Armenian Folk Songs

Every group of people has an event or group of events that shaped the collective memory of that group. What falls into that category for the Arminian people? Did it influence their cultural product? their music? their folk songs?
To begin to understand the soul of the arminian culture you must understand
that the collective memory of an entire people is centered around the horrific event
of the arminian genocide. It is a stark reminder of a seismic crack in the Arminian
long proud history, when a million and half Arminian
christians living in the Ottoman empire were massacred. Another mobilizing force that has unified the Armenians and shaped their culture is the Armenian church. Christianity is goes far back in the Armenian
culture to the extend that Arminia was the first nation to declare christianity as its
official religion in 301 AD (Wikipedia).
Living far away from the homeland is also an important factor in shaping the cultural product of the Armenians. Of the roughly 10 million Armenians alive today, only 3 million of them live in Armenia. Many fled persecution or political instability setting up communities around the world. Music is a manifestation of a tool Armenian use to come back and reconnect with their heritage, and listening to
Armenian folk songs, its hard not to tag along. In my research for this paper I stumbled upon Lena Chamamyan, an Armenian singer and maker of music. In an interview I read with her she talks
about the importance of music for the Armenian diaspora and what it means to
her representing the Armenian culture. “The Armenian part is very strong in my
music, it’s unique because it’s oriental but mixed with harmony. On the other hand,
the text and lyrics is very strong in my culture. So for me it’s mixing between the
text and the Armenian music. I used to work on folk music mixed with soft jazz. We
were trying to find the best form to it in with the music with its micro tonality. So
we could have a western audience of the Armenian diaspora and we can connect to the
Armenian in them and help them handle the jazz, because for them it’s
different music.”
I like to think that there Armenian folk songs are preyers. Not necessarily in a
religious sense but preyers to beauty and what’s beautiful in life. What the
homeland represents for the Armenians, everything that is beautiful and as perfect
as humanly possible. When we face beauty head on, we are experience what
Roland Barthes calls a kind of “aesthetic arrest”. When we are so in awe that we
forget to breathe. We break all geographic and time boundaries and be wherever
we want to be. Be home. We experience what Camus says as “life lived to the point
of tears.”

5 thoughts on “Armenian Folk Songs

  1. Christa Bennett

    I did a paper on Austrian Architect who created buildings that would bring art to the community, while helping the environment and how it brought pride to the Austrian people. Why do you think music is the best way to preserve a culture? What are the differences in the way the western cultures preserve their culture from the eastern? Have you ever experienced the “Aesthetic arrest”.

  2. Jonah Allibone

    I did a response very similar to this. I really wished the whole time that I knew the song name so that I could find a translation. I’m uncomfortable applying my knowledge of how western music moves to Armenian folk music, it seem like a western imposition on foreign heritage. Also, on a different note, I find it strange but also normal (possibly because of how Jews treat culture, secularism, and deism so differently) that Armenians that live outside of Armenia (a majority but a lot too) are able to still identify as them. I’ve always found ethnic groups so interesting because of when the transition from one group to another happens, and at what stage that happens symbiotically

  3. Matthew Martin

    Earlier in the semester I did a project having to do with Music pop culture in Austria. After reading well put together piece on Armenian folk tales you can see that the songs they sing really reflect the culture of the area. In Vienna, music comes from all over Europe to perform as it is one of the biggest musical culture hubs in the world. It is interesting the way people will bring things with them reminding them of their culture when they leave their home country. Music and songs are some of the best reflections of culture as people often sing about past experiences or hard times more specifically when focusing on folk music. Folk music will often tell a story and bringing this story with them is clearly very important to the Armenians whom have fled. A big picture idea from my COR class was the idea of the discrimination of different cultures and the Armenians faced prejudice events in their history. In my paper I discussed Hitler’s visit to Austria during Anschluss. Hitler had some prejudice views of people himself and that led to the genocide of the Jews. I do not know the full history behind the Armenian genocide, but I would assume it began because of bias opinions by people of power. This is typically how we see these things unfold unfortunately, but we try to learn from these unfortunate events as humans. I am sure there were differences in how things occurred, but these unfortunate events shape culture and how people move forward. The way Armenians used folk music to move forward is admirable and should inspire others to use what is happening around them, good or bad, to create something beautiful.

  4. Michael DePlante

    This paper was interesting to me because I had no idea that Armenian music played such an important roll in their culture. Additionally, I’m a musician and enjoy writing music about things that have moved me in my life. I think it’s an extremely valuable tool that allows you to express and reflect on traumatic or unpleasant memories as well as inspirational ones. Folk Music mixed with jazz sounds especially interesting. I studied Vienna this semester and was able to draw several connections to your paper from what I learned in my class.
    The coffee houses in Vienna were a place that I found really fascinating when first learning about Vienna. Writers, artists, musicians and more had their favorite shops that served as a hub for culture to spread and thrive. The shops share similarities with Armenian music in the ways that they influence society and culture. In fact, it was an Armenian spy who opened the first coffee house in Vienna. I’m interested in where Armenians listen to music and the ways in which the music brings people together. Are jazz clubs and concerts especially popular in this culture? I’d be interested to know some of the songs that have allowed Armenians to connect with their heritage and culture.
    I’m also curious as to how or if the Churches specifically shape Armenian culture. I did not know that Armenia was the first place that declared Christianity it’s official religion. I do know however that for Vienna, Churches are extremely symbolic and many stand as famous Austrian landmarks. The Gothic-Romanesque St. Stephen’s cathedral is one of Austria’s most recognizable icons and is also where Mozart was married. This church for many is a symbol of Vienna’s freedom. Does the church bring people together for reasons other than practice? What other purposes does it serve for Armenian people?
    For my research paper I took a look at Sigmund Freud and his part in Viennese history. He was born into a Jewish family and although he did not practice, suffered prejudice and was driven out of Vienna by the Nazis. They publically burned and destroyed his books because his family was Jewish. Freud was labeled a “Zugeraster” which was a term that was used to identify immigrants who were Jewish and from Eastern Europe. Although many of his works dealt with science and the mind, Sigmund Freud was a writer and used his talent to spread his new ideas. Threw my research I found that he like many immigrants sought out jobs that worked independently to avoid such prejudice. Among such occupations were for example, journalists, lawyers and artists.
    Sigmund Freud found through his research that talking with a patient and letting them run through their thought’s was an extremely effective method to treating mental illnesses. I think music acts in such a way that allows for both artists who write the music and those who listen to it to sift through a busy and cluttered mind. I think it’s especially true that songs can be prayers in a way that celebrates life and beauty. It’s amazing how a single piece of music can sound and mean different things to different people yet still invoke a sense of feeling and emotion to all who listen.

  5. William McIntyre

    This post sparked my interest specifically because of music. Music is a big part of my life and I listen to a wide variety of music. I have listened to some old Bulgarian music and a few other types from that area but have never looked into Armenian music/ Folk Songs. I am not too knowledgeable of the Armenian genocide but I know it was a big problem and I have heard that many Armenians hold their home country close to their heart because of this in a way. The few Armenian people I know/knew are very nationalistic. When you said their songs are like prayers, decided to listen to some off of youtube while writing this and I agree with you. Their songs, even though I don’t understand what they are saying, have a very passionate and patriotic feel to them. The strong emotions displayed in the songs are what I think portray patriotism very well. Most of the songs had multiple people singing as well. When they would all come together as one it truly felt powerful and like the Armenians were a force. The playlist I was listening to is this ( ) .

    I also understand what Lena Chamamyan means when she says her Armenian music is a mixture of folk music and soft jazz. When looking her music up, I found it to be a little easier to listen to than the classic Armenian folk songs. I noticed/ it seemed like there were more structure to her songs. I think she made her songs more constructed than the folk songs to try and bridge the gap between old Armenian culture and new Armenian culture. It seems like she made her music as a respect and want for Armenians to get back to their musical heritage by listening to this new form of it, influenced by soft jazz and modern-ish music. Specifically this song by her ( ) , has the power, emotion, and unity of the modern folk songs, while staying in time the whole time and having easier transitions. I think this modern take on Armenian music is extremely successful.

    The transition of older more classic Armenian music to the newer modern (Lena Chamamyan) that you have made me explore really helps me understand the Armenian people/ culture more. Without taking a class about Armenia and only about Istanbul and Yemen, I didn’t learn about the Armenians but now feel as if I have a slight sense of what’s going on. Through their songs you can feel the emotion coming through. A lot of Lena’s newer songs really bring out the emotion of struggle, and then rejoice. It seems like the Armenian people are very patriotic.


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