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Interview with songwriter SASUN PASKEVICHYAN

-Mr. Paskevichyan, in one of your interviews, you said you were preparing to write a book entitled “My Father Used to Say…” What did your father used to say?

-Sasun Paskevichyan: My father was a wise man. He was never in despair and was a strong person who always stayed true to his principles and standards of morality. He was the noblest, upright and righteous person whom I knew. Everything he said was like an aphorism and everything he did was like a life lesson. One time, in our orchard, I accidentally broke the graft for the apple tree (I thought it was wood for slinging). The gardener told my father, who called me and, in front of all the children of the yard, asked me: “Did you break it?” I lied and said I hadn’t. Then, my father said: “If my son says he didn’t break it, then he didn’t break it.” It is needless to say that my father knew well that I had broken the graft…That was the first and last time that I told a lie.

-Did you obey your parents?

– I was unruly, disobedient and…audacious. Sometimes my father and I would have serious disagreements. I antagonize and don’t like to conform. I am a conqueror by nature. I seek and dig deep down…

– A conqueror? Perhaps you mean winner…?

– Call it what you may…When I was little, I would always climb to the top of trees and stand on the branches that were the most dangerous to stand on for many people. I have always been on top of things and at the “epicenter” of the most bewildering stories. I have also been in the pivot of the most dangerous “discussions”. \

My father was so strict and adamant. I would like to share two stories that will give you a clear picture. One time, my classmates and I took a trip to Garni. My mother gave me my coat and asked me to take it with me to stay warm because the weather was cold. I told her I wouldn’t get a cold (but the weather was truly cold and I needed to take a coat). My father interfered and said, ‘Don’t offend your mother and take the coat’. But I had already decided to do it my way. My father took the coat, rolled it up and threw it in the stream passing by our house.

…In 1958, during my years of study, students would be sent to the “Khopan” (in the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Kazakhstan) to work, but some students would be exempt from that. My parents procured a reference, claiming that I was ill, and that helped exempt me from the obligation to work in the “Khopan”. However, on the last day, without thinking twice, I approached the secretary of the Communist Youth Union and asked to leave for the “Khopan”. The boy looked at me in surprise and gave me the pass.

I loved to be daring. After I graduated from the Polytechnic Institute, my father told me I could visit the pro-rector of the Institute and be appointed at any institution in Yerevan (my father was highly respected), but I decided to go to Kuybishev where I worked for several months and was later appointed director of the asphalt – concrete factory. Here I was, a 22-23-year old boy leading a 600-member collective. I would sleep only a couple of hours at night. I worked under high pressure so that I would meet people’s expectations and not deceive those who had trusted me.

– I am trying to adapt my favorite tender and sentimental love songs that you have composed to your image of a daring, adventurous and conquering person in my mind.

– No, I am a loving person. I am a great Valentine. My emotions run deep. The first song that I ever composed was a simple, melodious song dedicated to my mother, but it has never been recorded.

“Gisherner es lusatsrel (You have spent sleepless nights)

Ankoghnus mot, im mayrik…” (Near my bed, my mother…)

After I graduated from school, my father purchased an accordion for me. As I was going to Khopan, I started singing the song dedicated to my mother with the accordion at the railway station and made everyone cry.

Let’s talk about some of your songs that are more popular and beloved. “Du Heratsar, Kez Moranal Chi Lini” (You left, but you won’t be forgotten)…How did you compose this beautiful romance?

– There is a story behind all the songs that I have composed. They are part of my biography. I never sit down and compose a song. The songs are based on my pain, love, sadness and emotions. I hear them ringing in my ears, and they “evolve” in my soul…The only thing that I have to do is to keep them in my mind and write the notes on paper. The song “Du Heratsar, Kez Moranal Chi Lini” is a song that I wrote as I remembered a great love story. The song very quickly became popular and people loved it (without knowing who the composer was). Singers such as Bella Darbinyan, Levon Katrjyan and others included that song in their repertoires…I was compelled to go from door to door to prove to people that I was the composer-a young, unknown and inexperienced man without any musical education.

Mi yerkar tsarughi, annkat meghm andzrev (A long alley, gentle and imperceptible rain),

Terevneri harach-erkusis votki tak (The leaves sigh, under our feet),

Katilnern andzrevi der getnin chhasats

Gtnum ein irar erkusis shurti tak…(The raindrops encountered each other under our lips

Before they hit the ground)

– This quartet is from the song called “Narine”. Who is Narine?

– Narine was a girl who played a wonderful song for me on the piano, and I composed the song as I listened to that melody.

-During my interview with Armenian poetess Silva Kaputikyan, she said the song “Karoti Pahin” (At the Moment of Longing) composed with her lyrics and your music was one of her favorite songs.

– The song was created in five to six minutes. I had a stir of emotions after I read Silva Kaputikyan’s poem. It reminded me of a touching episode from my life…

“Tekuz beres du indz

Nor bazhanman takhits (Even if you cause me sorrow from a new split)

Andardz gnas norits (And leave me once again),

Miayn ari, ari…” (Just come, come…)

-“Tekuz urish grkits, miayn ari, ari…” (Even if you come to me after having loved someone else, just come, come…)

– If you only knew how much Silva Kaputikyan was criticized for that line in her poem. Based on the “Soviet morality”, one couldn’t go to his loved one after having loved another, but the name of the song was “At the Moment of Longing”…Longing can consecrate everything. Like art, the feeling of longing is powerful and irresistible. Art shapes a person’s soul, raises him to another level where sublime and beautiful emotions reign supreme. The lack of genuine art and high culture will distort the human spirit.

-Your patriotic songs are so melodious, sentimental and, at the same time, spiritual and inspirational…

– I have lived in the United States for 24 years. I was financially secure and had everything I needed to live the good life, but…I didn’t feel the land under my feet. The connection between a person and the native land is inexplicable and incomprehensible. Living abroad, I fully understood why Catholicos Vazgen I would call those leaving Armenia “extirpators”. You know, if a country doesn’t have patriotic songs, then there is no feeling of patriotism in that country…If people don’t love patriotic songs, don’t hear and disseminate them, then there is no demand for patriotism.

-You are talking about countries in which people live normal lives with standards and in which the developments are logical and move in the right direction. In our country, culture is dependent on the interests, taste and mindset of separate individuals and may not reflect the reality. I am certain that there are people in Armenia who listen to patriotic songs and that there is a demand for those kinds of songs, even though it is not in the axis of cultural processes and is not frequently propagated.

– Like any feeling, the feeling of patriotism also has to be nourished. If not, it will decrease and fade away. I remember how the Armenian people received the first parade of the Armenian Army with enthusiasm and tears of joy. This psychological uplift had to be maintained. During my years in the United States, I produced television programs that were solely aimed at preserving the Armenian national identity, and the only basis for that is patriotism. I propagated the love for the nation and the homeland through those television programs throughout the years.

The way I see it, the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia is very different from the other ministries with its exceptional importance (perhaps we can also set aside the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Diaspora). All Armenians have to focus on loving and showing care for the army, the country’s defense, the image of the Armenian soldier and the morality of the forces. An army is strong and brave with strong and brave soldiers. The strength of an army is not merely the guarantee of defense on the borders of a country because the army is the “smithy” of a person’s courage, sincerity, dignity and patriotism and it must change the morality of the society by continuing to “export” its morale and ideas through the soldiers that become skilled in the army, return to social life and become the bearers and disseminators of the army’s ideology.

-And then that society “sends” its ideology to the army through the conscripted soldiers.

– Yes, if each soldier returns from the army as more patriotic, nationalist, virtuous, as well as ideologically mature Armenians, we Armenians can believe in stable and constant progress. Art plays an important role in educating a generation of patriot Armenians who are aware of and focused on the ideology. Nzhdeh used to say, ‘eliminate the music and poetry of a nation, and your country will turn into a pigsty’. In the 13th century, England wanted to conquer Wales, but wasn’t able to do that for many years. The King of England found the way to do that by introducing his culture to Wales. Years later, Wales automatically joined England. I must recall Nzhdeh once again when he said, ‘The feeling of patriotism grows along with the growth of the feeling of self-awareness and dignity of nations and becomes debilitated along with the putridity of morals and materialism. Homelands live by patriotism and are lost due to lack of patriotism’. What kind of patriotism can be propagated through the music that is often heard at concert halls and on television in Armenia? On the one hand, we hear a mix of Turkish, Arabic and Persian music, and on the other hand, the raid of Western culture has “paralyzed” Armenian music. Meanwhile, “peace is the period between two wars, during which one has to prepare for the next war”. To prepare for war means to be strong. The power of mind, soul and forces are directly interwoven, and Azerbaijan is a brilliant example of that. The country’s huge amounts of money from petrol sales didn’t become the guarantee of strengthening the army and the country…We Armenians have to return to our Values, that is, the Nation, the Homeland and our Faith…

– Who should lead us to our spiritual rebirth, if not intellectuals? Nzhdeh said, ‘Intellectuals are the blacksmiths of the people’s fate’.

– In October 1992, the Sparapet (Commander-in-Chief) called on Armenians to send 500 “mahapart” (diehard) people to save the homeland, meaning 500 patriotic, courageous and dedicated people who would risk their lives to fight at the hottest spots of the war…Today, we need “mahapart” (diehard) intellectuals that will enter the Temple and say ‘Don’t turn my Father’s home into a trade house…’

An article by Gayane Poghosyan

Category: #23 (939) 14.06.2012 – 20.06.2012, Spiritual-Cultural, News, Spotlight