Gevorg Chakmanyan: I would suggest spending at least one night in a bordering village”

Hayern Aysor’s correspondent sat down for an interview with artistic director of the Kantegh and Taron Folk Choirs of Los Angeles and folk singer Gevorg Chakmanyan.

This time the singer was in Armenia on a special mission. For ten consecutive days, he was giving charity concerts in the bordering regions of Tavush Province to motivate the residents and the soldiers on the borderline with his songs and to tell them that they are not alone…

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Chakmanyan, you gave concerts in several bordering regions. What was the motive?

Gevorg Chakmanyan: When I found out that the situation on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border had intensified once again in August, I came up with the idea of giving charity concerts for my compatriots living in the bordering regions of Armenia. With this, I decided to make a small contribution to help mitigate the worries of the residents and make them happy. I obviously focused on our brave soldiers. To have strength, courage and the feeling of patriotism to them, they need to listen to Armenian songs, which will help make them feel prouder and have more faith.

One of the singers of the Kantegh Folk Choir Edik Ohanyan and I came to Armenia to do what I had decided to do.

Prior to our visit to the bordering villages, we met with RA Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan, who learned about my initiative, expressed joy and encouraged me. The minister has always praised my initiatives, for which I am more than grateful.  Mrs. Hakobyan is, without a doubt, one of those who supports the preservation and dissemination of Armenian culture.

Hayern Aysor: How did you start the concert tour?

G. C.: We gave our first concert in the city of Ijevan of Tavush Province. After the concert held at the Chamber of Culture in Ijevan, we climbed to the top of one of the military units where we performed for 150 soldiers. When I performed the Armenian songs “Hayots Aghunak” and “Akh Im Haireniki Jure”, the orchestra of the military unit accompanied me, and that touched my heart. I have performed with the orchestras of various countries, but the most impressive was my performance with this orchestra.

The next day, we visited Movses village, which is considered the key and gateway of Armenia. This was my second concert there. Whenever I visit Armenia, I always visit the bordering regions.

There were 400 people attending the concert in Movses village. As I looked at the villagers, I thought to myself-they are unique. Even under heavy conditions, they were trying to laugh and have fun.

The day of the concert fell in line with the “Voske Ashun” (Golden Autumn) event devoted to songs, dances and poetry performed by the local students, and this made the people more excited. The village celebrated until late at night.

In Movses we were also escorted to the positions to meet with soldiers. The road was difficult. There was only room for one car, and the only thing we could see in front of us was a gorge. We overlooked that and crossed 4 km. A pleasant surprise was in store for us at the positions. One of the soldiers, Arshak was turning 20 years old. Knowing that, we decided to turn that day into a celebration. The soldiers did everything they could to make sure their friend had a good time. We made Arshak dance to the songs of Sasun and Mush and forgot that the enemy’s trenches were located just a couple of kilometers away from us.

At the end, with shining eyes, Arshak said he would never forget his 20th birthday.

Hayern Aysor: Did you face other obstacles?

G. C.: What happened was not an obstacle, but could be considered as salvation.

According to the plan, the last concert was supposed to take place in Baghanis on October 24. When the concert in Baghanis ended and we reached Yerevan, we found out that there had been shootings in the village right after we left…

One must see the conditions in which the people live there. As soon as darkness falls, due to security considerations, the lights on streets and in homes go out and traffic stops so that the enemy doesn’t shoot at the light. As for the villagers, they serve on-duty with the soldiers and don’t leave them alone at all.

I am charmed by the courage and generosity of schoolchildren. When the teachers are outside and hear gunshots, the children panic, run to their teachers and ask them to go inside.

Words can’t describe what I felt and how proud I was during those days. Witnessing the patriotism and unbreakable spirit of the heroic soldiers, I wanted to hug everyone and bow in front of them. As I bid them farewell, I saw that everyone was in peace and felt more self-confident.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Chakmanyan, will these concerts be ongoing?

G. C.: I have already planned to give concerts in other bordering regions in the spring. I will give concerts in the Chinarik, Aygepar and other villages.

I call on my fellow artists and singers and all heartfelt people to support the residents of the bordering villages as much as they can. They shouldn’t only focus on Yerevan where different kinds of events take place in all parts of the city. Our main objective is to help the villagers in any way possible and instill hope in them so that they don’t feel abandoned. I would suggest spending at least one night in a bordering village and feel the panic that the residents feel every second.

In closing, I would like to say that I organized this concert tour in memory of my brother, Manvel Chakmanyan, who died at the age of 19 during the war in the Tridtsatka village bordering Kapan in 1993 and to the heroic soldiers who persistently fought against the enemy until their death. After all this, my conscience is at ease.

Interview by Gevorg Chichyan

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