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the project

Nagorno-Karabakh, the final volume of The Music of Armenia series serves an important extramusical funtion. It is the same function served by Parsons' previous series' The Music of Cambodia (19902) and The Music of Vietnam (19903)—namely to bring a largely unsuspecting Western audience a document of the cultural richness of a region usually thought of as a bombed–out war zone. "My own preconceptions were wildly inaccurate," Parsons says; "Images of gun–toting fierce mountain fighters largely uneducated and living by the rule of the gun. How utterly wrong I was, and I feel great sadness that the rest of the world probably thinks along similar lines."

The population of the entire Karabakh republic is less than that of Des Moines, Iowa—slightly under 190,000 people. That so much music still exists there is a tribute to the importance of the arts in the lives of these people. "It was impressive to see that, despite the current problems, the arts continue to be lovingly fostered," Parsons says, "particularly as far as children are concerned." One of the highlights of the journey was the Karabakh Childrens' Choir, who performed with great energy and enthusiasm on tracks 4, 11 and 18. A visit to the Music College in Stepanakert also revealed a hive of musical activity. "I was shown a wooden music stand from a grand piano with a very neat hole about six inches in diameter punched precisely through the center. This was the result of a shell coming through the window."

Fortunately, this unique recording is a vivid reminder of the vitality of Karabakhi culture—a culture that encompasses a strong folk tradition (many of the songs are recent and, naturally, deal with the war and its consequences), that looks back to its Armenian roots (there is even a contemporary song based on the medieval Armenian form called sharakan), and, most important, a culture that thrives in the face of isolation and tragedy.

the artists

The musicians performing on this recording are not professionals. However, what little polish and training they may lack is made up for by their enthusiasm and dedication in the face of terrible obstacles. Their musicianship compares easily with that of academically trained collegues.

Vocalists include: Ludmila Grigorian is a military field hospital doctor and sings in the traditional music group Artsakh; Vladimir Ovchyan has been a singer with Artsakh since 1984; Larisa Sargissian sings in the Gandzasar traditional music group; Irina Pirumian is a songwriter and piano teacher; Elmira Harutunian sings in different traditional music groups in Nagorno-Karabakh; Janna Aivazian is the Dean of the Science–Methodology Centre of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and member of the group Artsakh; and Vazgen Meliksetian is the music director and a solo vocalist of the group Artsakh.

Choirs included are: Artsakhi Balikner, a children's choir ranging in age from six to early teens; and Vararakn, the women's choir of the Music of College in Stepanakert. Founded as a mixed choir, all of the men are on the front line. Instrumentalists include: Levon Sargissian, solo tar; Lavrent Sevyan, tar; Gela Sahakian, kamancha; Edik Astsatryan, duduk; Jora Nasibian, duduk (drone); and Simon Sargissian, piano (track 7).

tracklist

1 Shushi (1) (Shushi, you've returned to the land of my forefathers. I bow down 4'11"
  before the tombstones of those who cast off your chains and gave you life.)  
2 Karabakhi ayayi orhnank (Blessing song of the old woman of Karabakh.) 2'18"
3 Mair araksi aperov (On the banks of Mother Araks.) 2'38"
4 Kenats yerg (Song of praise.) 3'24"
5 Medley: Karabakhi horovel (Grief of the Karabakhi women), Khnotsu yerg 10'48"
6 Veradarts (Return.) 3'48"
7 Hayastan (Look at my tears, Armenia) 3'14"
8 Artsakhi sharakan (Karabakhi song in medieval style.) 4'39"
9 Shushi (2) (Cool breezes gave you life for a thousand years. Now you are 4'31"
  the Armenian path of a thousand hopes, my free Shushi.)  
10 Tasnechors (Fourteen.) 4'00"
11 Avo 3'33"
12 Hai agchik karabakhi (Armenian girl of Karabakh, you are so nice. But you are shy 2'07"
  and you don't speak to me. You pass by without speaking. So come, my beloved,  
  don't let young love fade; otherwise I'll go away and you'll be left without a lover.)  
13 Tgha-tgha (Boy, boy.) 2'00"
14 Siretsi yares taran (I fell in love, they took her away.) 2'39"
15 Im karabakh (My Karabakh.) 2'53"
16 Haireni artsakh (Motherland Artsakh.) 3'08"
17 Gandzasar 4'56"
18 Bekor (Motherland Artsakh.) 3'18"
19 Karabakhi ayan (Old woman of Karabakh.) 3'45"
20 The hymn of Arsakh 1'14"
  Total Time: 75'00"