Raffi Meneshian: “The bond with the Homeland makes us Armenians powerful”

On April 20, Minister of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia Hranush Hakobyan attended the presentation of the album “Echoes” by young performer of Armenian folk songs Vigen Hovsepyan at Silk Road Hotel in Yerevan where she granted the Boghos Noubar Medal of the Ministry of Diaspora to founding director of Pomegranate Music, producer Raffi Meneshian, who had sponsored the release of singer Vigen Hovsepyan’s album. Hovsepyan also co-produced the album. The two Armenians have their share in preserving Armenian songs. They stated recording not too popular Armenian folk songs in 2015, and in 2017, they presented the fruit of their hard work through an album featuring Armenian folk songs. Raffi Meneshian talked about this in more detail during my interview for Hayern Aysor.

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Meneshian, I congratulate you on receiving the Boghos Noubar Award of the Ministry of Diaspora and wish you success as you continue your activities for preservation of the Armenian identity. It is safe to say that you have, in some sense, saved many Armenian folk songs from oblivion…

Raffi Meneshian: Yes, those songs are not very popular, and most of them have not even been performed in Armenia, but they are so valuable and beautiful!

Karine Avagyan: How did you compile them? How did you find those songs?

Raffi Meneshian: Vigen Hovsepyan and I worked quite hard on this album, which features songs that could have truly been forgotten and even lost. I have noticed that nearly 20-30 folk songs have been repeatedly performed for years, but our ancestors, who survived the massacres and were scattered across the globe, kept and preserved the songs about the Yergir (Land), their birthplaces and the land and water in their souls and sang them. One generation preserved them, passed them on to the next generation and the next, but eventually, those songs can be forgotten amid the assimilation that is gaining momentum…The new generations don’t even know that those songs are Armenian songs. I would feel so bad when I would see people presenting those songs as Turkish songs on social networks. The Turks sing Armenian songs and say that those songs are their national songs. So, we needed to compile them, make them heard and say that those songs are Armenian songs. This will be an ongoing effort.

Karine Avagyan: How many songs are featured on the album? What are they about?

Raffi Meneshian: There are 12 songs, and only one of them is not an Armenian song. It was composed and musically arranged by one of Vigen’s friends in Spain. The album features wonderful Armenian songs, and one of the songs I am most interested in is the song called “Tal-Tala” or “Dal-Dala”. An Armenian man from Moosh, who escaped the Armenian Genocide, saved this song and took it with him to Aleppo. I think it was a decade ago when an Alevi Turk performed this song, but Vigen and I thought this song definitely had to be performed by an Armenian. We decided that our songs had to be heard around the world, performed with Armenian national instruments, as well as with the cello and piano.

Karine Avagyan: Raffi, please tell us where these songs have been performed. Where has Vigen performed them?

Raffi Meneshian: First, I would like to talk about Vigen. Before our collaboration, he was performing wonderful Armenian songs that he performed with such a beautiful, velvety, resonant, sweet voice that was the voice of an Armenian. He knew half of the songs featured on the album, and he searched for, found and worked on recording the rest of the songs.

Karine Avagyan: How did you find Vigen? When did you start collaborating?

Raffi Meneshian: I have been producing albums for various choirs (Hover, Bambir, etc.) and songs for 16 years. I had heard about Vigen and knew that he performed Spanish and Armenian songs. Two years ago, I heard Vigen sing at a club in Yerevan. When he performed an Armenian song, it seemed as though everyone went crazy. I attended Vigen’s concerts seven times and became convinced that this boy was talented and promising. I realized that he was a new and totally different kind of singer and that he had to become more popular in Armenia and abroad. He has a God-given talent. He is also very smart and has a big heart…This is how our collaboration began, and we created Pomegranate Music.

Karine Avagyan: Raffi, are you a musician by profession?

Raffi Meneshian: No, but I love music. I can play the oud and the violin. I always say that if a person is a bad musician, he is a good producer…

Karine Avagyan: Could you tell us about your roots?

Raffi Meneshian: I live in San Francisco. I spend half of the year in Yerevan and the other half in San Francisco. My grandfather was born in Meghri. Our village is the Shvanidzor village. I have friends in Agarak. I love Meghi and have visited my grandfather’s birthplace several times. My great-grandfather was from a small village in Western Armenia. My cousins live here in Yerevan and in Meghri. I love Armenia and believe that the bond with the Homeland makes us Armenians powerful.

Interview by Karine Avagyan

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