April 24 is the traditional day to commemorate the Armenian genocide, which dates back to the ethnic cleansing carried out by Ottoman Turks in 1915. I do a music show, so politics is not something I normally get involved with. Plus this always has been an unresolved, hot-button topic. Even President Obama was recently approached by a crowd of Armenian activists to acknowledge it.
There are many, many Armenians who live in LA, plus I have always loved the sadness and beauty of Armenian music. I even hosted an sold-out evening of Armenian music at the Hollywood Bowl a few years ago.
And so I wanted to play something to acknowledge and commemorate the day. Which music to choose? There could be no better music than Djivan Gasparyan’s cd I Will Not Be Sad in This World. It captures the soul and depth of the Armenian spirit like little other music does.
I played the first track, “A Cool Wind is Blowing”. It just so happened that it was windy and cold on Sunday, April 24th this year. So this was the perfect music.
The duduk captures the essence of Armenian music. It is a small, cylindral oboe-like double reed instrument, made of apricot wood. It has a sound like no other instrument. Soundtrack composers use it to put deep feeling into a musical passage. Djivan Gasparyan is the most famous duduk player in the world. Every Armenian knows who he is.
The album I Will Not Be Sad in This World has an interesting history. Brian Eno was staying in Moscow in the mid-1980s, and while visiting friends somebody put the original Melodya—the Soviet state record label—lp on the record player. Eno was transfixed, and later said it was the most soulful music he’d ever heard. Eno later arranged to have license the album and put it out on his own Opal label. But before the release, the devastating Armenian earthquake of 1988 occurred. Eno retitled it I Will Not Be Sad in This World. It is both an affirmation and a prayer.