For the last several years electronic music in Armenia is getting more and more recognized and Friday night clubbing in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia is something that many young people chose over other activities. There are beloved DJs and sound artists you follow and track their gigs. Undoubtedly Covid hit hard and the electronic music scene is still recovering from restrictions and financial losses, but it is obvious that the community craves for gatherings. And not only in-house but also open air events. Rave culture is a demanded format and it is being implemented by active players for a couple of years now.
Photo by Arman Harutyunyan
One of the community pushers is DK.TSK: event organizer, label, and community school for Ableton. Guys behind it actively support Armenian electronic music, helping new and established artists. Our experience during latest DK.TSK rave was great overall. Electronic music, high mountains, and chill community. Outdoor and indoor stages, hundreds of people, friends, night-long campfire dances, morning yoga, rave tents, mount Arakadz, abandoned soviet buildings, and many more. Line up was diverse: 🔥
[Outdoor] Muffasa, Cast coverts (live), Èki b2b hael, Fluctt, T_ST, Yhii, Mikkkkro, Daao, Vazgen (live), FIX (live), Kokopelli, Yutani, GFRND, DJ Smithee, Lychee, HOV (live), Mycotrophic, Hare.oom ⚡️
[Indoor] TØtal, ÉLÉKTRA, DJ Grand Candy, Se<u, Pupylike, Gregor Thomassian, Dpnn2, Lucia Kagramanyan, Triniti, Vahgog, Sexy French Movements, [Bohemnots radio] live, Chemical Wedding, Duke, Kay, VHSound ⚡️
We enjoyed many great sets and live sessions and were able to talk to artists about rave culture in Armenia.
VHSound (Vardan Harutyunyan)
-Vardan, what brought you to music, particularly electronic music.
-I have an academic background, have been studying in Yerevan State Conservatory for 5 years, as a composer. There weren’t many options for composers back then, you had to hire musicians to play your score, so I started experimenting in electronic music – ambient, sound art, experimental sound, which made a start with my collaboration with other artists-a mixed media, sound installations. After that, I’ve come to commercial music, started to play in bands-rock, jazz fusion. Next was the club music.
It was experimental and strange and interesting, considering that the clubs by that time were mostly making dance-oriented and beat music and we were also playing that same beat music, just probably in a more bizarre way. And it was unusual for clubbers at first. Still is, in a way. The audience, in its turn, is more open to musical diversity, trying to enjoy, to understand, regardless of whether the music is beat or not. But now we’re adapting too, trying to serve the scope, pardon my expression.
-Pardon my expression, too, do you consider music a product?
-I don’t consider music a product, I consider it knowledge, and art, of course. But I admit that sometimes it has to become a product. And it’s not about just making money, but making your music open to people who aren’t accustomed to music (and to art in general) as a non-applied, non-attaching, decorative attribute, but just music, whatever it is. To reach them, you have to create a product, because most people are accustomed to consuming. Consumption in this case is a lifestyle, a way of communication with things, whether it be information, cookery, or music. Rave culture, for example, differs, it’s more open-minded. Here I feel free to play what I want because I know it’s a big gig with a large lineup, I will play near the end, folks will be chill and relaxed, so it doesn’t matter what exactly I’m playing, unlike the club mode, when it’s 2:00 a.m., which implies I must hold the line.
-Tell more, please, about the difference between rave and club formats, what it was like to perform on them both?
— You feel more imprisoned at a club. At a rave you’re freer, closer to nature, people are more willing to socialize, as if you are in some mini eco-village. In this case, it’s especially important to maintain environmental hygiene. We haven’t had such incidents yet, but the risk of damaging nature during long and intense raves is great, the whole area usually turns into a dust bowl island after the rave. But if we just integrate certain norms into rave culture, human-nature symbiosis can really be dynamic, going beyond a specific event, becoming more of a lifestyle. And of course, this trend is visible all over the world.
But nature is not trendy in Armenia yet, maybe because we are not urbanized enough, the city-village distinction is not particularly emphasized. Our reality is still countryside on some level. Fortunately.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, many interesting areas remained unused and abandoned in Armenia. We have to breathe new life into them.
-What do you think is missing in rave culture in Armenia, what you personally need and perhaps even contributе to its emergence?
– I would like raves to be more of a lifestyle than entertainment, not just a typical weekend activity. That people would consider it as an opportunity to better meet and manage the rules of coexistence. We don’t communicate in the city as we do in nature. The city makes us more practical and rational, limited by certain obligations and requirements. But in non-artificial spaces like this people know each other better, not just as functional and cognitive urban mechanisms, with a specific occupation, email, and LinkedIn profile. Here they see a person inside.
NODE (Vardan Sargsian, Ani Yeghoyan)
The underground duo consists of Vardan and Ani. They are frequent guests at Bohemnots events and are known for the combination of dark synths and vibrant vocals. They met in Dilijan, during LSD jam sessions. Another underground group where Vardan plays guitar. The duo did couple more sessions with LSD then finally became NODE.
How would you describe the current situation with electronic music in Armenia?
It is too much happening now. You can see many events during a couple of months and the lineup is almost the same. Ideally, it would be great to be able to play once a year and live off of it (laughs). I think you need more time to digest what is happening. Yeah, we visit events more like to see our friends. It is also very important to be fully satisfied when you perform. It was an amazing feeling during the last performance at Bohemnots. I felt great and it was all that mattered.
Does stage matter?
No stage doesn’t matter, atmosphere does!
How would you describe the rave culture that is developing in Armenia?
I think it is misused a lot. Many people have no idea what it is. For me, rave is anarchy, a movement that is against something. When it is just a regular event it is not a rave. Rave is like people gathering together, getting equipment, occupying some space, and listening to music while having fun. It is not about money. Nowdays people just go clubbing till morning and call it a rave.
What should be done about that misconception?
Nothing (laughs). You are cool, they are cool, everybody enjoys what they like.
Vazgen (Vazgen Harutyunyan)
-How did you discover music as a medium, as a method of self-expression, or at least as one of them?
– I got interested in music at the age of 15-16. Before that, music was just a background for me. And at that age, something switched and I’ve gradually become to realize that I simply couldn’t live without it. You might say that it was love at thousandth sight. And that brought me to music production.
– What is the role of music in your life, if we consider it as a tool? How do you implement it?
-It’s the most direct way to communicate with people for me. The other forms of media, be it linguistic structure, cinema, literature, poetry, run through various layers before reaching the actual perception. The more of those layers, the greater the odds of misinterpretation. But music at its core is just a mechanical oscillation of waves that reaches your senses by the shortest route, without foreign agents. That makes it easy to get the initial information․ How to interpret it later is another question. Other media work the other way around: first, you interpret and that determines your perception.
– Music is more of a rational or irrational realm for you, which part of you resonates with it the most?
-It‘s somewhere in between the collision point, I think, a combination of the two. It can be explained with the help of basic math, using music theory, using patterns and pillars of those, but all the blocks together and get something bigger like a constructor. The question here is who will build a better constructor․ And now that will be a matter of irrational domain.
– What would you say about the Armenian rave culture in general, and about your experience of playing and being here particularly?
– Rave culture has developed a lot in Armenia in the last 2-3 years, particularly as regards the growth of the number of participants and those who are interested in the subject․ What about my experience…it’s really great here. As an organizer, I can also say that no event has passed without a technical problem, including this one.
– The problem in the first place maybe the lack of appropriate infrastructure.
– Exactly, if you have no options, you have no choice.
Freedom is eXpesive a.k.a. FIX (Narek Barseghyan, Vardan Paremuzyan)
We have been playing in Bambir for years now. During these years we accumulated a lot of music which don’t fit into the format of the band. So we started doing side projects. Ous bassist Arman worked for cinema, Arik start teaching and founded Tmbata band and I together with Vardan decided to test new waters. We were thinking about a project where songs are practical, hybrid of styles, and eclectic. During our tour in the US in 2016, we had a couple of gigs in clubs. There were us and a bass player. We were called “Crisis Of The Genre”. We release an album in NY. But shortly we understood that our dynamics in due works for us better. So starting 2018 we went with Freedom Is Expensive. Our first album is more dystopian-themed, like Orwells 1984. We say hope is dangerous, you should act.
Is the album dark?
Not dark but rather realistic. It describes our reality. But there is always a solution. If you understand it is already your first step. The second one must be healing. This album is your face-to-face meeting with reality. The second part of the album is called “Freedom Is A Choice”.
Is it though?
There is always a choice. Of course, we live in a mostly predetermined world, but there is always a choice.
What are the influences for FIX?
Different periods of music, rock, electronic, modern avant-garde music, drum and bass, grange. We let the music determine itself. Also, live sessions shape us. We prepare a lot so we can create songs on the spot during our lives.
Do instruments determine your style or vice versa?
Both. In electronic music, we spend a lot of time finding more suitable, proper tools. Then it does the job for us. For example, I use distortion overdrive on guitars. When I connect midi and use other sounds, everything changes. It is also different if it is a studio recording or live session. 5-minute studio track can become a half an hour set.
Do you think rock bands like FIX are suited in raves?
I think it suits you perfectly. Of course, rock is not as popular as it used to be but still. There will always be genres more popular than others. And young blood will always be the avant-garde, the pushers. New direction, new things to say. There will always be Kandinskis and Triangles that nobody understands at first. But later they will . This kind of event must be more frequent. And people who don’t understand or accept this can visit. Because only when they experience it they can understand things. Of course, it is a little slow. Like in the 90s they said that rock is gonna blow soon. But it didn’t. Hip hop got luckier. It got its Renaissance because it was real.
So what is our “real”?
Our real is that we are doing it well (laughs).
muffasa (Narek Simonian)
I got different monikers, today is muffasa. It is more Drum and bass and dab music with Jamaican and African roots. I also play breakbeat house, which is my favorite.
I got into DJing by an accident. In 2011 during my army service, I accidentally played the second player, while another one kept playing so I got a mix. It got me. When I demobilized, I started studying the subject, got more into details. And the more I got into djing and got more skill, the more I understand its endless possibilities. It is fascinating how many aspects mixing has. I was listening to classical hip-hop at that time. And during my journey, I discovered many new genres and found my line. I have a huge collection from Africa and Japan and I like eclectism in mixing. I like it when the track is abstract and does not fall into one or two genres.
Do you play tracks of Armenian artists?
Yeah sure, I play them, I listen to them. I follow Merouj, Dave N.A. I can listen to Artyom (mveq/mixtinct ) for hours. I played a couple of tracks from Dave in my set today. You always wanna check the track with different sound systems. To check what sound ranges work the best, so you can also give feedback to the artist. Like what works so they would know. It is very different especially in an open-air event.
Can you see any changes in the music scene?
I see a lot of changes from the last 3 years. Many things have changed. Most importantly, everything is accessible – music, information. Of course, there are also trends, you cant avoid them. But I think if we want to join the global context and I believe we have things to offer, we need to work hard, in all aspects.
The community is under development and at the moment is very fragmented, mostly because there are different parties and everyone is good in his comfort zone. It slows the development of a bigger community. But of course, there is another side of the coin as well. People help each other. You can pass your equipment or just support by playing a gig for free as you wanna support someone who you feel is doing something good. I am sure karma will give you back, it is not gonna vanish. It will finally develop a healthy society.
Photo by Arman Harutyunyan
Text – Ani Mardoyan, Vahram Akimyan
Photography – Arman Harutyunyan, Eliza Mkhitaryan (header), Ani Mardoyan, Vahram Akimyan
Special thanks to Hovsep (Bobes) Aghjian
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