Khoren (Horan) Stalbe

Khoren Stalbe Stays True to His Humanist, Armenian Roots

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YEREVAN / DAHAB, Egypt — Latvian singer and DJ Khoren (Horen) Stalbe was born on March 8, 1971, in Riga. In 1990 he founded the musical group “F*&k Art.” In the 1990s he worked for SWH radio as a DJ. The clip for his song For Black Man Christmas No Weekend was the first Latvian video to be shown on MTV. In 1995, the group won the Liepaja Amber competition. In 2002, he participated in the Eurosong 2002 competition and in a duo with Linda Leen tried to gain the right to represent Latvia in the Eurovision Song Contest. Latvia won Eurovision this year and won the right to host Eurovision next year. Since 2014, Khoren Stalbe has been the soloist and leader of the Riga Reggae band. In 2003 he published the book Halfway in Latvian on his Himalayan expedition and Nepal, which became a bestseller. From 2009 to 2013, he ran the Baltika diving club in the Egyptian resort of Dahab. In May 2011, he was named the world’s best underwater photographer by Underwater Photography in the Wide Lens category. At the end of last year he returned to Dahab with his family to continue underwater photographing.

Khoren, it was Ashot Grigoryan who wrote about you for the first time, which was a very pleasant surprise! How would you characterize your work?

Everything in my work, from painting as a child to music and cinema, the most important message is the protection of the environment and the idea that we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of race or religion. Each of my concerts begins with a long recitative, which ends with the words: “One sun and one earth! Two worlds are tearing me apart. The only thing I am absolutely sure of is that all the people around are siblings.” Since childhood, I have loved nature and this world very much. It seems to me that this world is the creation of the Lord, and we should treat it with care. I see this in terms of environmental protection. As for “STOP THE WAR” and other slogans that I use in my concerts, they are probably close in spirit to the Armenians, because Serj Tankian, the greatest musician from System of a Down, whom I hope to meet someday: in principle, he does very similar things and his message is the same as ours. For me, as an artist, the most important thing is to feel the message. Therefore, it makes no difference to me whether it is painting, music, dance or something else. The important thing is what meaning we put in it and no matter how it is, I always try to show the world the good, the positive side and the beautiful side. The ability to see beauty is a gift to look at the world with love. This is how I would describe my message to the world.

How did you get involved in underwater filming?

My mother is a hydrogeologist, and since I grew up with my mother in “splendid isolation,” we were traveling a lot. I spent all my childhood on expeditions with my mother and her colleagues on the lakes. At the age of four I knew how to do a chemical analysis of water. Along the equator, I traveled the whole world, or rather, not the world, but the underwater world, most of the most beautiful places in the world. Well, I am such a traveler, traveling to the underwater world is my mission and the most important journey of my life. I love documentaries, I filmed and participated in projects of underwater documentaries, about the lives of fish and so on, participated in the filming of several world records, worked with Alexei Molchanov, a world champion in freediving. I participated in several films as an actor and cameraman, two projects were in 2021, but my biggest adventure was 10 years or more ago, with a Russian film company for more than a month filming 3D underwater in Papua New Guinea, which was very difficult and painstaking. at that time, there were only five cameramen in the world who performed such work. Much has been done and much more needs to be done. I also, being half Armenian, would like to cooperate with Armenians with great pleasure, be it anywhere in the world or in Armenia.

Your name must have been difficult and unusual in Latvia?

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Yes, questions about my strange name bothered me all my life. But on the other hand, from childhood, the unusual name put me in a situation where I was somehow special, not like the others: at least visually, I was different from other Latvian children, and my name, of course, played a role. Then, when I took up art, the name helped me a lot, because if others have pseudonyms, stage names, then I did not need anything like that. Thanks to my popularity, there are now a total of 60 Khorens or Horens in Latvia!

And how do you define “Armenian” and “Latvian” in you?

Interesting question! I grew up in a purely Latvian environment and at first I was embarrassed to talk about my roots. Then, at the age of 18, when I entered the conservatory, the acting department, and my favorite teacher and director Mara Kimele (by the way, she once staged a play with my father in Armenia) asked: “Where did you get such a name?” “Well, I have an Armenian name.” She asked: “Is your dad Armenian?” She smiled, looked at me, because she already understood everything. I nodded. She was the first person who told me: “You should be proud of this, not ashamed.” So I thank her!

Well, speaking both jokingly and in all seriousness, I think that I inherited emotions and irascibility from the Armenians, and probably envy or something like that from the Latvians. But I wanted it to be different: from the Armenians to inherit, for example, intelligence and knowledge, and from the Latvians being hard working and having the ability to endure. This is also a joke. I think that these two worlds from the peculiarity of my soul, perception of the world and values. These worlds combined in me, tearing me in half. When I was born, a good friend of our family said: “I wish he was as talented as his father and as hardworking as his mother.” And thanks to my unusual Armenian-Latvian fate, I adore, love and admire the mountains and the sea, therefore, when they ask me what I do, I jokingly say that “I climb and dive.”

Everyone in Latvia and Armenia who knows you knows also you bear the name of your father, a well-known actor and director in Armenia, but his name is never spoken. Are you doing this on purpose, or should I mention it already?

I think that now it is already possible to pronounce this name loudly, because for obvious reasons I have never really been able to tell anyone in my life who my father is and how talented and famous he is. I only heard good things about my father from my mother, how talented, wonderful, interesting he is. Yes, my father is Khoren Abrahamyan, and for many Soviet years I had to hide this from the public so as not to harm either my father or the public, because we all thought what would they say about us. I hope that a small speck from his huge talent, from this bright soul fell on me (laughs). By the way, those who saw me on stage, say that we even have the same posture, how we stand, how we talk, how we communicate. Once, as a child, I was traveling with my mother in public transport, the Armenians talked to us, asked my name. Mom answered: “Khoren,” they were very surprised and said: “Do you know that our famous Armenian artist also bears the name Khoren?” My mother smiled sadly and said: “I know.”

Khoren Stalbe, left, and his father, Khoren Abrahamyan

At the age of 48, you visited Armenia for the first time. Can we say that since that year you have turned a new page in your life?

Undoubtedly, that was a new page in my life! My Armenian wife persuaded me that I should definitely visit Armenia, because I will understand why I am like this. And I am glad that I did it: thanks to television, the program “Traveling with a Star,” which invited me to travel to Armenia, and still it seems to me that God sent me there. When people asked me: “Why don’t you go to Armenia, why don’t you meet with your relatives?” I answered them: “It will happen in a very special way and it should happen like a pilgrimage.” And so it happened.

My wife is Lusine Tsaturyan. She inspires me a lot and helps me in my perception of the world. Somehow I met a beautiful girl and then, when we talked, it turned out that she is Armenian, I thought: this is destiny!

What was your most vivid memory from Armenia?

First impression: we arrive in Armenia at dawn. I looked at all this beauty of Armenia, kissed the ground, cried a little and thanked the Creator that I have such an opportunity in 48 years to look at the country of my father. This, of course, was indelible. There have been central journeys in my life, and among them Armenia, of course, comes first. On any trip, and even more so during my pilgrimage to Armenia, the most important thing is the people! So the most touching was the meeting with my relatives and how they met me. Well, of course, when I visited my father’s grave, at least that’s how I met him in this life. Since childhood, I was very much influenced by religion, the study of various scriptures, etc., so visiting monasteries, holy places in Armenia, and the fact that Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity, this, of course, was also a very important moment for me. God bless Armenia!

The pandemic has greatly affected the lives of the stage people especially. What did you do during this period and what are you doing now?

Covid showed very well – who knows how to intelligently express his opinion, and who puts pressure on others. And generally showed – who is who. Let’s say, having put on masks on people, the Lord tore off the masks from us and showed what Our faces and souls are in reality. Such situations should bring people closer, and we, on the contrary, spoil everything as always and split into two camps – for or against the mask and vaccinations. Somehow we must learn in this world, if not to love like Jesus, then at least to have tolerance for one another. Of course, for people on the stage and in general for people who work with the public, this is a huge blow and a revolution in general, all life upside down, but thanks to the pandemic, I began to do a series of interviews with famous people who could inspire others to be kind and great too. And this happened thanks to the pandemic. Also, due to the pandemic, I again ended up in Egypt, on the Holy Land of Sinai in Dahab, it is not far from Mount Moses from the monastery of St. Catherine, where I once lived for five years. I dive again, shoot, photograph, show the beauty of this world and love the underwater world and those around me. I am sending you all greetings from the Holy Land of Sinai!

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