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Friday, June 23, 2017

The Schools of Kessab (1906)

Miss Effie M. Chambers’ report about Kessab, not necessarily only about its schools, may be one of the earliest reports about Kessab by a missionary. It was published in “Life and Light for Women” Journal in volume 37, pages 190-192, dated 1907.  The journal was published by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), which was among the first American Christian missionary organizations and arguably was the largest and most important of American missionary organizations. The editors note on page 175 that: ““Miss Chambers is this year in Kessab, where she is building up the girls’ school and working among the women. She has no associate at this place, and especially needs the divine companionship”. The report that Miss Chambers wrote in that journal is reproduced here for archiving. Vahe H. Apelian

The Schools of Kessab
By Miss Effie M. Chambers
Kessab, October 20, 1906

“I will begin this letter while waiting for my teachers to come for a teachers’ meeting, our first one, and write until they come. As my mind is on school more than anything else this afternoon I will write about that. I think you know in a new place one has to choose.
First, the opportunities here for schools to be built up seem unlimited and the desire of the people is great, and they seem as far as they know willing to help in all ways they can, but they are still like most places in Turkey, poor, and while there is not actual starving, it is all most of them can do to live. The women and girls her are more backward than nay other place I know in our field They are perfect drudgers, carrying immense loads of wood, heavy jars of water, or baskets of vineyard or garden products on their backs for long distances. The hardest work done in the hardest possible way seems to fit the situation perfectly.
Here in Kessab we have, including our own girls’ school, six school in all, four entirely supported by the people, one by us, and in one other, our new high school preparatory, we share with them. In all there are about 250 pupils. We start them in the primary, and if they graduate they are ready for Aintab College preparatory, or if girls, for the third class in Aintab Seminary. They are village children, and have grown up with a wild, free life, so they do not submit easily to authority, but hey have good minds and seem to me worth training. The schools here have not been well graded heretofore; in fact, they have been divided more on the basis of numbers than according to grade. This year, beginning with the primary, we are trying to adopt a uniform course of study, so much work done each year until they finish the high school.

The short length of the school year (we have only eight and a half months, and for the first part of the term is generally interrupted by gathering in the vineyard product for making molasses, which is a sort of general good time for everybody). Make it difficult.
In all the schools except the girls’ high school, each child was allowed to be excused two days, the only condition being that they should come to me and ask to be excused Those who went without excuse were punished, and made to recite the lesson they had missed. All say it is good, a great improvement on other years, when they went without permission and stayed as long they wished. It is something to have them obey.
Our girls’ high school is going through a needed course of repairs, given us an enlarge schoolroom and two recitation rooms. We also have some good windows (glass ones), which give us plenty of light, and lots of good blackboards, but we still are sitting on mats on the floor, and have almost no apparatus except a few maps. Our needs are many, but we shall try to be patient. The girls and I are thinking of raising silkworms, and applying the profits towards some seats. If they do this I shall try to find someone to help us with the rest, for I feel I must get them up off the floor.
The people want a good deal of manual training in the schools, and the children need it. In all schools we are trying to introduce gymnastics and singing lessons.  The church made our girls’ school a present of nice Singer sewing machine last year, and this year our first class girls are to take lessons in dressmaking, i.e., learning to cut and fit simple dresses.
Their dresses are funny, old-fashioned things, infant waists, long, full skirts, no collars, plain, ill-fitting sleeves. Over this dress they wear a short, round jacked, trimmed on all the seams with a kind of braid of different color from the goods. Around their waists they wear shawls or pieces of cloth folded diagonally, on the wide part being at the back, and knotted tight front.  When not entirely bare-footed, they wear a kind of red slipper with pointed toes and without heels, but no stockings. A gaily-flowered handkerchief covers the head and our Kessab girl or women stands before you, for there is almost no difference in the dress of girls and women. There being no Moslems here, the women do not veil as they do in other places, but are perfectly free in many ways, where their sisters in other cities are bound to custom. The people here, as a whole, seem to cling less tenaciously to custom than in other cites and are thus in many a way more open to receive good – and bad, too, I am afraid.  I don’t know of nay place where work is needed more. Pray for us that we shall do all we can and be all we can here.
There being no regular post, one is likely to be caught, as I am now, only held ready when a chance to send arrives.  I resolve every week to get certain letters ready and have them ready to send as soon as chance offers, but some resolves are vain, and in the midst of looking after school here and outside, training teachers, superintending primary Sunday school and looking after its teachers, playing for teachers’ meetings and educational club meeting, teaching Sunday school lessons to a class of twenty-five young women and girls, leading women’s meeting where the attendance is from one hundred and fifty to two hundred (women hungry for the truth), cleaning house, getting winter supplies, overseeing workmen who are loth to be told what to do by a woman, training  new cook and washerwoman being my own scrub and ironing woman, besides looking after my family of seven – about whom I hope to write you sometimes letters don’t get written, I am sure God want me here this year, for he had let me succeed in everything I have undertaken for these people yet. The boarding department is open with three borders, one from Antioch, Vieda, and hope for another.”

Monday, June 19, 2017

Armenian Pop Music Spring

Armenian Pop Music Spring

Colored revolution is a term often used to describe  the social movments that took place in the former Soviet Union. Arab Spring is a term  given to a series of anti-government protests that spread across the Middle East in early 2011. Both of these term are often used liberally to address social upheavals. The Armenian Diaspora pop music had also its own spring and it was a sort of colored revolution that broke the bond with the traditional Armenian music that was brought and perpetuated by the survivors of the Armenian Genocide. The lyrics of some of these songs at times even inclued Turkish words.
Those who came of age in 1960’s in Lebanon, the cradle of the Armenian Diaspora then, remember the Armenian diaspora pop music spring. It was when Adiss Harmandian, out of blue, burst onto the Armenian music scene fittingly with a song called Ծաղիկներ (Dzaghigner-Flowers).  The song ushered a new era of Armenian pop music. The song is readily available on Youtube.
Boghos Shahmelikian, a musican and a bass quitar player, became part of that movement.  In his book titled «Յիշատակներ Անցած Օրեր» (Memoris and Bygone Days), Boghos narrates the the musical phenomenon if not a revolution of sort. With his permission and with the able assistance of my cousin, Jack Chelebian, MD, I have translated and expanded the book that awaits publication.
Below is a segment of the book that relates the behind the scene events that lead into the recording of that song ushering the era of the Armenian diaspora pop music.

“Among Armenians who are interested in the theater, Calouste Jansezian is well-known stage actor. He has successfully played different roles in the Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural Association’s Kaspar Ipekian Theater Group in Lebanon. He also loved to sing and wanted to produce Ծաղիկներ (Dzaghigner). He approached Daniel Der Sahakian, a successful producer of records. Daniel saw a business opportunity in Calouste’s proposal and financed the orchestration of the song with Reddy Bobbio, who was a well-known musician in Lebanon and played in prestigious nightclubs such as Phoenicia and Paon Rouge. The recording of the orchestration went smoothly. It was time to produce the record.

Any song that is produced on a record has its orchestration done ahead of time. Later it is played in the studio as the vocalist sings the song. The situation was no different when Calouste attempted to record the song. But alas, he did not succeed. His repeated attempts to record the song ended in failure. It became obvious that he did not possess that particular talent.

Daniel Der Sakakian, who had invested a lot of money in the orchestration of the song, naturally did not want to give up on his investment. He looked for singers to record the song. He approached Eddy Kev (Kevork Khacherian) and Manuel Menengichian. The two were notable singers with national acclaim. Both had won first prize in successive years in Pêle-Mêle, the Lebanese national television talent competition. They sang European songs and both refused to sing Dzaghigner. 

Daniel then approached Ara Guiragossian who sang Armenian classical songs and exuded opera influences whereas the orchestration and the lyrics of Dzaghigner were of the popular genre. They agreed the song was not a good fit for the singer.

Daniel then approached Ara Kekedjian who had established a reputation as singer of Armenian children’s songs. His records for more mature audiences had not been well received. After further consideration neither one found the song to be a good fit for Kekedjian.

Daniel was close to giving up on his investment when Antranig Mardirossian, who ran Lebanon’s first record store, suggested a young singer he knew from the Bourj-Hammoud neighborhood. “He sings well. He has already produced a record in French,” said Mardirossian and asked whether Daniel would like to try him. The young singer’s name was Adiss Harman. Having produced a record, Adiss had acquired experience in recording in a studio. His voice proved to be a natural fit for the song. They recorded the song and produced it under Daniel Der Sakakian’s label, VOS (Voice of the Stars). To promote the record, Adiss dropped his adopted surname, Harmand, in favor of his family name but retained his adopted artistic name.  The rest is Armenian musical history.

Ծաղիկներ (Dzaghigner) became an instant hit with demand for more. The Armenian community seemed to have been craving for lighthearted songs and had finally found one. There was no time to waste. Soon after, they recorded other songs that proved to be no less popular: Մանուշակ  (Manooshag), Մթնշաղ (Mntshagh), Ծաղիկներս ում Նուիրեմ (Dzaghigners Oum Nvirem), Այլ Աչեր Կան Իմ Սրտում (Ayl Acher Gan Im Srdoum). The songs were simple, easily understood. Hasmig Manasserian, a self-educated composer in Armenia, had composed the songs.

After Reddy Robio left Lebanon following his orchestration of the Ծաղիկներ (Dzaghigner), Jacques Kodjian took over and worked with Adiss for many years. Overnight, an Armenian pop--estradayin’--star was born. Adiss gave concerts in many countries. He even toured the United States--some fifty years ago no small feat. It was unprecedented for an Armenian singer to travel so far to give a concert. For a while I accompanied Adiss. It is hard to fathom that an Armenian singer could have mustered such popularity in the Armenian Diaspora or that the Armenian community could bestow such adulation on one of them, as they did on Adiss.

Adiss was 20-years-old when he burst on the Armenian pop music scene. He had good looks. His overnight rise from obscurity to national fame arguably remains unprecedented in Armenian Diaspora music. Calouste Jansezian was the catalyst of Armenian pop music in the Diaspora. A catalyst accelerates the rate of a happening without itself undergoing any permanent change. He remained the notable stage actor but Adiss emerged as the undisputed pioneer and idol of Armenian Diaspora pop music.

Adiss’ baptismal name is Avedis. His name means someone who brings good tidings. Indeed, he brought good tidings to Armenian culture by popularizing Armenian music. Thanks to his stamina, good looks, drive, likeable personality on and off the stage, Adiss remains an undisputed leader of Armenian pop music. His contribution to Armenian culture was formally recognized when Catholicos Aram I bestowed upon him the Order of Saint Mesrob Mashtots in 2005. Adiss Harmandyan, the first Armenian pop music singer is also the first modern Armenian pop music star to be bestowed with an ecclesiastical order.”

Vahe H. Apelian


(The Kessabtsis)

Գըրից Քեսպըցա,  Ստեփան Ունպաշա (1)
(Written by Kessabtsi Stepan 'Onbashi')

Ճուպրագլու տէքէն, միր Քեսպու գըղիէն (From the foot hill of Mount Jabal Akra, from our Kessab village)
իլան գըղընտիէն, ճաղպիցուն գեցէն, (and from the other villages, they were scattered and went away)
Չմնուոց տիէղ մը եաշշխերհէն ըրվան (There remained no place on this world,)
Չհեսուով Քէսպըցէն (where Kessabtsis did not reach).

Քեսպըզէն հենից, աշխերհէն բիժնից (Kessabtsis gave and shared with the world)
Մինծ, մինծ տէոքթըրնա, էնճէրնիորնա, (Great, great medical doctors, engineers,)
Քենը իրիեց, քենը պատուելա, (How many priests, how many pastors,)
Գարեցին Բ. Կաթաքկիւս, Եպիսկուպուսնա։ (Karekin II Catholicos, and many archbishops)

Քեսպըցէն գընուոց հեր եօրը մնուոց,  (Kessabtis went and wherever they settled)
Ի տիոց վարժապիտ,  շըրքէթը գործիչ, (Gave educators, industrialists,)
Սիրից զկարդիլը, վարժատուն հիմնիլը, (Loved education, founded schools,)
Մառցուով երաժիշտ, գրագէտ դառնիլը (Neglected to be musicians, and men of letters)

Քեսպըցէն Ուսումնասիրաց Միւթիւն կիւնա (Kessabtsis have Educational Association)
Ըղուոժ է քառսուն – յիսոն տարա, (Its been since forty – fifty years,)
Պէորուտու բռնի դըգը եամերգա, (From Beirut, all the way to America)
Դըգը Լօս-Անճելըս Քալիֆորնիա։ (All the way to Los Angeles, California.)

Էսունք Քալիֆորնեա, Քեսպըցէն կիւնա, (Let’s say California, Kessabtsis have)
Թէօղթ մը ըլլայք հասցէնա, (A book full of addresses,)
Ծըննուէող, խիսուղնա, պըսեկւուղնա, ( Notices of births, deaths, marriages)
Տարեդարձ տօնուող, վարժատուն խելըսուղնա։(Those who celebrated anniversaries, graduated from schools.)

Քեսպըցէք իլիէք, քուով-քիւվա էրկիէք, (Kessabtsis get up and come together,)
Զառ-ձառա տըւիէք, Քեսպընուոք շերեցիէք, (Extend helping hands, sing in Kessabtsi dialect)
Նատուոր Կարնաք մեր լիզէոն զիւրցիցէք, (As much as you can, converse in Kessab language)
Մեր պեպկըններէնն իսկըրւունը խընտեցուցէք։ (Bring laughter to the bones of our ancestors.)

Իս էլի Քեսպըցա,  Ստեփան Ունպաշա (I am also a Kessabtsi, Stepan ‘Onbashi’)1
Հա ուգում էսիլ Շընիֆիւր Նիւ Տարա, (I want to say, Happy New Year)
Բերը Զետէկ ըննիւ ալըննէդ, (May it be a good Christmas for all of you,)
Եէօրը կիւ Քեսպըցա, եէօրը կիւ Քեսպըցա։ (Wherever there are Kessabtsis.)

Note (1): Written by Stepan Panossian, the father of Dr. Razmig, the Director of the Armenian Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, in Lisbon, Portugal.  He inherited his ‘Onbashi’ monicker from his father who became a commissioned military officer in the French foreign legion and took part in the famed Arara battle. The poem was posted in 28th edition of the Kessab Yearbook (1988) and was posted by Shoghag Apelian-Ayanian

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Steve Kerr's Grandfather's Book

A Big Book’s Little Story

Dr. Antranig Chalabian,
Translated and abridged by Vahe H. Apelian

This article appeared in Antranig Zaroukian’s Nairi Weekly in Beirut on December 2, 1973, few months after the publication of “The Lions of Marash”.  Antranig Chalabian narrates how Dr. Stanely E. Kerr’s monumental book came about.

Dr. Stanely E. Kerr was the Chairman of the Biochemistry Department of the American University of Beirut for almost four decades. During the last years of his tenure he had merited the title of Distinguished Professor. For all I know, in the history of the University, few individuals have been conferred with this title. He retired from his post in 1965 and moved to America.
I knew the Professor simply because we worked in the same building. He worked in the second floor of the University’s School of Medicine building while I worked in its fourth floor as Research Assistant. I had heard that the Professor was an Armenophile. A friend had told me that at the aftermath of the First World War he had helped the Armenian refugees. 

The American University of Beirut’s School of Medicine building has two storage rooms in its fourth floor where all sorts of equipment, instruments, some usable others not, are kept. When the storage rooms get filled up workers come and remove some of the items that are not needed any more.
It was in the summer of 1966. I heard that workers have come and are emptying the two storage rooms. I went to see that they do not remove instruments and other items we owned we may need in the future. In one corner there was a very old wooden box. “Take this wooden cart away!” I told the workers because of its rough and tumble look and accumulated dust.
I had hardly uttered my order when I noticed that at its bottom there were papers that appeared to be newspaper and envelopes of sorts. The papers appeared to be very old. Had a garbage collector come across the box he would not have wanted to handle the papers inside and would have tossed the box away. I, on the other hand, who has a tendency to wash his hands 50 times a day, do not know how is that I extended my arm into the box and reached the papers. It may be that luck would have it that way.
I opened the large envelope with utmost care. There were clippings from an English language newspaper. TODAY IN SVAS A THOUSAND ARMENIANS WERE MASSACRED. I turned my face the other way and shook the fifty years accumulated dust and took the envelope to my office.
I placed the papers on the table next to my desk and started to look into the newspaper clippings. They were clippings from New York Times dating to the Armenian Genocide. There were also correspondences and documents and also Stanley Kerr’s picture (he was not a professor then).  His picture appeared in the newspaper on two occasions in a military like uniform. It turned out that they were the uniforms worn by the American Relief Workers. From the correspondences I concluded that the envelope belonged to   Dr. Stanley Kerr.
Emotions overtook me as I read the newspaper clippings; Dr. Suhail Jabbour, one of the Professors of the Physiology Department who is a very curious and observant person, happened to step in.
- “What are you reading?” He asked.
- “Papers that belong to Dr. Stanley Kerr” I said “He seems to have left them here”
- “Place them in my office after you are done” He said. “I would like to read them as well”.
Three days later I asked him, “Where are Dr. Stanley Kerr’s papers?” “I sent them to his son”, he said. Professor Stanley Kerr’s son, Malcolm, was a professor at the University’s Political Science Department and is a specialist of Arab history.

I wrote a letter to Dr. Malcolm Kerr at the U.C.L.A. Political Science Department inquiring about his father’s papers. He wrote back letting me know that he had sent the papers to his father who lived in Princeton, NJ.
I wrote to Dr. Stanley Kerr and asked him if he would return the papers he had left behind to me to give to an Armenian editor.
“No, Antranig” he replied. “I had not thrown these papers away. I had lost them. They are very valuable to me. I had collected them to write a book. I am glad that you found them……”.
This incident became the reason that initiated a correspondence between the two of us the outcome of which became the monumental book Dr. Stanley E. Kerr wrote about the massacres of Marash. To write this book, the eminent professor devoted six years and produced a book about the tragedy of Marash that historians may not have anything else to add. We may mention here that Krikor Kaloustian’s book titled “Marash or Kermanic” has only a 30 pages long section about the tragedy of Marash including eyewitness accounts.
Dr. Kerr has been in Aleppo and Marash between 1919 and 1923 as an American Middle East Relief officer. He has been a witness to the post War massacres by the Kemalists. Before that he has been interested in the Armenian issues and has collected newspaper articles about the Armenian massacres.
My task became collecting references about the Armenian Genocide and the Cilician tragedy.  I translated into English almost all the Armenian references available about the tragedy of Marash and the Cilician calamity. Fortunately the Professor’s knowledge of German, French and Turkish greatly facilitated our searches.
In the spring of 1967, a year after the initiation of the work, the Professor came to Lebanon in search of sources. We looked for a book but we could not find it. I checked almost all the bookstores in the city but I could not locate a copy. The title of the book was  “La Cilicie 1919-1920” by Edmond Brimond. I was told that the Armenian Catholic Library in Zmar had a copy.
The 1967 Israeli six-days long war started. The city was very tense. It was the third day of the war and the city was at a heightened mood. People were protesting all over and the streets were littered with glass fragments. The schools were closed and people were indoors; I was concerned that the Professor would soon leave due to rising anti-American sentiments without the reference. I decided to go to Zmar but I did not own a car then. I ventured out of the house, crossed the city center and walked to my friend Yervant Grboyan’s house and knocked at the door. He was still in his bed.
- “Take me to Zmar” I said.
- “Are you crazy or what?” He said. “Who goes out in these times leaving his house?” He added.
We drove to Zmar. We were sipping tasty wine when the Vartabed went to fetch the book from the library. He came back. “We do not have the copy” he said. “It is in our registry but it appears that Father Gergerian has taken the book with him to Philadelphia”.
In the afternoon I went to the University and found that Dr. Stanley Kerr and all the American nationals had left the country early that morning at 7 a.m.
I continued to search for the book through Librarie Du Liban. I wrote to friends in Paris, but to no avail. Then someone told me to check Vahe Setian’s private collection. Giving the benefit of the doubt that a personal collector would have a book the libraries did not, I visited Vahe Setian to inquire. Not only I found the book I was looking for in his collection, I also found additional seven historical books in French about the Cilician tragedy.  In President Hoover’s Library we found another French book we needed titled “Historique du 412n Regiment d’Enfanterie” by Captain C. Tribault.
“The Lions of Marash” was printed by the State University of New York Press and was published on July 2, 1973. It retails for $15. Few copies have arrived to Beirut. I do not want to be misunderstood. The author has purchased few copies and gifted to friends.
I am pleased that an eminent American Professor wrote this book. The Professor has shown his greatness early on. Just imagine that a young 20 to 22 years old student leaves America and volunteers to help Armenian orphans in a foreign land.
I narrated the story of a big book. Let the Marashtsi intellectuals evaluate the book.

Note: Dr. Stanley E. Kerr’s son – Dr. Malcolm Kerr – became the President of the American University of Beirut but was gunned down in his office. Malcolm’s son - Steve Kerr - is a retired professional basketball player and a 5 time National Basketball Association (NBA) Champion.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Dawn of Diaspora Armenian Pop Music

Dawn of Diaspora Armenian Pop Music

By Boghos Shahmelikian,
Translated and expanded by Vahe H. Apelian

The attached article is last chapter of Boghos Shahmelikian’s "Յիշատակներ  Անցած Օրեր" ("Memories and Bygone Days"). The book, translated into English and expanded as “The Dawn of Armenian Pop Music”, will be published soon.—Vahe H. Apelian

“Not long after I arrived in the United States, Adiss [Lebanese-Armenian singer, bandleader Harmandian] offered me to play bass guitar in his band at the nightclub he owned. At the end of my first day’s performance as I was getting ready to go home and leave my guitar behind, Pierre, Adiss’ brother, who played the drums in the band, advised me to take my guitar with me and cautioned that it could get stolen. 
For years I had played with The Five Fingers [band] at the La Fourmi [a restaurant in a Lebanese mountain resort]. All of us left our instruments at the open-air restaurant. The possibility that they may be stolen had never crossed our minds. Lebanon is a small country. It was the country where everyone knew everyone else.
Lebanon not only welcomed the survivors of the Genocide of the Armenians but it also integrated them in the social and political fabric of the country. Unhindered by unwarranted intrusion in their personal and communal lives, the Armenians prospered financially and thrived culturally. In the sectarian make-up of governance in Lebanon, the Armenian community is considered one of the largest and is constitutionally assured of representation in the government. The Armenians thus became not only a constituent of the political make-up of the country but also enriched the cosmopolitan culture of its society.
The 1960s and the first half of the 1970s marked the golden age of music in Lebanon, especially in Beirut. The Armenians contributed far more than their demographic share. Many of the musicians and the music bands that made Lebanon the entertainment capital of the Middle East were Armenian.
In summer the music bands and the singers entertaining the public in Lebanon’s famous mountain summer resorts--stretching from Dhour Shweir up to Mrouj--were almost all Armenian. In the center of Dhour Shweir, at the restaurant Le Centre, Vartivar Antossian sang with his Los Amores band. Right across it, at the Hawie restaurant, Adiss Harmandian sang accompanied by Jacques Kodjian and his band. Some 200 yards up the hill in a restaurant next to Hotel Kassouf, Ara Kekedjian sang accompanied by his band. Almost next to it, at the Homenetmen restaurant Varouj and his Days band performed every weekend. The La Fourmi restaurant wasn't far from it. The Five Fingers performed there. A little farther up the hill was the next summer resort of Bois de Bologne. Levon Katerjian sang there at the Samaha restaurant accompanied by his band. All these restaurants would be filled to capacity on weekends and the great majority of the customers were Armenian. The "Aztag" daily featured a cartoon, by Massis, depicting singer singing, “Who am I”, while the singer in the next restaurant sang, “Who are you?” In fact, while sitting in a restaurant one could hear the singer in the next.
In the late 1960s (the early 1970s), Alex Manougian was invited to Lebanon for the inauguration of a community center to be named after him. A dinner dance was held in his honor at Beirut's famed Hotel Phoenicia. The partitions between two large adjoining ballrooms were removed to accommodate the festivities. Almost all the prominent members of the Armenian community were present to pay homage to the great benefactor. The ballroom exuded exuberance. Only several years earlier, the Armenian community had commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Genocide of the Armenians in the stadium named after President Camille Chamoun. That somber event had become a psychological boost to the community as well. The community had realized that it had come a long way since the 1915-1923 ordeal and was thriving, felt prosperous and confident. An Italian music band and Adiss, who was at the pinnacle of his career, provided the evening’s entertainment. I accompanied Adiss and his band.
While, addressing the audience, a teary-eyed Alex Manougian said that Ashoogh Djeevani (Աշուղ Ջիւանի)  had gotten it all wrong when he had sang that "bad days, much like winter, come and go...”. It’s not only the bad days, Manougian said, but also the good and happy days are also ephemeral. His words were not meant to be cautionary but were uttered to reflect his joy at the moment. The words proved to be prophetic nonetheless. Civil war erupted in Lebanon not too long after and changed the course of the country and of the Diaspora forever. The heart and soul of the Armenian Diaspora, the Armenian community of Lebanon, much like its host country, was gravely wounded, dysfunctional and prone to large-scale emigration.
Almost all the musicians I have mentioned in this book had their debuts in Lebanon. Some of them eventually achieved worldwide acclaim. I have attempted to portray the era as completely as possible and their contributions to the golden age of Armenian pop music in Lebanon as objectively as I could. I pray readers found my narration not only unbiased but also entertaining and enjoyable.
I have been in the United States for over three decades. I often reminisce about the bygone days in Lebanon. Last but not least, I would like to note that along with the many musicians I mentioned in this book, I also remain indebted to Lebanon for making my youthful aspirations to be a musician and our collective experiences in music possible. In doing so Lebanon became the cradle that ushered the “Dawn of (Diaspora) Armenian Pop Music ”.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Lest we forget: The Armenian “Baden Powell” and his Son

Lest we forget: The Armenian “Baden Powell” and his Son.
Vahe H. Apelian

On October 20, 2014, Levon Sharoyan of Aleppo posted about Levon Apkarian where he noted the following.
“Give another year, half a century would have passed since Levon Apkarian’s death, He was the Armenian scout master “Baden Powell”. The new generation may not know of him or even heard his name. But the older generation, as onetime students in Armenians schools, and orphanages in Syria, Lebanon and Cyprus, knew this legendary person. They could never forget the athletic events he organized, the Swedish exercises he taught and scouting troupes he led wearing his hat, carrying a whistle around his neck and the emblems he wore on his formal scout dress.
Levon Apkarian hailed from Sassoun. His life would have made a captivating novel if one had been able to do the impossible task of narrating it. In the immediate aftermath of the genocide, his life was marked by his efforts of salvaging Armenian orphans from the Syrian cities of Deir Elor, Ras al-Ain, Arab Punar and entrusting them to the care of Armenian organizations.
After the war he devoted himself completely to athleticism and scouting. The Syrian Arab community bestowed upon him the honorific title as the “Chief of the Scouts”.
After his death the Armenian community did not have a scoutmaster of his caliper. There has not been another Levon Apkarian. Along with the genocide martyred founder of the Armenian Athletic organization and scouting, Shavarsh Krisian, Levon Apkarian remains a towering figure in the history of Armenian athleticism and scouting.
Levon Apkarian, was also the father of the legendary artistic director and conductor of the Kohar Symphony Orchestra, Sebouh Apkarian”.
On August 5, 2014, Asbarez Daily also reported the passing away of the legendary artistic director and conductor of the Kohar Symphony Orchestra, Sebouh Apkarian. Many if not most of remember him with his long whittle hair flowing down his back shoulder, his graceful, and undulating body as he conducted the Orchestra.
The following communiqué was carried in the Armenian press:  “Sebouh Apkarian was born in Cyprus. He was a composer, conductor, painter and educator. He founded the Armenian Radio Program at the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, where he served for 46 years.
He graduated from the Melkonian Educational Institute, where he later taught music and conducted the school choir, following the steps of his music teacher and mentor, Vahan Bedelian.
After graduating from the Melkonian he continued his studies in Paris.
As an opera singer, he performed in Nicosia, Athens, Beirut, Aleppo, Cairo and Paris.
He composed many songs, choral works, chamber music, oratories, cantatas, symphonic suites and musical caricatures. Many of these compositions have been performed in Tokyo, Paris, Cyprus, Beirut and the US.
His work and performances with Kohar Symphony Orchestra and Choir were characterized by many as the most significant contribution towards the promotion of Armenian culture during the last decade.”