There is a certain melancholy to my voice that’s inherent in my people, the Armenian people. Serj Tankian. The Huffington Post

When System of a Down first hit, they fit right alongside their nu-metal contemporaries, yet their sound and sensibilities came from somewhere else. Serj Tankian’s voice shattered and soared with cultural history, out to educate as well as entertain. I suspect there are many who would never have heard of the Armenian Genocide if not for Tankian’s visibility and activism, and as he’s set out on his own, his work has developed an even finer focus on the state of the world. His latest solo effort is Harakiri, a release that offers pounding licks and flowing melody while taking on issues of environmental degradation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reality television, and American corporatocracy — all fitting topics for the performer who co-founded the social-action organization Axis of Justice with guitarist Tom Morello.

When I first heard System’s music back in 2001, I remember wanting to hear more of the Armenian performer’s softer vocals, like the ones that crept into “Toxicity” and “Deer Dance,” and — amid the hard-hitting rock — Harakiri provides just that. The album’s title was inspired by the eerily synchronous mass die-offs of fish and birds in early 2011, to which the musician applies the metaphor of harakiri, a samurai’s ritual suicide. “They crown the sun,” he sings on the title track, suggesting a spiritual significance to the creatures’ mysterious demise. Harakiri is my favorite of Tankian’s solo releases thus far, and it’s one of several projects he’s currently working on.

Also in the pipeline is a fusion of classical jazz and dancehall synth called Jazz-Iz-Christ, and a full-orchestra symphony entitled Orca — a beautiful work, if this sample is any indication. The Lebanon-born artist — who used to design software for the jewelry industry — has collaborated with Jimmy Urine from Mindless Self Indulgence on a project called Fuktronic, an experimental mix of jazzy, Euro-inspired electronics laid beneath a British-mobster, spoken-word audio play. Just finishing up the North American leg of his Harakiri tour, Tankian performed his final Stateside show at L.A.’s Club Nokia to an adoring audience, and now he’s off to Europe.

It’s a serene drive through the Santa Monica Mountains to meet with Tankian at his home in Calabasas. I had interviewed him once before for his Elect the Dead Symphony in 2010, and I was looking forward to the follow-up. He’s flanked by two friendly dogs — one named Bowie for his different-colored eyes — when we meet in his peaceful, hardwood sanctuary overlooking a forest valley. The quiet, thoughtful rocker kicks back on the couch to chat about Harakiri, social change, and the blast he’s had back on the road with System.

How did you develop the frenetic feel of Harakiri, which seems to bounce around between landscapes?

Frenetic is a good word for it. I was bouncing around continents, landscapes, projects. I was working on four records at once, all of completely varied genres, so I think all of that lent itself to making each project really interesting. I would say Harakiri is the easiest record I’ve ever written in my life, the least filtered record, and the least amount of time I’ve spent making a record. I just put it down and didn’t question what I was saying, didn’t question what the arrangement was, I didn’t fuck much with it, basically. And I think the message comes out that way, that there is a certain urgency, a certain direct connection, a certain unapologetic sense of transference.

You are carrying on a long tradition of rock ‘n’ roll harnessed for social change.

It’s always easy to err on the side of public opinion. It’s always harder to take a stand and go, this is the truth. With all my heart and soul and knowledge, I believe this is the truth. And you’re going to fucking hate me for it, but this is the truth and you’re probably going to take my song off the air and not buy my records, and call me unpatriotic sometimes, or whatever, you know? The truth is the truth. It doesn’t change.

Do you feel this is something that is important for you to do as an artist?

Yes. Music has many phenomenal purposes, and entertaining is a great one; dancing is a great one. There’s nothing wrong with that. And there are so many variations of music; it’s such a gorgeous, inspiring, intuitive medium. But I think part of that is to illustrate the times that we live in, to narrate some of the truths of our times, and to inspire for positive change. There’s definitely that aspect of music and I’m very partial to that. Now, I’m partial to that on Harakiri; the jazz record [Jazz-Iz-Christ] is not partial to that because that’s a whole different vibe. Orca’s not partial to that because that’s a whole different vibe. So it depends. Lyrically, maybe, I am partial to that.

How did System of Down decide to saddle up again and go on tour?

I don’t know. It wasn’t a particular event that happened or anything like that. I think one day, John [Dolmayan] and I were communicating — we would always get offers to tour and stuff like that, and it was like, okay, I can make it, [but] no, he can’t make it. Everyone’s schedules and stuff. So Shavo [Odadjian] was about to get married [in 2010], so we all got together then, but even before then, I think we met up one time just to hang out; it had been a while since we had all hung out. So everyone said what they felt like doing; like, this is what I’m willing to do. At first, I’m like, hey, let’s just play a few dates; maybe just play an L.A. show and have fun. And that turned into a whole tour. The whole tour turned into two continents, turned into four continents. [laughs] So it wasn’t like, let’s go back tour again and tour the world! It was more like, hey, I miss playing a show; that would be fun. Not thinking of recording, not thinking of anything. Just like, I miss this. I miss the jokes, and I miss having food with you, let’s go play a show! We haven’t done this in six years, let’s go play one!

Is it like traveling back in time when you’re together with them? Is there a sense of comfort and familiarity, like going back home to visit?

There’s a certain aspect of that, I guess. But it’s not going back in time because everyone has changed, time has changed, time has moved on. Although some of the old jokes come back and you’re like, I remember that from fucking 1995, dude! [laughs] You’re still saying that joke? Are you serious? And we’ll laugh. But it’s a good vibe among all of us, which is the important thing. We’re all actually really having a great time doing it. Sure, it’s comfortable. You’ve been doing it for a while. Doing your own stuff is always a little tougher, of course. There’s more responsibility, more of everything to do. You’ve got to do all the press and everything’s on you. Whereas, when you’re doing it as a band, you separate out the responsibilities and everything else. Plus, touring with System has been great, also, because we’re not supporting anything. We don’t have a record out, we don’t have press to do, we don’t have shit to do! We just go play the shows. We barely sound check — just the first show — because that’s how we like to roll. It’s like, let’s have some fun out there! So that’s been awesome. That’s made the show better, I think.

I’ve always wondered about the influence your background has had on the way you use your voice.

I think the influence on my voice, there is a certain melancholy to my voice that’s inherent in my people, in the Armenian people, because of all the 600 years living under the Ottoman Empire as second-class citizens. And the pain behind the Genocide and all that. I think there’s something behind my voice that has that tinge to it. I can’t really describe it.

When did you first become interested in music?

My dad would sing at home; there was always that influence. He loved music. Growing up, he played instruments, although he never played them at home because he was too busy working to raise the family — but not as a musician, as a designer. So I remember as a kid singing with my dad at home and stuff like that, and that song that we used to sing together, I sang with him on his record [Inchbes Moranak] two years ago. My dad’s name is Khatchadour. [Writer’s note: see Tankian and his father sing together here.] But I never really got into playing music until I was in college. I just had a little Casio keyboard, just to get my mind off my studies. It was a great way to relax, and that’s what it was. But I started getting more and more into it, so after college, I was writing these little pieces, and I had a more professional keyboard, and singing along — and I’m like, wow. But I still didn’t consider it a career choice. I think coming from a culture that has seen hunger, everyone wants their kids to be professionals — doctors and lawyers — because they want the best for them. They want the most security possible. But we have such inherent cultures that have the arts as part of our blood, that it’s hard to avoid.

What do you see as the ideal state of the world in which things could work out better rather than worse?

If I could make everyone believe in one thing that they all share together, it would be interconnectivity. If everyone can feel interconnected with other beings, other animals, other people, the environment, everything around them. If everyone was like that — they could be of any culture, any race, any religion; it doesn’t matter. If they could just believe in interconnectivity, I think the world would be a different place, altogether. Because if you yell at the guy in front of you and honk at him in your L.A. traffic, and you believe in interconnectivity, you’re connected to that guy. He could be your brother from another lifetime. He could be you, really. So am I yelling at myself now? All compassion would rise automatically. We’d still go into our states of egoic existence, which we all have, but if I could change one thing on this planet in everyone, then you would go, “Wait, my actions are causing this. So if I reverse them or if I do this, there will be less of this.” You’d look at global warming — or climate change, I should say more correctly — and you’d go, “Okay, what’s causing this?” It’s very factual. You look at our meat industry, you look at the water that we use, what most of corn is used for, and all this stuff, and you go, “If I believe in interconnectivity, and if I did this, this, and this, then I could help, here, here, and here.” Everything would be simple, really. I guess knowledge, too. Interconnectivity is one thing and knowledge would be the other.

Arax Manusrian to Perform at Consulate Concert in Los Angeles on Thursday

On October 17, international opera singer, AraxMansurian and her student Lisa Bell will be performing Komitas at the Armenian Society of Los Angeles, Asbarez reports.

As reported AraxMansurianhas performed everywhere from Russia to the Sydney Opera House and her pupil, Lisa Bell is a soprano from Brisbane, Australia.AraxMansourian graduated from the Komitas State Conservatory in Yerevan, Armenia and was one of the leading sopranos of the Armenian National Opera before moving to Australia in 1994. She performed one of the title roles of Verdi’s “Aida”, Leonora (Il Trovatore), Elisabetta de Valois (Don Carlos), Nedda (Pagliacci), Mimí (La Boheme), Tatiana (Eugene Onegin), Lisa (PikovayaDama), Maddalena (Andrea Chenier), Shoushan (Davit Bek), and the title role in Tigranian’s “Anoush.”

Asbarez adds that Lisa Bell is one of Australia’s finest contemporary sopranos. A graduate of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Lisa is a well-respected soprano who has performed extensively throughout Australia, and upon invitation in Europe and the United States. The two will be accompanied by pianist ArmineGhazaryan.

He two great women will be performing for the Armenian community in Los Angeles and then will be travelling to Armenia to perform at the Yerevan Concert Hall, accompanied by the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra. I tis important to note that all proceeds of the Yerevan performances will be donated to the Armenian Children’s Charity. The program of this event, in both Armenia and in Los Angeles will consist of Komitas, Bellini, and Rossini.

Indian filmmaker considering to make a film on Armenian genocide

Indian Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur says he might be tempted to make a movie on the 1915 Armenian genocide.

“Going to Armenia to study massacre of Armenians in 1915 and perhaps make a film on it later,” tweeted Kapur.

The Armenian genocide (1915-23) saw the Ottoman regime systematically exterminating its minority Armenian subjects from their traditional homeland in the territory constituting the present-day Turkey.

Shakira mistakenly raised Armenian flag in Baku

Colombian singer Shakira, who was a special guest in the FIFA U-17 Women’s Cup closing concert, performed in the place, where “Eurovision-2012” in will be held, in Crystal Hall.

Here the pregnant singer raised the flag of her native Columbia to thousands of spectators (yellow, blue and red), which actually turned out to be “the flag of Armenia.” It is symbolic that this “coincidence” took place at the stage where the visit of Armenians in “Eurovision-2012” was failed.

By the way, another amazing coincidence is that red color of Columbian flag also symbolizes people’s blood shed for independence.

The film about the war in Karabakh is included in the long list of Oscar nominations

Radio Liberty informs that the film about the war in Karabakh, titled “If everybody…” is included in the long list of Oscar nominations, in the “best foreign-language film” category.

The film, which is about the war and simple human relationships, has become very popular among those who love movies. The film which was made under the support of Serzh Sargsyan, president of Armenia, interested not only Armenian media but also the international media.

On October 9, it was announced that the film is included in the long list of Oscar nominations. The producer of the film is Natalia Belyausken, and according to her the film succeeded because of honesty and love.

“I don’t know how the film will help Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict but one thing is known, it is not a political thing.”
The film has been shown in many places, in Cyprus, in Bucharest, in South Korea and on November 1-10 it will be shown in Moscow.

One of the filmmakers, Tereza Varjapetyan, said that it already a success that the film is included in the long list of Oscar nominations.
“One of my Azerbaijani collogues has seen the film and liked it. A human is a human, no matter what nation he has. ”
On January 13, 2013, the names of nominees of Oscar will be announced and on February 24 the nomination will take place.

Karen Shakhnazarov’s film is in the long-list of “Oscar”

Karen Shakhnazarov’s film “White Tiger” entered the long list of the Academy Award for Best Film in 2012 in a foreign language.
The information was announced from the Academy.
As reported, there are overall 71 works in the long-list.
The source informs that the short-list of nominees for the “Oscar” will be announced on January 10, 2013.
We should recall that the Russian Oscar Committee on September 20 made the decision to nominate this film in the “Oscar”.
Thus, this is the second year in a row that Russia is sending a film about the Great Patriotic War in “Oscar”.

Capital prepares for “Yerevan-Erebouni” celebration

The mayor of Yerevan, Taron Margaryan thanked all the organizations, agencies and bodies, which had actively participated in the cleaning of the capital during working consultation.

The press service of Yerevan city hall informed to “First Armenian News and Analysis” that the mayor was reported that works are in process for the celebration of “Yerevan-Erebouni” on October 14th. Besides the concerts in “Yerevan-Erebouni” Reserve-Museum and Republic square, 26 more stage-celebrations will take place in capital.

“Erebouni-Yerevan celebration” is pan-Armenian fest and corresponding measures should be taken to ensure real festive atmosphere. Yerevan citizens must also actively participate realizing the importance of their participation.”- mentioned Taron Margaryan and told the representatives of mass media to inform the population about the celebrations.

The outer look of the capital is being improved on the eve of the fest. The mayor ordered to ensure that public transport work till late evening on October 14th.

In the framework of the celebrations the statues by Tereza Mirzoyan and Ashot Harutyunyan will be exhibited in the capital.

Serj Tankian lounches fundraising campaign for classical symphony project

Amenian-American musician and composer Serj Tankian plans to write a classical symphony named “ORCA”. Symphony will be first played on October 28th in Austrian Linz city with the musicians of “Das Karussell” and “Bruckner” orchestra. Later a CD will be launched. According to the musicians “ORCA” “is a mixture of a composer style of 20th century and music written for movies”.

Serj states: “I am very excited to share my most personal, compelling musical project to date: my first-ever full symphony called ‘Orca’. I have an incredible opportunity to record and perform ‘Orca’ live with the world renowned Das Karussell Orchestra (featuring members of the Bruckner Orchester) at Brucknerhaus in Linz, Austria on October 28th, 2012 and with your involvement and support, we can make it happen!

Many of you know my work in rock music, between SYSTEM OF A DOWN and my solo album releases. While I have rearranged some of my past rock compositions to be performed as orchestral pieces, such as the ‘Elect The Dead Symphony’ in 2010, ‘Orca’ is the first four-act symphony that I have composed, a mix of early-20th-century compositional styles combined with the powerful range of film scoring”.

The musician adds: “I decided to name my symphony ‘Orca’ because orcas ‘appear to have no parallel outside humans’ in terms of their cultural faculties. An orca is really a dolphin with much darker tendencies. I see this dichotomy as a great metaphor for humanity.Last year, I wrote and recorded a professionally sampled studio version with the goal of being able to record it properly with a full orchestra…. this was not something I could capture in a small home studio.

I was able to play with the Das Karussell Orchestra at Brucknerhaus during the ‘Elect The Dead Symphony’ world tour, which was an amazing experience. I shared my sampled recording of ‘Orca’ with them, and together we made plans for the live performance and recording to fully bring the work to life and share and distribute it to as many people as possible.

“We have put together many different ways for fans to get involved and be a part of ‘Orca’ from the ground up, all of which are outlined in thisKickstarter campaign. We tried to think of ways to give you every bit of music possible, and interactive, personalized experiences for those who can attend the show on October 28th, and for those who can’t. Our goal is $25,000.00, which is the minimal cost for the recording. Any additional funds will be used to cover the expenses of mixing, mastering and promotion. We will keep you updated with news and progress so you are able to see what we do as this project grows.

Please check it out and I hope to share this journey for ‘Orca’ with you all. Thank you for the support.”

Tankian has already started a campaign for collecting money (25.000$) on Kickstarter website. All those who like the project can transfer money. If the necessary money is gathered, the money will be given back to the contributors.

Exhibition of Armenian artists in Beijing

On September 28th the 5-th Beijing International Art Biennale launched in the Chinese capital. More than 700 works of 500 artists from 85 countries were presented in the exhibition lasting almost a month.

State and public Chinese figures, accredited ambassadors and heads of international organizations were present at the Biennale opening ceremony. The Ambassador of RA to China Armen Sargsyan was among the honorable guests.
Armenian culture is in the focus of interest in China recently. 4 special exhibitions are prepared including Modern Armenian art exhibition. There are 33 works of 11 artists. The ceremony became possible due to the efforts of Armenian Embassy to China and RA Ministry of culture as well as by the support of famous expert of modern art Sona Harutyunayan and other specialists.

It must be noted that in the main thematic part of Biennale the works of 5 artists of Armenian nationality representing Armenia, Cyprus and Lebanon are being exhibited

Armenian artists, having arrived in Beijing to take part in Biennale, visited Armenian embassy where they got acquainted with 80 canvases of Armenian modern art that are exhibited in the framework of ceremonies dedicated to the commemoration of Armenian independence and the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and China.