actually sang, as their CDs blared, them merely going through the motions as singers. Such is expected when pop stars perform, as their talent or lack of it dictates performances that aren’t live, but for singers of ashoughagan music . . . After Shoghaken’s rendition of “Nazani” and “Kani Voor Jan Im,” the enthusiastic applause was for the ensemble’s good performance and, likely, because the audience appreciated someone performing live, which hopefully is a wakeup call for singers with a fear of live performances. After Shoghaken’s performance, we rushed up the street to the Moscow Theater, where an evening dedicated to the great filmmaker Henrik Malyan was to take place. A packed house watched parts of Malyan’s film and listened to those who knew and worked with Malyan, including Mher Mkrtchyan’s brother, Albert Mkrtchyan, and the great Sos Sargsyan, who played lead roles in We Are Our Mountains and Nahapet, likely the best movie made about the Genocide. Sargsyan told about his work with Malyan, saying, in the end, that when Malyan died that he, as an actor, also died. Sargsyan also stated that in the decades before Malyan that Armenian movies had become completely Russified, that Malyan was the person responsible for making films in “Armenian,” and not merely in the Armenian language. He lamented that Malyan didn’t live to complete his dream, producing a film about the life of Komitas. A definite loss for Armenia and Armenians, as new films produced about serious Armenian subjects clearly lack the depth and understanding of Malyan films.

A friend associated with the Malyan Theater actors told us that “Armenia” television, which now owns “Hye Film,” made an offer to the Malyan actors to give them a little over $100 a month salary, but wanted rights to everything the theater produced. The contract offered wasn’t signed by any of the actors. At the conclusion of the recent celebration dedicated to Henrik Malyan, the theater troupe performed one of Toumanyan’s fables, to which they received applause that lasted several minutes. In his remarks, Albert Mkrtchyan recalled the similar reaction the actors experienced in their performances at the “Armenia Festival” in France in 2000, which I was fortunate enough to have witnessed. . . . Yesterday evening, Gayane Samuelyan presented an evening of “asmoonk,” the art of recitation, in which she recited the poems of Baruyr Sevak, Avedik Isahakyan, Hovik Hoveyan, Metaxa, and others. The event, held at the Komitas Chamber Hall, was dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. As Gayane read one poem, stating the “Armenian Question” was known by everybody but no one had an answer to the question, one woman, so carried away by the emotion of the evening and the statement, shouted out “Who will give an answer to that question?” startling the crowd. The recitations were accompanied by Shoghaken’s Levon Tevanyan on blul and Hasmik Harutyunyan, who sang several songs, including “Gorani” and “Zartir Lao,” during the course of the evening. Later in the evening, on a television talk show, the conversation about singers not singing but mouthing the words as their CDs play in the background continued, as the director of the National Opera challenged those using this approach to change their ways, to not insult their audiences by not even having the courtesy (or courage) of singing live. I was reminded of the banner hanging over the entrance of the Komitas Chamber Hall: “Stop the Cultural Genocide,” doubtlessly referring to the use of recorded music and, likely, the music itself.

A request to purchase several Shoghaken CDs led to a meeting with an elderly couple in a small restaurant just outside the city center. It was the morning before their departure to San Francisco, yet we sat and talked for nearly two hours, about Shoghaken and also the businesses they established in Yerevan and Stepanakert. It happens that they founded a factory in Stepanakert that produces butter, as the woman explained, “the purest butter in the world.” Some 150 people work in the factory, not to mention being a market for small dairy farmers near Stepanakert and Askeran. She said that they had plenty of money, and took no profit from the endeavor, that they just wanted to help the economy of Karabagh, where the couple now lives over half the year. Their Yerevan business was the restaurant we were meeting in, a simple place with great tasting food, natural tea, pastries, and daily specials like harisa and dolma. The woman said they charge very reasonable prices, so local people, as opposed to tourists, could have a decent place to eat, while providing employment for several waitresses and cooks. When I presented the Shoghaken CDs, and also the new “Hayrik Mouradian Ensemble” CD of traditional children’s folk songs (many written or arranged by Komitas), the woman said it would be perfect for the Armenian Radio Hour in San Francisco. She said the Armenians of San Francisco would love the CD, to be able to teach real Armenian children’s folk songs to their youth. Although we have the same plans here in Yerevan, after seeing what the well known “Do Re Mi” and “Arevik” children’s groups are doing here, with their half-lewd movements and songs that have nothing to do with anything Armenian, and are being promoted every week on National Television, we know our battle is uphill.
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