The city listens
“The city listens to jazz”-it is interesting to see whom this sign that stretches along the apartment building is trying to convince?
Perhaps the residents of that apartment building or perhaps me…no, it won’t convince me. That sign has made two of my five senses irritated-I see jazz, but definitely hear rabiz music. The bus from which I read the sign is full of “heartfelt”, emotional rabiz music. The sign was left behind, jazz was on the sign and in a couple of clubs, while the city…as I am right now, listening to rabiz. “Rabiz” is a contemporary course of Armenian city music, which was named after the Soviet “Raboche Iskustvo” organization. Armenian city romances, music at weddings and mourning were considered to be rabiz and were performed by self-taught, half-professional performers. In the early 1990s, rabiz had managed to become the most widespread musical genre among Armenians. It had become so radicalized that it had reached abroad and turned into a lifestyle. The followers of this style had a special jargon, fashion and sometimes even a psychological state and manners. The art of music was not left out of the sharp changes that took place throughout time. Armenian show-business began to form and music became multi-genre and was presented in many styles. Armenian singers only sang songs by famous foreign pop, rap and rock stars. The multi-genre music did not completely exclude rabiz, but it did set limits. Rabiz music was less played and became merely music played at restaurants and parties. But the turning point didn’t wait too long. The city is full of rabiz, including intersections, subways, fairs, minibuses and taxis, cafes, restaurants, barbecue grills, cars waiting for the green light, radio airwaves and everywhere and there is no need for a sign or a reminder. The most ridiculous part of this story is that the new singers who sing pop music are bringing rabiz back and announce on television: “I’m doing a good thing, there is a demand for it.” But what’s interesting just who determined what is in demand and how is it formed. If we consider them to be 10-20-year olds-most of whom you can see more often on the streets, yards or in cars and not at the opera or philharmonic halls, jazz or rock clubs-then rabiz truly turns into a demand. Perhaps demand is formed by taxi drivers for whom rabiz music is mandatory, or a number of clubs and restaurants where rabiz is heard, entrance is not free and it is always an “open house” for pop music. For some reason, the Armenian Diaspora is also often integrated into this. Why do we picture our Diaspora as a society with one taste? There is a wrong opinion that only rabiz singers fill auditoriums? Have you ever tried to find out how many people the theater of opera and ballet, the Komitas quartet , Capella or pop singers fill during their tours? Perhaps we can consider filling auditoriums as the monopoly not as the monopoly of rabiz, but as the longing of Armenians living outside the Homeland who will fill an American concert hall even if there is a leaf torn from an autumn te of Yerevan on the stage. Of course, this doesn’t mean that rabiz doesn’t have its place and audience, the masters and the followers. Alongside rabiz legends Aram Asatryan, Alik Gyunashyan, Boka, Tatul Avoyan, Harut Pambukchyan (Dzakh Harut) and Spitaktsi Hayko are the ones who continue singing in rabiz style, such as Armenchik, Harut Balyan, Seno, Shavo, Karen, Armen Aloyan and others who stay true to their genre and don’t change their musical direction from concert to concert, reasoning that the genre is more or less in demand. Do I listen to rabiz whether I want to or not? That is not the way, if I want to find a way. Perhaps I can try to calm my senses. Where are my headphones? Excuse me, music played in 6/8 beat is not my type. I have found mine and am certain that no matter how strong the “demand” is and no matter how late the “offer” will be, the city will definitely find its genre. Lilit Grigoryan