BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Although the usually lively streets of the capital city are silent, the culture and spirit of the people mingle from all four corners: in the kitchen of the popular restaurant, behind the curtain of the cathedral altar, backstage of the theater and from the closed doors of apartments that give way to the soothing sweet sound of music played by musicians like Ruben Hovsepyan.
A violinist in the Orquesta del Tango de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires (The Tango Orchestra of Buenos Aires), Hovsepyan has been in lockdown for over two months but continues to play tango pieces with his fellow members. They rehearse and perform as an orchestra virtually and share their performances online through social media, including a recent video of Nocturna by Julián Plaza, with a caption that reads: in the times of compulsory social isolation.
Throughout the composition, 15 performers pop up on screen, each orchestra member from his or her home playing instruments from the piano to the bandoneon to the guitar.
“The pandemic has affected us greatly since all of our in-person performances and rehearsals have been cancelled,” said Hovsepyan, who noted that residents can’t travel too far from their homes and need permission to do so. “But we have found a way to pursue our music together and I’m also experimenting and creating for myself while at home.”
His projects include composing a violin concerto, which is a fusion of modern tango, jazz and Armenian folk. When he’s not busy practicing or performing with The Tango Orchestra, he plays some of his favorite songs with his own personal arrangements – including My Funny Valentine by Frank Sinatra, Groong by Komitas and Une Vie d’Amour by Aznavour, which he posts on Facebook regularly for listeners.
Born and raised in Yerevan, Armenia, Hovsepyan studied at the Komitas State Conservatory and has been performing with The Tango Orchestra for over a decade. His story is like one of many Armenians who arrived in Argentina with new opportunities on the horizon but held his culture close to his chest. He plays a slew of meaningful folk songs, like Dle Yaman on his violin every evening that keep him connected to his homeland. His sentiments are mirrored by the 100,000 or so Armenians who live in Argentina, a country which boasts the largest Diasporan population in South America.