Rock in Any Language: Rare concert
fills puppet theater with rockers
By Vahan Ishkhanyan
What do rock music and a puppet theater
have in common? In Yerevan last Monday "Mind Power" rock festival gave an answer to that question. Simply,
the hall was free for use, so rockers took the place
Six Armenian groups sought to slake the
thirst of their young rock music addicts, who rarely
get live concerts. Since independence, few Western rock
groups have visited Yerevan and only occasionally have
there been concerts by Armenian rock bands.
Monday's audience mainly consisted of
teenagers and young adults, who only a few years ago
were young enough for visiting the theater to see puppets
perform. The bravest of them used the free space between
chairs and stage for moving their heads to the rhythms
of music with their forefingers and little fingers extended
The rock bands were of different styles
but had one thing in common: they were singing in English
and Russian. Only two songs were sung in Armenian. One
musician explained that they are singing in English
because their songs are not oriented to an Armenian-speaking
audience, which is quite small. Another musician explained
that in reality Armenian rock doesn't exist like Russian
rock, which was formed as a genre.
Mark Rolich, 23-year old vocalist of "Dom",
a band that follows traditions of Russian rock, said
that he is Russian and therefore he writes lyrics in
Russian. Rolich says in the neatest future he plans
to leave for Russia, where he will find his "real
With the appearance of the band, MDP,
it became clear that language isn't what moves a crowd,
but hard and progressive rock. The capacity audience
of about 300 had little room to move, but came out of
its seats in ecstatic response.
"There is a tradition that rock
must necessarily express protest," says MDP guitarist
Henrik Grigoryan. "However, that protest easily
turns into show business. Doubt is the ideology of our
music and followers will appear later as only now we've
started creating a rock movement."
Another veteran of Armenian rock music
was EMPYRAY band. After their performance all efforts
of the audience to demand an encore were in vain as
time for performing at the festival was equally divided
between beginners and veterans. After the 90s, when
many Armenian rock groups split, EMPYRAY was one of
those rare bands that survived the "unplugged" days of the energy crisis and stayed in Armenia, continuing
to create music.
The festival was organized by MDP (www.mdp.am), whose
members opened a recording studio in the Puppet Theater.
"A rock concert is a very expensive
thing and it cannot cover its expenses," says bass
guitar player of MDP Vardan Grigoryan. "We couldn't
rent a better hall and pay for electricity. Here the
hall is free of charge, but we used so much electricity
that even famous singers cannot afford so much."
Concert tickets cost 1500 drams (about $2.60), which
will go to the Puppet Theater.
Members of MDP say that in Armenia rock is on the
level of singing in clubs and around bonfires. Their goal,
they say, is to raise it up to the professional level
when bands will be performing more concerts.