“Before every performance I drink a glass of vodka, or two, or three… to warm myself and then I give myself to imagination. I let my heart guide me!” – said, through his wide smile, maestro Djivan Gasparian. And then, delighted with the mood from his second concert in Macedonia, he doesn’t spare his time to satisfy the journalists’ curiosity. In the next article we offer a big interview, and here we spread the facts and emotions. We fulfill the wish of the living legend of the Armenian music: “The interviews are good, and I’ve done countless, I never run away from them. But what’s important to me is how you experienced the concert, did the music take you somewhere far away, did you take my outstreched hand…”
Skopje, April 9 2001. The rain doesn’t stop. Its springtime. With all the features. A drop of luck for the thirsty soil and a chance to wash away the sins of men. It is a historical event, if there’s place for that concept in this shitty reality. The Universal Hall resembles a beehive. The usual people, sick of the news, affairs, the Balkan madness, who dream of short escape from our part of hell, are there and waiting. They have come to hear Gasparian, to be sweetened by his heavenly sounds, to feel “the unbearable lightness of the music,” to feel and give love – simple, human. The longing for the flow from the last-years summer’s night in Kurshumli An is incere and deep. The faces are doubtless. It is left for the plunging in the night and the everyday that follows. The concert, as usual, starts late. “Skopje’s Scheme.” At last, many people here seem incapable of learning what is, and when is the beginning of a cultural event. Although it is very simple. Just read the ticket. Dressed in their picturesque traditional mantles, the Big Master and his companions Armen Sargasijan and Levon Arshukuni come to the stage. The magic begins. The first notes from the duduk start the story. You can picture a boy from Solag, a town next to Erevan (the capitol of Armenia), who carefully watched by a strict gaze tries to repeat the mellody on his father’s instrument. And right afterwards you can see him run around, picking litter, and his words echo in your ears: “I collected monety to but my first duduk from collecting empty bottles!” Then, you can notice the blond boy with the musicians in the local cinema, who enrich the living pictures shown there. The applause takes you back to reality, but quite soon the elegical sounds return you to “the movie in your head.”
You now see the young Djivan soaking the knowledge of the old musicians, his hard work at discovering the secrets of the instrument at “Komitas University,” where after finishing his formal education he would stay and teach his potential heirs for three decades. Pecking the facts from his life you can learn that he was performing before the Soviet authorities, but also had a series of concerts in Hollywood in 1959, when he was chosen to represent his country with 150 other top Soviet artists. He delighted the movie stars and the common Americans, was awarded four gold medals by UNESCO, and he also got the prestigious title “Artist of the Armenian people.”
Feeling guilty about this “escape” you return to reality and get melted by the caress the unrepeatable heavenly sound created by a piece of apricot wood. A tradition unveils itself in front of you with outstreched arms: emotional, deep and strong. It hugs you and amazes you. And then comes the announced bridge-building. By performing of “So maki sum se rodila” (“I was born in pain”) our Dragan Dautovski quartet heats the athmosphere to boiling point. When Gasparian returns to the stage and the indiginous song “Oj, mesechino” (“Oh, Moon”) starts flowing from his duduk, the joy is endless. It was really a day to remember.
When you watch these two artist one next to the other, a host of other names that Gasparian delighted and recorded come from your subconciousness: Brian Eno (who, by the way, said that his album “I Will Not Be Sad in this World” was “undoubtly the most beautiful and most emotional record I’ve heard in my life”), Peter Gabriel, Cronnos Quartet, Michael Brook, Lionel Richie… At the same time, not much later memory takes you to the numerous movies that feature his duduk: “The Last Temptation of Christ,” “Russian House,” “The Raven,” and the current winner of the Academy Award “The Gladiator” (the music in this movie is signed by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerard, but it’s the improvisations of the hero of our story that make its most remarkable part).
This maelstrom of fact dissapears as quickly as it came. During the second part of the concert (after the short break, probably necessary for the 72 years old artist, but did not hamper the mood of the audience), Gasparian performs his own pieces from the album “Moon Shines at Night” (published by “All Saints” in 1993). With artism that fits a man whose face was carved by the Sun a long time ago, self-reliant during the performance of a several vocal compositions, Gasparian ends the official part of the evening with awesomly exiting performance of his autobiographical “Mother of mine” (“Matrik Em”).
After that masterful achievement, which probably touched not only those who were already, even for a breath, supressing reality, follow maestro’s improvisations, and another hug with Dautovski (and his kaval in another tonality), as a proof that artists understand each other no matter from what roots they stem, or what musical language they speak. Unrepeatable.
We stop here. Saying goodbye to Gasparian ends the dream and spits us back in our skins, from which we may try, but cannot escape, untill some other similar happening. The hope remains that, the second visiting of the vigorous Armenian in Macedonia will not be the last. We deserve to have him back, as we deserve many other Eastern artists, that we have yet to discover.
Translated by: Filip Stojanovski