Arev Ensemble links past with future
Published: Thursday July 01, 2010
Watertown, Mass. - The sun is shining upon Ani Zargarian and her Arev Armenian Folk Ensemble --- brighter than ever these days.
The group just released its second CD called "Arev --- the Return," celebrating its 21st year of entertainment as perhaps the most eclectic ensemble to perform in these parts over these past two decades.
To hear them is to savor them, especially if you have a passion for heritage. The recording revisits music unplugged, uninhibited, filled with raw emotion --- a link with the past and a companion to the future.
The album will be highlighted during a Friday, July 9, concert at the Armenian Cultural & Educational Center (ACEC) from 7 p.m. to midnight.
"Besides songs that you don't usually hear in concert or on recordings, we've tried to get a nice mix of eastern and western standards as well," said Ud player John Kozelian. "I'm privileged that as Diasporan Armenians, we are able to perform and produce the music of our past with emotion and foresight. I'm honored to have this responsibility," said vocalist Ani Zargarian.
To hear Zargarian sing is to clamor for more. Toes are tapping, hearts are fluttering, voices are singing along. A happy mood is created, just as the artist prefers. To attend an Arev concert is an indelible experience, just the way this artist and her ensemble prefers.
There's a wonderful mix of authentic folk instruments and songs from different regions. You have patriotic, traditional standards and songs of yesteryear.
The group was established in 1989 and is based in Watertown. Throughout these two decades, performances have taken place near and far. During a Providence AYF Olympics, thousands turned out for a downtown concert as applause rang deep.
This particular recording sets another impressive standard. One song, "Eem Anoush Mayrig," is really western, even though the words are eastern. "Khrovats Er" is another popular song that has been done by American-Armenian musicians and Armenian "rap" artists. An Americanized version of "Laz Bar" presents a different tempo. Another titled "Lisbon 5" is a tribute to the martyrs who gave their lives for the genocide cause.
"Instead of mimicking the great Karnig Sarkisian version, we wanted to apply our own feelings," Kozelian pointed out. "This is how this song was built."
One of the more pulsating numbers is the Fisherman's song, recorded by numerous oud players. Also included is a collection of older melodies from the region of Taron. "Sev Tsov" has a rhythm typical of various people who inhabit the Black Sea region.
"We wanted to present a tribute to our Hamshen Armenian relatives from that area," said Kozelian "There is a very interesting history about them and we didn't want to forget the struggles they went through over the past 100 years."
Other band members include John Kozelian on oud; Martin Haroutunian on dap, dhol, duduk, zurna, shvi and pku; vocalist Tamar Melkonian, and Markos Shahbazyan on dhol.
"This is a reflection of our distant and not-too-distant past," added Haroutunian. "We look upon it as the preservation of an art form being shared with the outside community."
Ater 10 years of musically collaborating together and discovering their true style (Armenian folk), the band devised its mission and message they wanted to deliver.
"Our music tells the story of our rich ancient heritage and culture," said Melkonian. "The lyrics we sing today are the words of our Armenian ancestors. I'm very proud to be a part of something that helps keep our culture alive."